Inspiration, culture and learning. We set forth with high hopes for the big family museum adventure. To make the outing a success, make a plan that blends fun and learning, so kids come away with new connections to the wider world.

You may already be familiar with what’s available in your area. Just to be sure you haven’t overlooked a gem, use the search tools on American Alliance of Museums or GreatMusuems.org and start planning!

Set your theme

Poke around on the website and narrow the visit to focus on a central theme, whether it’s antiquities, the human body, insects or types of train engines — this is especially important if your venue of choice is a large, sprawling facility. Then do some at-home learning about the theme in advance, whether you do some bedtime reading from a stack of library books or stream an interesting documentary.

Bring a change of clothing

Even if your child is well beyond the age of “accidents,” some hands-on exhibits can leave them wet and messy, especially if the venue is geared for kids.

Put the screens on time out

We’re talking about parents, not the kids! On the one hand, access to mobile devices can add something to the visit, whether the museum offers an interactive app or you bring it out as a research tool. And, of course, you’ll want to remember the day of fun with lots of pictures. Other than that, don’t sit and scroll. Be present. If you’re engaged, you’ll send a message to your child this is an important visit.

Take your child’s lead

Once you arrive, remember that the mind of a child can switch gears and change directions, in spite of all your careful planning. If something “off-topic” grabs their fancy, let them go with it. This may be the spark of a new hobby.

Engage the helpers

While you’re there, if you happen to see a volunteer or museum staffer, engage with them. They know the place better than anyone and are often happy to talk and share. Show some interest and enthusiasm with questions and comments, and you’ll more than likely get something extra from the visit, whether it’s a fascinating firsthand account or a behind-the-scenes peek.

Keep the spark alive!

Even if you can find it for less online, pick up a copy of that cool book in the gift shop to bring home for further reading. Usually, the staff do a great job of selecting high-quality titles, plus the proceeds will support the museum. Beyond that, look for other creative ways to keep kids engaged and keep building those connections. For instance, Bricks 4 Kidz may offer just the right workshop with a theme that adds to their museum learning experience.

A museum visit is a fun and engaging way for parents to build an at-home curriculum so kids continue to learn, even when they’re not in school.