As someone who loves history, politics and books, it should come as a surprise to no one that I adore museums, and couldn’t wait until my daughter reached the age when I could take her on her first museum outing. For some crazy reason, I thought that my strong genes and her mature personality – as mature as one can be at two and a half years old – would almost mandate that she fall in love with (read: behave inside) museums as well.
That logic fell apart last weekend.
My husband and I long ago decided that we didn’t want to be those parents who lived inside a cocoon during those first hard years of parenthood and never exposed our child to the world out of fear for public tantrums or poor behavior. We surmised that the only way she would ever learn to behave in public settings is through exposure. As any parent, passerby, airline passenger or human being who has ever been around a child can attest, this is easier said than done once you’ve witnessed the ear-shattering, ground-kicking, panic-inducing fit of rage that comprises a toddler tantrum. Nonetheless, we decided to throw caution to the wind.
We steeled ourselves and came readily prepared. We packed snacks, her favorite baby doll, books and coloring supplies. We made sure she was well rested. We even brought reinforcements in the way of grandparents. But she is a force to be reckoned with and even viewing Caravaggio’s 17th Century painting of Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness – one of the only original paintings in the U.S. – was not enough to interest my little philistine, much less keep her from climbing out of her stroller and (attempting) to take off.
So, we come to the point of this post – should parents take young children to museums? The short answer – yes!
While I readily admit that it may have been a little naïve to expect my daughter to appreciate a Titian masterpiece – or simply use her quiet voice and refrain from trying to touch the Monet – I feel discouraged when I hear people say that taking children to art and history museums is a waste of time.
New places and experiences foster a curiosity that blossoms into a passion for lifelong learning. It gives children the opportunity to ask questions and to hear new vocabulary. It provides a forum for talking about everything from shapes and colors to people and history. Most importantly, it’s a wonderful family bonding experience.
Now, my husband and I aren’t inconsiderate to other museum-goers who may not find our little miracle cute or her whining tolerable. I firmly believe that when a child is getting out of control and ruining the experience for others, it’s time to take them outside for a breather. But I do believe that the opportunity to expand a child’s horizons from the earliest age far outweigh the risk of a potentially embarrassing situation.
How do you feel about taking children to museums?