How child-friendly are the world’s most popular museums?

The Art Paper published its ranking of the world’s most popular museums this week. The article features lists as top 10 Old Masters and the top 10 Medieval Art. But what I would like to know is, can you take your children for a stroll around these popular cultural hotspots? I did some research on how child-friendly the top 10 museums of the list really are. I rated them between 1 and 5 stars based on the information the website offers for families.

    1. Louvre, Paris (France) *Visitors under the age of 18 have free admission to the world’s most popular museum. The Louvre does not treat children (and their parents) as a specific audience on its website. Well hidden in the visitor tips section the Louvre reveals that they offer “tips and ideas on how to make your trip to the Louvre fun” for families. This refers to a family friendly audio guide app, costing € 0,79 and available for iPhone and Android and in several languages.

      “To get your visit off to a good start, head to one of the four Family Spots, where a museum facilitator will share tips and ideas. Family Spots are open from 2 to 5 p.m. several Sundays each month. Choose your theme: Egyptian Antiquities, Near Eastern Antiquities, Sculptures or Paintings.”

      Several Sundays a month. Wow. That really helps you plan your trip, right… The only alternative I could find was, which offers guided tours for children from six to twelve. These tours look great and interactive, but are only suitable for English, French, Japanese or Russian speaking kids, since they tour the museum without their parents.

    2. British Museum, London (England) ***Without much ado, the British Museum has made up a list of the top 12 objects to see with children, such as Rosetta Stone and a mummified bull. Clearly, this museum understands very well that a museum visit with kids should be short and simple. But there is more on offer for children, much more… On its Family visits page there is plenty of information on visiting the British Museum with children, such as exciting free trails, digital workshops and child-friendly exhibitions. Young Explorers is the name of their special website for children with online games and ideas for creative activities at home. A visit to the British Museum is free of charge.
    3. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (USA) ***If you have ever been to MoMA, you may well remember that the building itself is very child-friendly. I wanted to run down its circular hallways all the way from top to bottom. But, of course, I did not. And would not allow my kids to do so either. Well, maybe for a few metres… Let’s have a look at what more there is to do for children. It takes a Google search to find information on visiting MoMA with children, but there is a full page with preparation tips, top picks for children and a link to their website for kids Destinations Modern Art. I especially like their 10 ideas for looking at art with kids. The MoMA Art Lab iPad app is intended for ages seven and up. It includes information on artists and works of art in MoMA and children can make their own art, such as drawings, music and poems.
    4. National Gallery, London (England) ****The National Gallery takes their website for family visits a step further. You can download three audio tours, with delightful names such as ‘Teach grown-ups about art’ and ‘Art detectives’. Lovely for parents with children who can speak English, but the rest of us have a wonderful alternative. The National Gallery offers three printed trails for families, e.g. one that focuses on flower paintings and its secret meanings. Love this!The museum also offers a Toolkit for Active Looking, “a fun way for families to discover paintings by moving and looking together in the Gallery” by “using your imagination and striking poses.” I would probably not be able to convince my kids to do this, I think they would fear it would be more of a Toolkit for Actively Looking Stupid. But a great idea for others, I guess.
    5. Vatican museums, Vatican City **As you might know, the Museums of Vatican City are enormous. One could spend days and days in them, so choices have to be made on what to see and do. Luckily, the Vatican Museum’s website for families helps you plan your trip. “Kids, accompanied by their parents, are invited to follow an itinerary designed expressly for them.” Cute.Its Family Tour costs € 5,- and consists of an audio-guide and an illustrated map. The audio-guide is available in English, Spanish, Italian and French. The colorful map guides you through several parts of the museums, such as the Sistine Chapel and the Gallery of Maps, to discover 32 treasures. The Vatican Museums are free of charge for children up to 6 years old.

Colorful map Vatican Museums with children

  1. Tate Modern, London (England) **The Tate Modern is the first museum in this list that offers a link for families visiting the museum on its homepage. The offered material for families is not that impressive, but the Tate Modern has a very informal list of family-friendly tips, such as Take your time and Make some noise, it is OK to talk. The museum also offers an audio tour, here they call it a multimedia guide.The Tate kids website has a graffiti look and feel, but offers some great stuff for both younger and older children. It uses stars to indicate which games are suitable for which age group. I love the Art Detective game – suitable for kids over ten years old – but there is much more on the Game page. Admission to the Tate Modern is free for both adults and kids, though you may have to pay for exhibitions.
  2. National Palace Museum, Taipei (Taiwan) **I have never been to Taiwan before and frankly it is not high on my must visit list either. But the National Palace Museum in Taipei definitely has a lot to offer. Children up to school age can enter for free, visitors older than four years old pay NTD 160,- (around € 4,-).It offers a separate website for families with information on education and activities. The museum encourages its underage visitors to enter the Childrens’ Gallery before the main museum. The Children’s Gallery was designed especially for children between the ages of five and twelve to encourage their interests in the arts. There are several rooms and exhibition areas, amongst which are an artifacts exploration area, an orientation theater with the National Treasure Maze and a room about Fun Chinese Characters. The main National Palace Museum has a wide range of cultural artifacts on display, mainly focusing on calligraphy, rare books and historical documents and Antiquities, mainly Chinese (in ceramic and bronze). They do not offer trails for families to just visit the museum’s cultural highlights, neither is there an audio tour on offer.
  3. National Gallery of Art, Washington (USA) *****The National Gallery of Art is one of Washington DC’s many museums, all of which are free of charge. My favorite anecdote of my visit to Washington in my twenties was the man mistaking me for Kate Winslet just outside the National Gallery. I truly enjoyed the museum itself, but it did not live up to my one minute of fame at its front door. Families visiting the National Gallery of Art can choose out of four family guides for children aged 6 and up on American, Dutch, French and Italian art. Amazing guides, that are both fun and educational. They include assignments, puzzles and drawings. One of the audio tours is designed for children (aged 7 – 12) on the West Building’s highlights. This audio tour is also available online as a video tour Time Travel. The National Gallery of Art has a special website for children called the NGA Art Zone, where children can make their own ‘art’ in the style of  American native artists, the old masters or using a motion painting machine.
  4. Centre Pompidou, Paris (France) * Centre Pompidou is France’s National Museum of Modern Art, famous for its magnificent inside-out architecture. Children pay € 10,- for a ticket to Centre Pompidou, but every first Sunday of the month entrance is free of charge. The museum does not include information for families visiting with children on its website. Its audio tour has a section on a children’s circuit though, suitable for children between ages 8 and 12. Something you cannot find on their website, is that the ground floor of the Centre is a Children’s Gallery with interactive exhibitions.
  5. Musée d’Orsay, Paris (France) *Another world famous museum in Paris is Musée d’Orsay, which hopefully has more to offer for its young visitors than its two Parisian friends on this list. Young visitors to Musée d’Orsay are visitors aged 18 to 25, according to its website. It does not offer a trail or an audio tour for families, but it does however have extensive information for teachers. It is probably not illegal to download the unguided tours when you are not actually a teacher, but just in case: if you do, do not tell them you got it from me, OK? To prepare an unguided tour, you can choose from 17 trails. The downside is that these trails are very in-depth on subjects as ‘The Republic and its images’. I am guessing that this is not what you are looking for, if you are not an art historian yourself.The official website did not offer much, but on Le Petit Paris Guide I found a perfect review of a visit to the Musée d’Orsay with kids. Visitors under 18 are free of charge.
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Comments To This Entry.
  1. Srsck April 6, 2014 Reply

    Hi Rafke, you have a lovely website. I love visiting museums with my children, it’s refreshing to look at art through the eyes of a kid 🙂

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