“Who wants to go to a museum?” If your family is like mine, you might get a mixed reaction to this question. One child may jump up and down shouting, “ME! ME!” while another child says, “Okay,” and yet another child says, “No thanks.”
Visiting a museum is a fun and educational way to entertain kids. It can be challenging, though, if those kids are of different ages and interests. One way to engage children with different personalities and developmental levels is to play a game. Here are a few games I’ve found helpful in museums, zoos and aquariums.
1 Scavenger Hunts: I first saw this used when I volunteered to chaperone my child’s school field trip. The teacher gave a scavenger hunt list to all the students. The kids loved it, and I even learned new things. It was a way to learn and have fun at the same time.
To design your own scavenger hunt, before you visit the museum, zoo or aquarium, visit the website. Many websites have information you can use to create an appropriate scavenger hunt based on your children’s ages and interests. Write a list of items to find while visiting the destination. For example, the Texas Memorial Museum website provides a scavenger hunt in English and Spanish. One item on the list: “Find a meteorite. Where did it land on Earth?”
2 Passport Stamps: Everyone loves to get their passport stamped, right? I’ve seen this idea used at Disney World. My kids feel a sense of accomplishment when their book is filled with stamps at the end, and they have a nice souvenir to remember the visit.
Similar to creating the scavenger hunt, visit the destination’s website and create a passport book by stapling together some sheets of paper.
On each page, write a goal such as, “Find an animal larger than a cat” or a challenge or question such as, “Pick an artifact in the museum and sketch it. Who might have used it?” When your child has completed the task on the page, give them a stamp. (Remember to bring one with you.)
3 Bingo: My kids love playing Bingo, and they’ve played it almost everywhere. This game is easy enough for young children and still entertaining for older children. By using the game at an educational location, you’re helping your children to interact with their surroundings.
Before you go, create Bingo game cards for each person in the family. Squares can contain either a picture or a written word of something you’ll see during your visit. For example, if you’re going to the aquarium, you could have pictures of a shark, octopus and sea turtle. When someone spots the shark, they mark off that square. The winner is whoever is first to get five squares in a row, column or diagonal line.
4ABC Game: In the ABC game, players write down all the things they see that start with each letter of the alphabet. For example, if you see a fossil, you can write the word “fossil” under the letter F. At the end of the visit, everyone compares lists. If two people have the same word, that word gets crossed out. Whoever has the most words wins. It’s a fun, easy game you can play anywhere; you only need some pens and paper.
You can play a variation of this game in the car on the way to the place you’re visiting. Just set a one-minute timer for each letter. Or you modify the game at the destination by declaring that whoever sees something that starts with the letter A first wins a point, and then continuing to B, etc.
5 I Spy: Even though my twins are 12 years old, they still like to play I Spy. And the great thing about this game is young children are able to play it too. It’s a fun game to have in your back pocket if you encounter long lines. You can also play I Spy while you’re at the museum, zoo or aquarium. This game will increase your child’s observation skills while still having fun.
Cheryl Maguire holds a Master of Counseling Psychology degree. She is the mother of three.