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What is a Family Guide? (And why would I want one?)


For many families museums are supposed to be a place for learning just as much as they are a place for fun.  However, many families also face struggles when it comes to engaging their children in the content of exhibitions when they are in a museum. Thus the ‘Family Guide’ was introduced. Just like a Gallery Guide assists adults with further education on whatever is on display in the gallery, Family Guides assist families with further education on exhibitions. 

Imagine a family walks into a museum; the parents are thrilled, feeling a spark of excitement wave through them as they enter the doors. The kids on the other hand, are looking around, ready for something to play with, touch, or talk about. Their eyes are scanning, but there’s a lot to see, so much that it might start to look the same or feel a little overwhelming. As a Museum Educator part of our job is to figure out how to best engage viewers of all ages with the content housed in our walls. It’s easy for us as Museum Educators to facilitate an air of fun and excitement around subjects that kids might not yet know or understand; however, when it comes to kids experiencing museums on their own, there’s a bit more challenge. In the face of that challenge, we started creating Family Guides. We started with five goals we wanted children to explore while trying to learn new content and used those as the basis for our guides: observe, feel, think, connect, and create. 

You can use these ideas even without a written guide, to explore a museum with children (or even for your inner child). Try asking a question based on a simple observation you notice. For example, you and your child are looking at artwork that is very colorful and you ask them what they see. The child immediately shouts out “Green”! Following our goals, you can start by asking the question “How does the green in this artwork make you feel?”. This can open the gates to a child thinking longer about pieces of work they see and how the work affects them emotionally. The next question could go something like “Why do you think the artist used green?” which easily could lead into “What does the color green make you think of? Is there any other green artwork you can think of”? This line of questioning connects the artwork to other work and can connect the piece to the world in general. The last step intends to get the child’s creativity involved. You can ask the question “If you made an artwork like this, what would it look like?” or allow them to physically create something related to what they saw. 

Using this method, we create Family Guides containing more questions than answers, prompting young patrons to examine the content of an exhibition more deeply. We point things out, raise questions, and try to spark ideas that get kids into the mindset of having fun with the information they’re taking in. These are all tools parents, guardians, caretakers, counselors, and teachers can utilize when they bring kids into a museum space!

Make sure and check out our Family Guides for every new art exhibition at the Carnegie Center. Find them on the front desk right next to the adult Gallery Guides! Are you a teacher looking for ways to connect your students with local art? Our Teacher Guides for middle and high school contain enriching ideas and lessons related to every new art exhibition that we launch. Check them out on our website at!



By Tierra Deacon

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