Elevating the Children’s Museum Experience

Children’s Museums are more than places for kids and families to play or burn excess energy. They are important spaces where children explore, grow, learn, socialize, and also, oftentimes, serve as community gathering spots and economic development anchors. Because of these dual roles and increasing competition, it’s important to always consider ways to evolve and elevate the guest experience to ensure you continue to deliver on your outcomes and guests continue to find reasons to return.

At Roto, we’ve seen our share of children’s museums. We’ve worked with 100+ over our nearly 20-year history and learned a thing or two along the way – some tried and true concept and some newer approaches that show we don’t always have to do things as they’ve also been done. Here are a few proven ways to elevate your guest experience to serve today’s families.

Children’s Museums Aren’t Just for Kids. Children don’t visit museums on their own. The parents, grandparents, teachers, friends, and other caregivers who accompany them need play time just much as their little ones. And when they’re done, thoughtful caregiver comforts will make them want to come back just as much as the kids. Planning for a more holistic family experience with simple things like comfortable seating, food-friendly areas, charging stations, quiet spaces, and activities that promote shared experiences with other adults can create a welcoming space that speaks to caregivers just as much as kids.

Play With STEAM. Learning through open-ended play is one of the key elements of most, if not all, Children’s Museums. And it should continue to be, while also incorporating elements of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) learning that support education outcomes, important to many families and funders. Bonus points if it doesn’t feel like learning! Ignite even the littlest makers with hands-on, interactive experiences that encourage curiosity and critical thinking through creative play.

Build Inclusivity Into Your Space. Children’s Museums should feel open and welcoming to all. You can create safe, equitable spaces by ensuring activities and programming are physically accessible and also adaptable for those with sensory or cognitive barriers. Beyond these types of accommodations, inclusivity and representation of different abilities and ethnic backgrounds in your communications, signage, social media, programming, and staff helps everyone see themselves in your space. Celebrating our differences can provide new ways to create connections with marginalized communities.

Offer Rewarding Risks. Push your visitors out of their comfort zones by offering risk-oriented play opportunities like tall climbers, hiding nooks, age-appropriate tools, and even animal encounters. Both kids and caregivers appreciate safe challenges that create supersensory feelings like anticipation, fear, and joy, that result in rewarding new skills such as increased resilience, motor control, self-confidence, and risk-assessment abilities. Experiences like these offer opportunities to develop natural curiosity and self-driven exploration that helps them learn and enjoy learning.

Kids Appreciate Good Design Too. Between social media, new television shows, and even that most recent trip to Target, kid-friendly design has become much more sophisticated. Take this opportunity to elevate your design approach, stretch your creative capacity, and create “wow” multisensory designs and environments that can appeal to older audiences and inspire creativity in all visitors just as much as the activities. Design can also share stories that connect your museum to what makes your community unique.

Bring Your Village Along. As the saying goes, “it takes a village,” to care for a child. In the case of a Children’s Museum, a key community resource, this village can include community leaders, educators, donors, neighbors, and more. When figuring out what’s next for your institution – whether as part of a master plan or strategy refresh, each of these stakeholder groups should have a seat at your table to ensure multiple viewpoints are shared and collective buy-in is achieved – allowing you to foster greater support and deliver on community needs.

For more information and examples showing how holistic, intentional strategies like this can create safe, memorable guest experiences, for children and caregivers alike, visit our Children's Museum page.  

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