I am a staunch believer in bringing my children. Whether that is an art museum, a fine dining experience, a hiking trail, or a camping trip.
Why we bring them.
It was easy when they were babies. Little nurslings that I could tuck in a carrier and go on about our lives, whether that was hiking or urban exploring. As they got a little older, I had a strict routine for naptime and bedtime, but still continued to bring my kids along for the adventures in between. Eventually they started holding their own on the hiking trail, and started taking interest in exploring their little world. Both my husband and I saw the value in bringing them with us – to restaurants, to museums, to trails and all the places along our way. I credit our parents with giving us this awareness of exposing our children to a wide range of environments. While many of those outings ended in tears from all parties, we kept pressing onward. Often, despite the glares or stares from others. However, we have never done so disrespectfully. Every situation we entered into, we did so with an acute awareness of how disrupting we were being, and tried our best to minimize those effects. The flip side of always bringing them along, is to also have a rapid exit strategy for when it’s obvious that we are disrupting. But, that’s also part of our why. We believe that by exposing our children to a wide range of environments from a young age, they will learn how to behave and how to engage.
Our top three.
There are many reasons why we started taking our children to museums, art galleries, all types of restaurants, the symphony, etc. However, here are our TOP THREE reasons for starting them young.
- The experiences have a cumulative effect – they build into their worldview. While it may seem pointless to take a toddler to an art museum, it’s actually building into their experience bank and attuning them to pay attention.
- Learned behaviors – taking young children to these places is generally frowned upon, and we have been met with a range of emotions from grumpy stares to snide remarks. But, we have also been met with smiles and happiness for sharing these experiences with our children. I am always respectful of where we are and will always remove my children if they are being disruptive. However, by starting them young, they learned how to act. Recently, we had the great pleasure of attending the opening of The Momentary in Bentonville, and on the day we went there were no other children present. But, I was able to easily experience it with a five and eight year old, because they have been taught how to act in these environments.
- Lifelong learning – Learning is not just for them. By choosing to bring them along, I have had the opportunity to continue my own education. In our family, we honor learning as a life long process; we are continually growing and sharpening. I’ll never forget the time my children and I had the chance to view a Georgia O’Keeffe together at Crystal Bridges. That moment was special not only for them, but for me. Perhaps even more special because we experienced it together.
Slices of time.
One of the other big reasons we make the effort to visit these places, is because of their impermanence. Exhibits change, artists rise and fall, and industries move. We had the incredible experience of viewing traveling exhibits in Phoenix at the art museum, in Oklahoma City at the 21c Musuem hotel when it opened, in Bentonville for an entire exhibit dedicated to crystals, and most recently in El Dorado for an immersive art experience. All of these exhibits listed have been dismantled and moved on. 21c is constantly cycling their art exhibits to curate a new experience for their visitors. A visit to any museum, art or otherwise, is never the same experience twice and worth revisiting.
Opportunities for expansion.
These excursions provide an opportunity for expanding our minds, our tastes, and our perspectives. I also view them as an opportunity educate others about the importance of bringing my kids along. I take the grumpy stares as an opportunity, to kindly and respectfully, open dialogue about why we are there. To remind others that these young minds are our future, a future that I am hopeful for. By meeting disdain with respect, maybe, just maybe, I can help expand opinions and create a welcoming environment for everyone, of all ages.
A few money saving tips.
There are a few tricks I have up my sleeve for making these excursions affordable. Perhaps one of the best is traveling during non-peak travel times (off season, and weekdays). Hotels are usually cheaper during the weekdays, and earlier in the week. Our stays at 21c have always been during weeknights when I found great last minute deals on the Hotels app.
Memberships are also a wonderful way to save money. We have a membership to a nearby science museum that is party of the ASTC Passport program, meaning free admission to other participating museums. Similarly, The Momentary offers a membership with reciprocating membership benefits at NARM. While some of these can be costly upfront, if you plan your vacations and travel around visiting member museums, they are worth the investment. They also make great non-toy, non-“stuff” gifting ideas.
Lastly, I’m not afraid to have my kids share food. Especially at the fine dining places that may not have a children’s menu. Order an appetizer for everyone to share and call it dinner. Or, just order one entree for your children and have them share it. Don’t ask about splitting or ask for additional plates. I realize this can come across as rude, but it is a cost saving tip that has been useful for us.