With closed schools and stay-at-home orders around the world, parents, teachers, and caregivers are rising to the occasion and figuring out innovative ways to homeschool students. When the schoolwork is complete, there’s the continued challenge of keeping young children entertained and away from hours staring at smartphones, tablets, and TVs. On top of this, April is a notoriously gray and rainy month, where families are trapped in their dry homes, eager for indoor activities.
Whether you’re a museum professional, exhibit designer, or simply a crafty stay-at-home caregiver, this is a great opportunity to teach children about how to create an exhibition. Let them know that being an exhibit designer is a blast! You get to draw things, learn about so many fascinating topics, and see thousands of cool objects.
Here are five super fun at-home make-a-museum activities for young children.
Houses and apartments are littered with items hanging on walls. Paintings, posters, family photos, and school projects provide the perfect opportunity for turning your home into a curated art museum.
Make labels for the items on your walls, or for interesting objects on shelves and tables. Include the artist’s name, artwork title, medium, and other bits of information. Your labels can be serious or silly. If you want to take the project a few steps further, you can record a gallery talk, explaining the process of creating a specific piece of art.
Your home is filled with personal treasures,such as gift store trinkets, jewelry, family heirlooms, and small toys. Thesespecial objects deserve to be highlighted in well-lit homemade artifact displaycases.
Using something as simple and common as a cereal box, you can lay out, cut, fold, and tape your own display case. Cut a small hole at the top to provide “museum-quality” lighting from a flashlight or your phone. Once you’ve mastered making one case, make more and turn an entire room into an object gallery. Try changing the dimensions from the instructions below to create larger display cases from other cardboard boxes you have at home.
Download artifact display case instructions here.
Whether you’re four years old or forty, you probably have some sort of collection sitting on shelves or hiding in a box below your bed. Toy cars, shells, and action figures all work well for this project. You can also use objects you find around the house or in the yard, like a box of crayons, pinecones, or silverware.
Come up with an interesting way to organize your collection: by size, color, or shape, for example. Arrange them however you decide, and then draw or take photos of your display. Think about how many different ways your collection can be sorted. Look online to research amazing collections of similar objects, such as this enormous Matchbox car collection. And find photos of other jaw-dropping collections in museums, like storage units at the National Museum of Natural History.
Collect all of your favorite stuffed animals (or dolls or action figures) and show them some love by assembling them into acozy natural history exhibit or mini-wildlife center.
Arrange them around a room, and create little settings for them, if you like. Make museum labels for each one, identifying its name, type of animal, age, and where the stuffed animal is from. Research each kind of animal on the Internet, or in books you may already have, to include information about what they like to eat, where they live, and other interesting facts. For a big natural history exhibit, don’t limit yourself tostuffed animals. You can also make labels for plants, pinecones, and rocks.
Don’t limit yourself to having an exhibit in only one room. You can turn your whole house or apartment into a science museumby giving every room a theme and setting up one or two interactive exhibits ineach space.
Coming up with names for your science galleries is half the fun. The kitchen could be called Waterworks, with an experiment station about H2O or fluid dynamics. The living room could be called Beyond Earth, with a homemade planetarium. And perhaps the dining area might be something like Let There Be Light, with an exhibit about shadows or color spectrums. Many science museum websites have ideas for at-home DIY science activities. Here are some good ones from the Museum of Science and Industry and Discovery World.
There’s so many fun things to do when you’re trapped at home. Making museum exhibits is a great way to keep the whole family busy together, and to incorporate art, science, geometry, and whimsical creativity into an activity.
If you have other ideas for creating museum exhibits at home, we’d love to hear about them. Please share your project ideas with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.