It’s a given that children thrive on entertainment. High on the list are activity centres like laser tag and trampoline parks, or movie theatres and arcades. And while these activities may be fun, visiting museums should also earn a spot on every family’s list.

Visiting museums offers a slew of benefits to people of all ages, the most obvious being the educational component. It’s easy to understand how being immersed in history, art and culture can teach us about our world and the human condition. What’s even more noteworthy is the fact that a museum’s environment is dynamic rather than static. Many exhibitions are interactive and offer hands-on activities. Looking and listening are not enough; learning by trying and doing offers a potential for deeper understanding and can promote critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

But the benefits don’t stop there. Academic learning is but one of the many gains. Museums also inspire. They encourage people, children included, to remain curious about themselves and the world around them, and to continue asking questions. Wandering through an exhibition of dinosaur bones is exciting for children, but it can also provoke thought. They may wonder what life was like during that period, what the different dinosaurs ate, or what led to their extinction. The visit becomes a memorable experience that often leads to further discussion and thought. It can even be tied in with things they learn at school. In addition, museums also spark creativity and new ways of thinking. Observing the progress we have made and witnessing the human being’s inherent desire to create stimulates our own minds on many levels.

So how early can parents bring their children to museums? Montreal mother Jennifer Busby started when her daughter was only one year old. Eager to encourage and inspire her to think outside the box, Busby would lovingly carry her baby from room to room and talk to her about what they were looking at.

“I believe arts and culture are vital to a healthy existence,” Busby says. “To show children a variety of expression is to give them further ways to expand themselves and be interested and confident in differing environments.”

Her daughter is now 7 years old and still enjoys visiting museums and cultural festivals. Her sense of curiosity has been nurtured and she gets excited to see new things, interact with different people and explore the world.

Parents may wonder whether or not bringing young children to a museum is even worth it. Short attention spans, the inability to read and not having a reference point to the material can be challenges. However, starting with short trips or including breaks can make it easier. Museums also offer numerous interactive activities and games specifically designed for children. To make the most of your visit, gather some information in advance and plan the course of the day in a way that best suits your family.

For children and adults alike, museums provide a unique environment for quality time where everyone can learn in new and exciting ways.