5 Ways to Up the Fun Factor at Museums, Zoos, and Aquariums

by Cheryl Maguire June 27, 2017

Mother brought her baby to aquarium

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,” and another child says, “No thanks.”

Visiting a museum, zoo, or aquarium is a fun, educational way to entertain your children. However, it can be challenging if they are different ages and 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:

1 | Scavenger Hunts

A great way to involve all your kids at a destination is 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 Plantation. The teacher gave a scavenger hunt list to all the students. Even though I had visited Plimoth Plantation 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, you should visit the website of the museum, zoo, or aquarium before you visit. 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 Planation website has historical information and pictures. An item on the list could be as simple as “find a baby cradle.”

2 | 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 love getting a stamp and they 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. Create a passport book by stapling together some white pages of paper. On each page write either a place to visit such as “the lions at the zoo” or a challenge or question such as, “Who is the mayor of the 17th Century Village in Plimoth Planation?” When your child has completed the task on the page, give them a stamp (you can bring one with you).

3 | Bingo

My kids love playing Bingo and they play 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 her 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 (even printed pictures from the website or online) of a shark, octopus, and sea turtle. The first person to spot the shark marks off the square with the shark in it using a pencil. You win Bingo when you get five squares in a row.

4 | The ABC Game

The ABC game is when you write down all the things you can think of that start with a particular letter in one minute. If two people have the same word, that word gets crossed out. You move consecutively through the alphabet and whoever gets the most words wins. This is a fun, easy game you can play anywhere, you only need some pens and paper (or the note pad on your electronic device).

You can play this game in the car if you're driving a long distance to the place you're visiting and try to think of topics related to the place for each letter. You could also modify the game at the location by saying whoever first sees something that starts with the letter A wins one point and then continues to B, etc.

5 | I Spy

Even though my twins are twelve-year-olds, they still like to play "I Spy." The great thing about this game is 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 "I Spy" while you're at the museum, zoo, or aquarium. This game will increase your child’s observation skills while still being fun.

How do you help make places fun? What are some games you play? Let us know in the comments section below.

Cheryl Maguire


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