Visiting museums and cultural attractions can benefit children in many ways. They provide safe spaces for exploration and discovery. They also offer a welcome change of scenery – especially after two years of pandemic restrictions.
Find out why and how you should make the most of museums, galleries and cultural attractions this mid-term break. We list some special events to check out too.
Why it’s important for children to visit museums
We all know that museum visits are beneficial for our children’s development – and this isn’t just because of the facts that they learn. Here are just a few of the ways museum trips benefit them.
- It helps develop critical thinking: Because children get to compare and contrast pieces in an exhibition, just one museum visit can improve their ability to think about history or art. In fact, one study found that students who visit museums have stronger critical thinking skills, as well as greater social tolerance.
- It encourages lifelong learning: The same study found that kids who visit art museums tend to develop a liking for all kinds of cultural institutions. This is because museums provide a uniquely positive environment for children to learn in. This can spark a love of history, science or art that often sticks with them for life – even before these subjects come up in the classroom.
- It boosts language development: Visiting a museum introduces children to lots of new words that they probably wouldn’t come across in everyday life. While they don’t need to know phrases like ‘potato blight’ or ‘famine ship’, it can certainly expand their vocabulary.
- It facilitates family bonding time: Most museums feature exhibitions suitable for all ages and this provides a rare opportunity for cross-generational bonding.
Some tips for taking children to a museum
Bringing young children to a museum can be daunting – especially if they don’t read yet. But here are some tips to make it an enjoyable and entertaining experience for everyone.
- Do some prep: Take a look at the museum’s website in advance to identify exhibits your family will be interested in. Check for activity sheets and children’s resources too.
- Don’t pack everything into a single visit: If your itinerary is jam-packed, your kids will become tired and distracted. On the other hand, shorter trips should keep them engaged and enthusiastic.
- Ask questions: Ask your children what they like and dislike about each exhibit. What stands out? Why do they prefer one artefact over another? This should improve their critical thinking skills.
- Play ‘I Spy’: This is a fun way to keep younger children interested in what’s on display.
- Share your own opinions: Voicing your thoughts will improve your child’s learning and encourage them to do the same.
What’s on around Dublin this mid-term break?
With primary and secondary schools closing their doors during the last week in February, many parents will be on the lookout for family-friendly activities. And many of the city’s attractions are ready to accommodate them. Here are five things to do this February.
1. Dress up at Christ Church Cathedral
During the mid-term break, Christ Church Cathedral will have its usual interactive activity sheets available to young visitors. But it is also opening a new dress-up area in the crypt, where both children and adults can see what they’d look like in the outfits of well-known historical figures associated with the church.
2. Venture aboard the Jeanie Johnston
For February, The Jeanie Johnston will be extending its opening times to include weekdays. Lowering the plank every Wednesday to Sunday, the tallship’s tour guides will touch on everything from deadly Irish pirate queens through to perilous transatlantic voyages. With interactive artefacts, entertaining storytelling and a chance to explore below deck, it’s ideal for children.
3. Bells and brasses at St. Patrick’s Cathedral
As well as its usual audio tours, the education area at St. Patrick’s Cathedral will be offering children extra opportunities to explore. They can make brass rubbings around the church and check out some miniature bells. Most evenings, visitors can also stay to hear the choir sing.
4. Storytelling at MoLI
As well as launching a new exhibition about James Joyce and his supportive family, the Museum of Literature Ireland is also marking the Year of the Tiger with bilingual storytelling workshops for children under ten. For teens, it will be launching The Edna O’Brien Young Writers Bursary later in the month.
5. An adventure trail at EPIC
To celebrate the birthday of Irish explorer Ernest Shackleton, EPIC the Irish Emigration Museum is running an adventure-themed activity trail. From February 19th-27th, young visitors entering the museum will receive a letter from the Antarctic explorer looking for help. During their journey through the museum’s exhibits, their mission will be to find Shackleton and his crew and return them all home safely.