travel with kids: visiting the sfmoma and why museums make perfect kid destinations



I first took my daughter to an art museum when she was two months old. Tucked snuggly into my baby wrap, she slept while I walked and took in the exhibits. Although she didn’t see much art per se, it was a defining moment for me as a new parent. It opened my eyes to how I could share the things I loved with my child, even “adult” things such as art museums. Although, if you think about it, what’s more perfect for a child than a place with huge pictures mounted to the walls, right?

C.’s been to the Des Moines Art Center a few more times; moving from the baby wrap to an outward facing baby carrier and then to an umbrella stroller. Each time she stayed awake a little longer and took in a bit more of her surroundings. And each time, the museum docents were incredibly welcoming and made a big fuss over the little girl taking in the art work.

On this summer’s trip to San Francisco, T. and I both wanted to visit the SFMoMA again and we didn’t think twice about taking C. with us. In fact, the SFMoMA turned out to be a perfect kid destination. C. had a lot of visual stimulation to keep her entertained and the space itself is wide, open, equipped with elevators, and very stroller friendly. It was the perfect merging of what we wanted to do and what we could expect from a ten-month-old to sit through. (Forget the opera or romantic dinners, that’s for vacations will be taking ten years from now.)




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Not only are most museums child friendly, but they want families and children to come visit. The SFMoMA offers a variety of activities for children and families can also take advantage of special days to get in free!

A friend of mine is a museum educator and runs the site Art Museum Teachings, which offers great ideas for getting young people to interract with museum spaces. While C. is still content to be wheeled around in a stroller while she looks at the huge paintings or the life-sized sculptures, an older child might require more guidance in how to get the most out of a museum visit. Posts like “Seven Ways to Ignite Learning at the Museum” are written for teachers but are just as beneficial for parents looking to make their child’s museum visit more rewarding.

For younger kids, it’s as simple as playing “I Spy” games with the colors, shapes, and objects they see. Older kids need more background information; a narrative to help them connect what they already know to the things they’re seeing for the first time. And babies such as our own ten-month-old are happy to have picture books the size of walls to keep their minds occupied.




The SFMoMA has the additional perk of a rooftop art garden and cafe. It’s user-friendly, meaning that older children are welcome to touch and engage with the art work on the roof while parents sit and sip a cup of coffee. And the views! Let’s not forget the views!



Do you enjoy art museums with your children? How do you get them to appreciate the experience and to connect with what they’re seeing?


SFMoMA visitor’s information

Des Moines Art Center visitor’s information (our smaller but very awesome museum at home)

More on travel with kids.

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About simplybike

{Bikes, a new baby, and the story of us.}
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5 Responses to travel with kids: visiting the sfmoma and why museums make perfect kid destinations

  1. T. says:

    I’ve been taking my 15- and 12-year-old children to museums since they were infants. Their tolerance for such outings has waxed and waned over the years. When they were little they were compliant and even interested. As they got older they would be grudgingly cooperative, but a few years ago they absolutely refused to set foot into the art museum in Montreal when we vacationed there. That was frustrating for my husband and me! Last winter they happily came into the art museum in Chicago with us, though. Most museums are child-friendly now, much more so than when I was a kid.

    I wanted to say that what is so cool about parenting is not only showing your children things you love, but also letting your child’s interests take you places you never thought you’d go. When my son was two, he loved bagpipes, so we went to Celtic festivals in our area and checked DVDs of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo out of the library, things we likely would not have done without his keen interest. Bagpipes used to make me shudder, but my son made me appreciate them. He did outgrow that obsession, but I still occasionally listen to some of our bagpipe CDs and smile.

  2. simplybike says:

    What a beautiful comment, T! I hadn’t given that much thought, but I look forward to seeing what C. will bring to my life in terms of her interests and hobbies as she gets older. As much as I hope she’ll love some of the same things we love (museums being one of them), I do look forward to letting her develop her interests and passions and being taken along for that ride.


  3. B. says:

    Thanks for the lovely post on the value of museums as places for kids, something we’ve certainly found to be true! Recently we’ve also discovered that those simple games of “what do you see” can lead to all kinds of discoveries about our 3-yr-old’s imagination, fears, preferences – a kind of spring board for talking about other things important to their lives.

    I agree with what the previous poster T said about the ways your child’s interests can bring new discoveries as well. Great point!

  4. Aline Lotter says:

    SF MOMA has perhaps an unfair advantage with its views of one of the most charming cities in this country. But if you can get over to the East Coast, please visit the jewel of New Hampshire, Manchester’s Currier Museum. They have a children’s corner with all kinds of hands on stuff for the children to play with and it’s the sweetest museum I know.

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