I have made many trips to the Canadian Museum of Nature over the past year, both as a volunteer for the Nature School Program and as a parent. Talking with other volunteers and attending numerous presentations, I have learned more about the museum. During our family visits over the past year, I have also learned a few tricks to navigate a successful day with my young boys: preparation, timing, kid choice and tagging in/out.

A collage of photos of two boys playing with mechanical and computer interactives in the museum.
The museum appeals to the tastes of my two young boys, including computer touch screens, live insects in Animalium, and their own adventures in the bird hospital or aboard an Arctic ice-breaker. Image: Jennifer Artz © Jennifer Artz

Be prepared by knowing what is available
The museum’ listing of What’s On informs patrons about the current exhibitions, special daily programmes and the movies available. In order to adapt to the ever-changing whims of my little guys, I update myself on each of these prior to our visit.

I find the titles and times for the 20-minute 3D movies, which offer a great sit-down break for a morning or afternoon trip. The movies are offered in both French and English, so there is added flexibility for families comfortably bilingual.

Did you know that museum visitors are welcome to eat their own snacks in the café? This is great news! Taking a few moments to pack the family’s favourite snacks has definitely helped to smooth out our inevitable “hunger crisis”.

A collage of photos showing two young boys doing various activities at the museum.
The practical aspects of visiting with kids require a movie break, relaxing, a stroller, snacks and taking time to smell the tulips or admire the colours of the autumn leaves, depending on the season. Image: Jennifer Artz © Jennifer Artz

Timing is everything
Arriving at the museum when it opens is the best way to avoid line-ups and crowds. Late morning and early afternoon tend to be the busiest times, but of course, this all depends on whether or not there is a school holiday. Check the calendar!

When you arrive early, you have the best chance to secure a single or double stroller/cart, which is a great place to store a tired kid or the all-important snack bag.

Let the kids make the plan
I remember dreading museums as a child, but it does not need to be this way for our kids. There is so much catered to their curiosity. On the drive to the museum, I suggest talking about the 3D movie, dinosaurs, the bat cave, undersea adventures, or whatever excites them. Ask the kids what they want to see.

With all of kid preferences on the table, you have all you need for a great day. Kids love being in charge. Adapt as the day progresses and visit their favourite gallery, take a snack break, go to a movie, and back to another gallery. They will love it!

Three photos that show two young boys playing with computer interactives.
The better types of screen time are at the museum, in the RBC Water Gallery creating poetry and in the Vale Earth Gallery making customized rocks and exploring Canada. Image: Jennifer Artz © Jennifer Artz

Parents enjoy their day by tagging in and tagging out
With the kids occupied in their chosen exhibition, each parent has an opportunity to tag out and wander away to see their favourite gallery, while the other parent is on duty. After a few too many mornings chasing kids, I have recently had a chance to really visit the museum using this strategy. Thank you, JR. Wonderful!

A collage of photos of the Vale Earth Gallery and a boy on a visit.
Letting the kids explore one gallery with a parent gives an opportunity for the other to venture out on their own. The boys love to explore the “bat cave” (including its video images) and rock formations in the Vale Earth Gallery. Image: Jennifer Artz © Jennifer Artz

Each visit has improved for us, and the boys are excited to return each time. Visit the blog article titled Kid Highlights at the Canadian Museum of Nature for our favourites. And please share your ideas for enjoyable family visits.