It’s exciting times in Britain’s museums and
galleries. Never before has there been such imaginative and innovative
plans and practice. Museums up and down the country are striving to make
everyone not only feel welcome once they have entered their doors, but
feel able and eager to make take those first few steps towards them.
It’s also exciting times at Kids in Museums, a
classic story of good emerging out of bad. Founded three years ago under the
auspices of the Guardian, when writer Dea Birkett’s young son was thrown
out of the Royal Academy for being too noisy, Kids
in Museums now leads in promoting family-friendly policies,
attitudes and exhibitions throughout Britain. The Kids
in Museums Manifesto has been a phenomenally successful and
useful tool in encouraging and guiding museums in making a family visit enjoyable
and engaging. In all its work, Kids in Museums sees
a museum visit through the eyes of the visitor and draws on visitors’ experiences
Now Kids in Museums is growing up.
It is being set up as a separate organization and applying for charitable status.
This will enable the good work to expand and develop. Kids
in Museums and the Guardian will continue to work together
on the annual award, the Guardian Family-Friendly Museum Award.
Kids in Museums was
founded as a visitor inspired and led organization. Everything
we do is from the visitor perspective. We hope many of
you will become involved.
For the past, present and future of Kids in Museums – and
your role in that future – keep reading below.
1 Be welcoming - from the car park attendant
to the curator. Emphasise that the museum is family-friendly
in publicity and leaflets.
2 Be interactive and hands on - where
kids can touch objects, and learn to know what they are
allowed to handle, and what they aren't.
3 Be pushchair accessible - with lifts
where there are steps, automatic doors, and a place to
store a pushchair.
4 Give a hand to parents to help their
children enjoy the museum.
5 Consult with children - not just adults
and parents - about what they want.
6 Be height aware - making sure that
objects and art are displayed low enough for a child to
see, and that signage is at a child's height. Footstools
should be provided to help.
7 Have lots of different things to do -
art carts, picture trails, interactive experiences, storytelling,
dressing up - so parents don't have to do all the work.
8 Produce guides aimed at children,
but also ones that children and adults can use together.
9 Provide proper, good-value food, high chairs,
and unlimited tap water.
10 Provide dedicated baby changing and breast-feeding
facilities, and good toilets where you can
take a pushchair.
11 Teach respect - help children to
learn that there are objects they should not touch.
12 Sell items in the shops that are not too expensive
and not just junk, but things that children will want
13 Have free entry where possible, or have family
tickets and children's discounts. Children
may only want to spend a short time in a museum, so
paying a lot to get in puts many parents off. Issue
special tickets to families with young children which
allow re-entry, so they can go outside for a break or
even come back the next day.
14 Provide some open space - inside
and outside - where children can run about and let off
15 Provide some quiet space, where children can
16 Make it clear to child-free visitors that
the museum is family-friendly. Have special
times when children are less likely to be there.
17 Have dedicated family-friendly days,
when extra activities are laid on for kids, and those
who want to avoid the crowds can choose not to attend.
18 Provide a creche for young children at major
19 Attract all ages, from toddlers to teenagers,
without offering separate facilities for each. It
should be enjoyable for the whole family - parents and
20 Don't make presumptions about what children
do and don't like. Some kids can appreciate
fine art as well as finger painting.