Etiquette 101: Visiting a Science Center with Kids

Dos and don'ts for taking kids to science museums in Michigan like the Michigan Science Center, Cranbrook Institute of Science and Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum.


Visiting a science center opens up a world of learning opportunities for kids of all ages. As you prepare for your next trip to one of the science museums in Michigan, keep in mind these top things to do – and not do – during your visit.

You’ll find there are more dos than don’ts – and there’s a reason for that. Museum leaders want children to feel welcome, comfortable and – most of all – inspired about science.

Science center ‘dos’

  • Ask lots of questions! “We regularly have docents who are here volunteering their time simply because they love to have conversations with curious developing minds,” says Meredith Gregory, who formerly worked as a public programs coordinator at the Michigan Science Center in Detroit.
  • Check out the museum’s website with a parent in advance and make a list of must-see exhibits.
  • Read the labels on exhibits. “You learn a lot more by just a minute or two reading,” says Nancy Swords, deputy director at the Cranbrook Institute of Science.
  • Use all of your senses as you observe and explore.
  • Arrive ready to be engaged. “Come with fresh eyes,” Swords suggests.
  • Be respectful of the different parenting styles you’ll see. “Know that a place like this is a place where you will see lots of different parenting styles and you really can learn a lot from it actually,” says Lorrie Beaumont, EdD, director of education at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum.
  • Get involved in the play, parents! “It’s a good thing to model to children to be able to be playful,” Beaumont says. “Engage in their experiences, get involved in trying to figure things out.”
  • Free free to make suggestions to museum staff. “We only exist because of the guests that visit,” Swords says. “Providing feedback is always helpful, positive or negative.”
  • Take your time and plan to come back again. You usually won’t get to see everything in one visit. A membership usually pays for itself after a couple of visits, and remember that many museum memberships offer reciprocity, getting you free admission to other museums in the same network.

Science center ‘don’ts’

  • Don’t do anything that negatively impacts another person’s experience. “Maybe you’re not having the best time in a museum, but you don’t get to impact anyone else’s visit,” Swords says.
  • Don’t run wild. “Please remember that you’re inside,” Gregory says. “Many of our exhibits are very hands-on and interactive but we still remind children to use inside, walking feet so that they don’t accidentally startle other visitors or accidentally hurt themselves. You may also miss something really cool if you’re moving too fast.”
  • Don’t eat/drink outside of designated areas or chew gum or candy while exploring the museum.
  • Don’t use things in unintended ways that could be dangerous.
  • Don’t change diapers outside of the bathrooms. “Use the bathroom and not the gallery,” Beaumont says.
  • Don’t leave your children unattended. “Parents need to stay with their children,” Beaumont says. “We know that they need a rest and that sometimes they come to a place like this so they can let their children have free play and exploration but we don’t want them to completely check out.”

This post was originally published in 2015 and has been updated for 2016.