Designing Museum Spaces for Children

Designing Museum Spaces for Children

Visits to museum exhibitions serve as unique opportunities to inspire and educate children about a plethora of different subjects, including art, science, outer space, world culture and history.

Children are inherently inquisitive and are always hungry to learn and explore new places or ideas. As eager and responsive learners, the challenge is not in teaching but in capturing their attention, sparking their interest and making time spent at a museum exciting.

In his article, “From Being about Something to Being for Somebody: The Ongoing Transformation of the American Museum”, which was published by MIT Press in 1999, Stephen E. Weil acknowledges the benefit of shifting the focus to the visitors when curating exhibits and designing museum spaces, which in this case, are the children.

Child-centred museum planning and designing

Planning a museum exhibition for young minds should be educational and empowering. In their paper entitled, “Enhancing Young Children’s Museum Experiences: A Manual for Museum Staff”, Barbara Piscitelli and her co-authors have presented brilliant points that contribute greatly when designing a museum space with children in mind:

  • Cognitive mapping – Children have a unique way of exploring museums. At first, they will be wandering around to familiarise themselves with the new surroundings but they will always return slowly and purposely to particular parts of the museum exhibition that caught their attention.


  • Emotional and physical connection – In the paper, it was referred to as significant sensory input produced by tactile and kinaesthetic experiences. Interactive museum exhibits allow curious visitors, like children, to increase their levels of attention-focused learning and make museum visits memorable.


  • Choice and control – The experts also stressed that children will show a keener interest and higher motivation when they are given the chance to take control of their day at the museum and in turn of their own learning process.

The New Britain Museum of American Art’s Nurture Through Art: Infant to Teen programme is an amazing example of child-focused museum design. It effectively introduces children of all ages to vivid masterpieces to encourage visual stimulation, cognitive development and emotional expression.

It is a series of specially designed museum tours that include guided art gallery explorations, a quick tea break in between and is capped off with a sensory play activity where the young learners are given the freedom to express their own creativity by drawing on a large paper tacked on the floor, getting their hands on colourful toys and interacting with other children in the group.

To make these child-focused programmes possible, museum design companies should be proactive in including the necessary provisions, such as spacious aisles, walkways and ramps, to accommodate young children in their buggies, along with parents and caregivers.

Museum design consultancy

PLB Projects Ltd is a is a museum interpretation and interior design company based in the UK. To see our client portfolio and to learn more about our strategic heritage services, please give us a call on 01904 929700 or email us at