5 Ways to Make Museums, Zoos and Aquariums More Fun

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 the other child says, “Okay, sure,” and another child says, “No thanks.” 

Visiting a museum, zoo or aquarium is a fun educational way to entertain your child. It can be challenging, though, if your children are different ages and hold different interests. Once you get there, you may encounter long lines or crowds which can cause your kids to lose interest or become frustrated. One way to engage all of your children with different personalities and developmental levels is to play a game. Here are a few games that I have found helpful to use in museums, zoos and aquariums: 

Scavenger Hunts: A great way to involve all your kids at a destination to offer them a scavenger hunt. I first saw this used when I volunteered to go on my child’s school field trip to Plimoth Patuxet. The teacher gave a scavenger hunt list to all the students. Even though I have visited Plimoth many times, I learned new things from participating in the scavenger hunt and the kids loved it. It was a way for them to learn and have fun at the same time. 

To design your own scavenger hunt, before you visit the museum, zoo or aquarium, go to the website. Most websites have information you can use to create an appropriate scavenger hunt based on your child’s age and interests. Write a list of items your child needs to find while visiting the spot. For example the Plimoth website has historical information and pictures. An item on the list could be as simple as “find a baby cradle.”

Passport Stamps: Everyone loves to get their passport stamped, right? I have seen this idea used at the Boston Harbor Islands and Disney World. My kids feel a sense of accomplishment when their book is filled with stamps at the end.

Similar to creating the scavenger hunt, you can visit the places’ websites before you visit to create a passport book of your own by stapling together some white pages of paper. On each page, write either a place to visit such as, “See the lions at the zoo” or a challenge or questions such as, “Who is the mayor of the 17th Century Village in Plimoth?” When your child has completed the task on the page, give them a stamp (you can bring one with you). 

Bingo: My kids love playing bingo and they have played it almost everywhere. This game is easy enough for young children to play and also entertaining for older children. By using the game at an educational location, you are helping your child to interact with their surroundings. 

Before you go to the site, create Bingo game boards for the whole family. Each square could be either a picture or a written word of something you plan to see during your visit. For example, if you are going to the aquarium, you could have pictures (you could even print pictures from the website or online) of a shark, octopus and sea turtle. The first person to spot the shark marks off the square using a pencil with the shark in it. You win bingo when you get five squares in a row. 

ABC Game: The ABC game is when you write down all the things you can think of that start with the letter A in one minute. If two people have the same word that word gets crossed out. Whoever gets the most words wins. You then go on to the letter B and so on. This is a fun, easy game you can play anywhere; you only need some pens and paper (or you could use a notes app on your phone).

 You can play this game in the car if you are driving a long distance. Try to think of topics related to your destination for each letter. You could also modify the game at the location by saying “Whoever sees something that starts with the letter A first wins one point,” and then continue to B, etc. 

iSpy: Even though my twins are twelve-years-old they still like to play iSpy. And the great thing about this game is that young children are able to play it as well. This is a fun waiting game if there are long lines or if you have to wait to get into an exhibit. You can also play iSpy while you are at the museum, zoo or aquarium. This game will increase your child’s observation skills while still having fun. 

How do you help make places fun? What are some games you play? 

Bio: Cheryl Maguire holds a Master of Counseling Psychology degree. She is married and is the mother of twins and a daughter. Her writing has been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Parents Magazine, AARP, Healthline, Your Teen Magazine, and many other publications. You can find her at Twitter @CherylMaguire05

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