How to Make Museums Fun for Families

art workshops for kids in london

Visiting a museum should be a pleasure, not an endurance test. It’s no fun for anyone dragging a tired, bored child around a museum. It’s not enough just to give them a worksheet to complete as they walk around – they need to be involved and engaged with what they’re seeing. If you’re looking for tips on how to make museums fun, read on…

When you’re travelling with children, particularly if you want to see the cultural sights,  you need to find something to engage their interest. We always try and hunt out ways to make a museum come alive and turn it into a fun experience for all of us.

Luckily for us, lots of museums have already come up with brilliant ways to engage children whether it’s with interactive games or interesting workshops. We’ve gone one step further and searched out the best ideas for turning a museum visit into a fantastic day out. Whether you’re going on a dragon hunt, searching for treasure or having a sleepover here are our top tips for making museums fun.

Take it at their pace

making museums fun for familiesBig museums like the Louvre, the Rijksmuseum and the British Museum are massive and can be overwhelming – no sane adult would contemplate seeing even half in one visit. When you’re visiting any museum with children, the best advice is to take it slow. Work out what they’re most interested in seeing and just do that.

Don’t try to fit too much in. It’s better to see one or two things well with an engaged or interested child than rush around with a child who is tired or grumpy. No one will get museum fatigue and you can spend more time looking at what you’re most interested in. It’s worth remembering that smaller and less well known museums are often less busy. When we were in Paris, we found that the Musée de l’Orangerie had a far more relaxed atmosphere in which to enjoy the paintings than the Louvre.

Become a history detective

Lots of museums have fantastic activity backpacks for families to borrow as they explore the various rooms. The British Museum’s backpacks are filled with artefacts, dressing up clothes and things to do depending on which area you’re most interested in – Ancient Greece, Roman Britain or the Aztecs in Mexico. There are good backpacks at the Victoria & Albert Museum as well as a fantastic suitcase, Vincent’s Travelling Case, at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

Go on a dragon hunt

Dragons are a big hit in our house. Our children love searching for unusual and fantastical creatures and museums instantly become more fun when you’re on a quest or a dragon hunt. We’ve found dragons and snakes in the opulent interiors of the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, snakes and gargoyles at Pena Palace in Sintra, sea monsters and gruesome creatures in the cloisters of Lisbon’s Mosteiro dos Jerónimos and a dragon on the rooftop of the Casa Batllò in Barcelona.

Use a children’s audioguide

Most museums or historic houses have audioguides especially for children, usually narrated by a child. These can be a great way of engaging your child’s interest in what they’re seeing. We loved the audioguides at the Roman Baths in Bath and the Royal Palace in Amsterdam, where we were led around by a boy from the 17th century who was investigating a mysterious theft.

Go on a sleepover

how to make museums funFancy sleeping next to a dinosaur? Children can have their very own sleepover at London’s Natural History Museum. Children aged from 7 to 11, accompanied by a parent, bring their pillows and pyjamas and follow a torchlit trail around the museum and watch a live science show.

Don’t let them get hungry

Making Museums fun for kidsHungry children (and their parents) can ruin a good museum visit. Several museums have picnic areas where you can eat a packed lunch and most museums have good cafés. We usually like to break up our museum visits by spending an hour there, then having lunch and returning for another hour.

Some museums have fabulous areas for a picnic or a café break. We recently discovered the wonderful Garden Café at the V & A Museum in London – a sunny courtyard with a shallow pond for children to paddle in.

Dress up in character

If you’re visiting a castle, dress up as a knight or a princess, if you’re going round the Roman Baths, why not dress up as a Roman centurion? Several museums have dressing up areas for children so it’s fun to try on lots of different costumes while you’re there. We particularly enjoyed visiting the Fashion Museum in Bath where you can try on lots of Victorian and Georgian dresses, top hats and bonnets.

Get creative in an art workshop

We love the fabulous art workshops offered in some of London’s best museums and galleries. The National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery have family workshops inspired by the paintings on display. The sound pictures, where you create a piece of music inspired by a specific painting, are particularly good fun. The Design Museum has monthly Create and Make workshops and occasional three-hour design workshops for families.

For a guide to the best art workshops, take a look at The Ten Best Art Experiences in London.

Find a museum with a fantastic playground

Some museums are so interactive that they’re far more fun than any playground. Take the Science Museum’s new Wonderlab for example: you can go down a friction slide, make the Northern Lights in a tube and watch explosive demonstrations. At the London Transport Museum you can try the Tube train simulator or fly a cable car.

In the Royal Air Force Museum‘s interactive science gallery you can take the controls of a helicopter and test your reaction times and vision to see if you could become a pilot and at the Cité des Enfants science and technology museum in Paris you can play water games, fix a car and present the news on TV.

Let technology be your guide

If you’re struggling to persuade your kids away from their devices then let them be guided around the Louvre with a Nintendo or explore the giant atlas at London’s National Maritime Museum with a tablet which they can use to find out stories about explorers or set sail on an adventure. At the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam you can take part in a multimedia game to solve eight of the museum’s mysteries.

Search out the fun in the small and quirky

Maisons Satie, best museums kids, Honfleur,Quirky museums can be a lot of fun. We knew we were in for a good time when we walked into the Maisons Satie in Honfleur and saw a giant pear bouncing up and down on a pair of wings. The museum of composer, Erik Satie’s house in Normandy is packed with surrealist humour. My boys also loved the magic shows and illusions they discovered at the Musée de la Magie in Paris and at the Museu da Marioneta in Lisbon you can put on your own puppet show.

Take a family guided tour

photo tour Amsterdam, RijksmuseumSome of the larger museums offer guided tours aimed at families. The tour at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is particularly good – family groups are given equipment like magnifying glasses, torches and goggles to make the family experience that bit more fun and interactive.

Go on a treasure hunt

You can make any museum more fun by going on a scavenger hunt. THATMuse takes kids on fantastic treasure hunts around the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and the British Museum in London. Teams of two to four people follow clues to various works of art around a chosen theme – beasts, animals and skulls are all popular choices for children aged 5 to 13.

Tailor the trip to the child’s interests

Your kids will be even more engaged if you make your museum visit all about their special interests so whether they’re into dinosaurs or dolls, dragons or aeroplanes you can find something that’s just for them. My two are really into Harry Potter so we’ve found Hogwarts-inspired cloisters at Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire and the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos in Lisbon. We’ve gone hunting for dragons and pretended we were in Professor Snape’s Potions Class in the chemistry lab at Wonderlab at the Science Museum.

Try to avoid queueing

Long queues can spoil a good trip, especially with children. It’s best to book online for the most popular museums before you travel. If you haven’t been able to do this, try and arrive when the museum opens or later into the afternoon when it’s usually less busy.

Plan something relaxing to do afterwards

If you’ve spent a couple of hours visiting a museum, plan a fun but completely different activity to do afterwards, like searching for the best local ice cream, finding a great park to run around in or going out for cakes or hot chocolate.

Take a look at our guide to the Best Museums for children in London.

Have you been to any great museums lately? What are your favourite tips for successful museum visits? We’d love to know your tips on how to make museums fun for kids.

Take a look at some of our city guides which all have tips on how to make museums fun for kids in some of the best cities in the world.

Guide to visiting NYC with Tweens

Ultimate Guide to Venice with Kids

Best things to do in Paris with Kids

Guide to visiting Amsterdam with Kids

Things to do in Lisbon with Kids

How to make museums fun for kids whatever their age. Read our top tips on having successful museum trips with children and the best museums in the world for kids. #howtomakemuseumsfun #familytraveltips #culturaltravelwithkids #culturewithkids #museumswithkids #museumtips



  1. 22nd March 2017 / 5:15 pm

    Fab post Clare. Lots of relevant information 🙂

    One Year 5 class recently spent a night at the Novium museum in Chichester – it was a writing competition prize! Not sure if they do it for the general public. It was such an amazing experience for them.

    • Clare Thomson
      23rd March 2017 / 11:13 am

      Thanks so much, Shaz! Nights in museums sounds so cool, don’t they? What a great idea for a writing competition prize – great inspiration for a good story!

  2. 23rd March 2017 / 8:21 am

    These tips are fantastic and WOW you have been to a lot of amazing museums! We have a 2 hour time limit in a museum and we just do the things that are highlights for us. Having said that some museums like Hampton Court (think I spotted a photo from there in your post) are places you can go all day because they have a variety of indoor and outdoor activities. The dragon hunt is an awesome suggestion. I’m off now to read your other museum posts. Thanks for hosting #FarawayFiles

    • Clare Thomson
      23rd March 2017 / 11:15 am

      Thanks so much, Jo. Too long in a museum can be miserable. Far better to have a short, enjoyable experience! You’re completely right about places like Hampton Court which have such a great mixture of fascinating history, archaeology, dressing up and wonderful playgrounds and gardens. You could definitely spend all day there!

  3. 23rd March 2017 / 8:34 am

    Great post Clare! My mum always likes to read every single piece of information available on each exhibit. Drives me bonkers. My favourite museum in London for kids is the National Maritime Museum where they have done a brilliant job of catering to different age groups in extremely creative ways. You probably haven’t seen the soft play areas for the little ones but they are so engaging and as a result it’s a favourite place to visit. Running around on huge map is also popular!

    • Clare Thomson
      23rd March 2017 / 11:18 am

      Thanks so much, Katy.The National Maritime Museum is amazing and yes, I did have a good look at the soft play areas last time we went – all in the name of thorough research, although one of my sons was quite keen on staying in there for a bit of a play!

  4. 23rd March 2017 / 8:35 am

    Good advice! Some of my favourite childhood memories are of the sleepovers we had with Girl Scouts in the Boston Science Museum, it was so much fun being there after dark! (Though maybe not sleeping next to the continually clacking abacus in the maths exhibit)

  5. 23rd March 2017 / 8:52 am

    So many amazing ideas here Clare, I hadn’t heard about the backpacks for dressing up nor the sleepovers. We always take kids’ audioguides, avoid queues, eat and don’t stay too long so as to leave enthused rather than fed up. You’ve been to so many museums it’s thoroughly inspiring. #farawayfiles

  6. 23rd March 2017 / 9:27 am

    Great ideas Clare! You can dress up at the Viking Museum in Roskilde, Denmark and get on a pretend ship which my daughter loved. The Louvre now has interactive Nintendo DS for the kids to play along. We didn’t try it when we were there as the line was way to long! #FarawayFiles

  7. 23rd March 2017 / 9:49 am

    LOVE this post! Lots of great ideas here. I used to love visiting as a kid myself – the Natural History Museum, with Dippy, was a firm favourite and now, at 39, I’m desperate to go along to one of their sleep overs for grown ups!!

    I love the packs that museums often give out to kids, the ideas around colouring and tresure hunts are great – love your hunting for dragons! #FarawayFiles

  8. 23rd March 2017 / 10:29 am

    All great tips – I love places like he science museum where they have lots of activities for kids #farawayfiles

    • Clare Thomson
      23rd March 2017 / 11:19 am

      Thanks so much. The science museum is absolutely brilliant. The new Wonderlab is amazing for kids.

    • Clare Thomson
      23rd March 2017 / 11:19 am

      Doesn’t it Tanja? I really fancy doing it with my two.

  9. 23rd March 2017 / 11:42 am

    Ah brilliant! I would LOVE to experience a ‘night at the museum’ with my son. We have found such great benefit in reading stories about a topic, then visiting a museum and experiencing more about that topic. I agree – for kids, if you make it relevant to their regular lives and try to keep things simple (ie not doing too much in the museum visit), you can all gain so much value out of the museum experience! Keeping things focussed and simple to match the kids’ interests really works 🙂

    • Clare Thomson
      29th March 2017 / 8:33 pm

      Museums are such a fantastic way of finding more about a topic your kids are interested in, aren’t they? We’ve had dinosaurs, trains and space phases in our house. It’s such a great idea just doing one area or sphere of interest at a time – that way, there’s always going to be loads to see on your next visit, even if you have to visit those old favourites as well. And a night in the museum has to be done!

  10. 23rd March 2017 / 11:47 am

    These tips are excellent. I love museums but can only take them in small doses, just like the kids so I love finding ways to make them fun. My husband, on the other hand, can spend hours in museums and wants to read every placard and see every exhibit. We definitely have to compromise a lot every time we go to a museum as a family. #farawayfiles

    • Clare Thomson
      29th March 2017 / 8:37 pm

      It’s all about compromise, isn’t it? My husband can spend hours in a science museum, I’m more likely to want to linger in an art gallery – nowadays we’re more likely to follow the kids’ lead!

  11. 23rd March 2017 / 3:11 pm

    Some really great tips here that I would never have thought of! I used to love museums as a kid (I still do) but I do remember it wouldn’t take much to get bored after a while. I can see this list being incredibly handy for travelling families #FarawayFiles

    • Clare Thomson
      29th March 2017 / 8:38 pm

      Thanks so much, Chiera. I think we can all get a bit fed up if we’ve been in a museum too long – there’s only so much reading that you can take in at a time. We do try to make it as much fun as possible.

  12. 23rd March 2017 / 3:46 pm

    Great tips Clare! “Hangry” children are the worst ha… well at least my son! I’m glad my son is at an age now where he sort of appreciates museums. While in Florence, he was the one that wanted to visit the Palazzo Vecchio, just so could see Dante’s Death Mask… it’s a start lol

    • Clare Thomson
      29th March 2017 / 8:39 pm

      Thanks so much, Christine. I get as crotchety as my boys if I’m hungry so we do try and avoid that one! How brilliant about your son in Florence – that’s such a great start for him!

  13. 23rd March 2017 / 5:50 pm

    Top tips. We used the 3DS guides at the Louvre, we each chose one object and let the guide tell us how to get to them all. #FarawayFiles

    • Clare Thomson
      29th March 2017 / 8:40 pm

      Thanks Catherine. I remember reading your review of the Louvre guide. It sounds such a fun way to find your way around.

  14. 23rd March 2017 / 7:40 pm

    Museums are such a great educational experience for both adults and children! Love the idea of a museum sleepover, sounds fun. I think keeping their tummies full is quite the key to making it enjoyable for everyone though! #farawayfiles

    • Clare Thomson
      29th March 2017 / 8:40 pm

      Thanks Juliette. A museum sleepover is definitely top of our family wishlist. You’ve got to book quite far in advance though as they get really popular.

  15. 23rd March 2017 / 10:53 pm

    Great post Clare. Some brill suggestions. Always good to visit somewhere relevant to what they are learning about at school. So many museums these days are really good with children. We always go for a nice lunch/tea afterwards as an extra treat #farawayfiles

    • Clare Thomson
      29th March 2017 / 9:09 pm

      Thanks so much, Elizabeth. Museums are brilliant now, aren’t they? So much better than when I was a child. Tea afterwards is always a good idea!

  16. 24th March 2017 / 2:28 am

    The good thing about museums in the West is that they have lots of activities for families and children. It’s not the same for museums and galleries here in Asia 🙁 I reckon the sleepover in the museum is really cool including for a big kid like me! I was extremely tired after exploring the Louvre for 5 hours (including taking breaks for meals) – physically and mentally – thus visiting Musee de L’orangerie was such a refreshing change, simply because it was a smaller gallery. #Farawayfiles.

    • Clare Thomson
      29th March 2017 / 9:10 pm

      Five hours in the Louvre sounds absolutely exhausting, Kat! I do really love the Musée de l’Orangerie – it’s a much more manageable size. I’d love a sleepover too – who am I kidding?!

  17. 24th March 2017 / 4:53 am

    I love the idea of a dragon hunt! That’s a great way to engage the kiddos!

    • Clare Thomson
      29th March 2017 / 9:10 pm

      Thanks Courtney. We’ve been on quite a few dragon hunts – they’re always fun!

  18. 24th March 2017 / 11:27 am

    What a round up of museums you’ve covered – Fantastic! We’ve taken our kids to many museums in London and around the UK but their favourites would have to be the National Maritime Museum, National History Museum and the Science Museum. Food is the tip I agree with the most… oh and everyone must have comfortable shoes! #FarawayFiles

    • Clare Thomson
      29th March 2017 / 9:12 pm

      Thanks so much, Annette. Those three museums are all absolutely brilliant and some of our favourites too. Comfortable shoes is a good one – I’m always tempted to wear fancy shoes because going into London feels like it warrants it, but I always regret wearing heels when I do!

  19. 24th March 2017 / 3:34 pm

    I’ve always wanted to do a museum sleepover with my kids! However, I’m not much of a “camper”, so I’m not sure about the sleeping part, or the sleepover! ha ha! #farawayfiles

    • Clare Thomson
      29th March 2017 / 9:13 pm

      Museum sleepovers sound so great, don’t they? I’m not sure we’d get much sleep but I guess one night wouldn’t hurt…

  20. 24th March 2017 / 8:24 pm

    Some great ways to make museums more fun – I am not sure I would want to do a sleepover in one though!! It is a while since my daughter was little but she always loved it when there were actors dressed up – we had a great day out at Hampton Court once that she loved with actors including an excellent Henry VIII etc! #farawayfiles

    • Clare Thomson
      29th March 2017 / 9:14 pm

      Thanks Tracy. Are you worried the exhibits might come to live in the night? I wrote a story about that once so perhaps the British Museum sleepover might be a bit too scary. We love Hampton Court – they always have fantastic actors acting out scenes as you walk around.

  21. 24th March 2017 / 8:48 pm

    Lots of great suggestions Clare. These could apply to me as much as the children – I’m often guilty of rushing round with them and then getting bored with my other half taking so long! Small quirky museums are definitely the way to go as far as I’m concerned. #Farawayfiles

    • Clare Thomson
      29th March 2017 / 9:16 pm

      Thanks so much, Christine. Small and quirky museums can be so great. It can be really tricky when two people have totally different time limits for museums – nobody’s interested in the exact same things, particularly in the big museums.

  22. 24th March 2017 / 10:24 pm

    I think a lot of these can apply at ADD adults like myself (haha), I burn out on museums really easily. But I love any kind of interactive exhibits.

    • Clare Thomson
      29th March 2017 / 9:17 pm

      There are so many museums with interactive exhibits nowadays – it definitely makes them more fun and interesting.

  23. 26th March 2017 / 7:49 pm

    Yes to the Musee de L’Orangerie – I remember this being a wonderful little place that my son enjoyed. So many good tips here especially just choosing bite-size parts of a large museum and trying out children’s special trails.

    • Clare Thomson
      29th March 2017 / 9:18 pm

      Thanks so much, Trish. My son and I both loved the Musée de l’Orangerie – it felt so peaceful after the bustle in the Musée d’Orsay. I’m always really impressed by the fun to be had in the children’s special trails.

  24. 26th March 2017 / 10:06 pm

    So many great ideas for making museums fun for children! I didn’t even know there were separate audioguides for children, although it really does make sense if you think about it!

    • Clare Thomson
      29th March 2017 / 9:19 pm

      Thanks so much, Bryna. The children’s audioguides are really great now. The last one I did was as interesting to me as my son. I bet it was a lot more fun than the adult one!

  25. 26th March 2017 / 10:42 pm

    The hubs and I couldn’t stop laughing at this post. Dress ups, sleepovers, and dragon hunts?? No wonder we don’t like museums! This is an awesome way to get kids interested. Thanks for sharing!!

    • Clare Thomson
      29th March 2017 / 9:20 pm

      You’re welcome, Danielle. Yes, sometimes you need dragons and sleepovers to liven up a museum visit!

  26. 27th March 2017 / 10:04 am

    Brilliant ideas to get kids interested at museums – I enjoyed reading this list! I’ve been very impressed with how much museums offer to get kids involved – even at the toddler/preschool age. I’m curious to see the Wonderlab at the Science Museum and will definitely be stopping by the paddling pool at the V&A this summer. The NHM sleepover is something I’d love to bring Little T to – a few more years to go for us, definitely on the bucket list! #FarawayFiles

    • Clare Thomson
      29th March 2017 / 9:22 pm

      Thank you so very much, Cindy. It’s wonderful how well museums cater for all ages of children. They have separate areas and discovery packs for completely different ages – and they’re usually all fantastic.

  27. 27th March 2017 / 1:42 pm

    You have been to a LOT of museums. Wow!!

    These are all excellent tips and we, too, prefer to spend a shorter period of time visiting a smaller museum (or a specific pre-determined section of a larger museum). Also, we often tend to phone ahead to ask what particular kid-suitable activities and events are on during the time of our visit; quite often there are interesting things happening which are not well advertised on the museum website. #FarawayFiles

    • Clare Thomson
      29th March 2017 / 9:27 pm

      You’ve been to a fair few of interesting museums yourself, Jonny – I really enjoyed reading your reviews. Thanks so much for your comments and it’s a great tip about phoning ahead – the smaller museums don’t update their websites so frequently so that’s definitely one worth remembering.

  28. 27th March 2017 / 6:19 pm

    Some great suggestions – as you say it all comes down to making it fun and engaging kids. My daughter loved the mini ‘treasure’ hunt we did at the Van Gogh museum, just based on their leaflet with the highlights of the gallery.

    • Clare Thomson
      29th March 2017 / 9:29 pm

      Thanks so much, Cathy. We did a treasure hunt around the Van Gogh Museum too – my children always like getting the treat at the end of a museum trail, particularly if it’s chocolate!

      • 18th April 2017 / 9:42 am

        Absolutely – I think my daughter will do it just for the challenge. Can’t think where she gets her competitive genes from 😉 Lovely to re-read this for #citytripping

        • Clare Thomson
          22nd April 2017 / 6:19 pm

          Haha! Mine are competitive too – especially with each other.

  29. 28th March 2017 / 11:13 am

    I love the idea of a sleepover in a museum – never thought you could even do that! We’re not exactly museum lovers here, but your post may well change this!

    • Clare Thomson
      29th March 2017 / 9:30 pm

      Sleepovers sound so much fun, don’t they?

  30. 30th March 2017 / 7:37 am

    I can’t help feeling like Singapore is rather lacking in the activity backpack, children audio guides and sleepover departments. Lol… But they try, to provide interactive experiences. So far it’s been good enough for my kids. But I feel like sneaking this post over to our National Heritage Board… like *hint hint*! #FarawayFiles

    • Clare Thomson
      30th March 2017 / 7:22 pm

      Oh please do! Never mind, the Singapore museum you wrote about last week sounded so fantastic. You’ll have to come over and visit.

  31. 18th April 2017 / 8:04 am

    Great tips it is so important to make enjoyable for all the family #citytripping

    • Clare Thomson
      22nd April 2017 / 6:17 pm

      Thanks so much. These tips have helped make our museum trips a lot more fun for all of us, thank goodness.

  32. 18th April 2017 / 8:39 am

    We love visiting museums and find that Interactive ones are the best. We visited the science museum a few weeks ago and managed to miss the wonderlab – will have to investigate

    • Clare Thomson
      22nd April 2017 / 6:18 pm

      Wonder lab is brilliant – I’d really recommend it. Everything is interactive and fun there – and my kids learned loads. You can’t ask for more than that.

  33. 20th April 2017 / 9:02 pm

    Haha, the dragon hunt is a cool tip, I’ll make sure to try it next time I travel with my cousins 😀 #citytripping

    • Clare Thomson
      24th April 2017 / 5:25 pm

      Do that, Vlad. Dragon hunting is fantastic fun – it doesn’t have to be scary Game of Thrones stuff with the kids!

  34. 22nd April 2017 / 8:04 pm

    That’s an amazingly comprehensive post. And I learned that the Science Museum has a new bit. Cool! The Science Museum’s play areas are all fabulous, so I am sure this is no exception.

    • Clare Thomson
      27th April 2017 / 9:57 am

      Thanks so much. Wonder lab is absolutely amazing. One of the best interactive science areas we’ve ever seen and so much fun too.

  35. 17th August 2017 / 10:01 am

    We love museums and galleries with the kids. We find what works best is the guided tour — they’re generally an hour, take in some of the top works, and provide context and stories. We’ve gotten so we’d rather do little & often, going for an hour tour then off for a bite to eat. That way the next time we mention a museum, we don’t have to drag them kicking and screaming. #farawayfiles

    • Clare Thomson
      29th August 2017 / 1:24 pm

      Guided tours are great and you can even do some specifically tailored for families in lots of museums now. I’m with you on the little and often. An hour is about the right amount of time before you need a slice of cake. Then you’re ready for a bit more culture with enthusiasm!

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