Adventures

3 Ways to Prep Young Children for Visit to the National Museum for African American History & Culture

February 21, 2017

My 6-Year-Old Daughter Felt Empowered, Enriched and Educated.

Last Fall, the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) finally opened its doors to the public in Washington, DC.  For months, I tried to get free tickets to the museum and was finally able to experience this masterpiece this month.  Perfect timing for Black History Month!  Although there are other museums who scratch the surface of Black History, NMAAHC is “the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture.”  Being local to the African American Museum in Philadelphia, I frequently visit this museum with my girls for tours and events so there was no way that I would have missed this opportunity in Washington, DC.  The museum does a remarkable job at depicting powerful moments in African American history, culture and community.  In preparation of our visit to NMAAHC, there were a few things that we did to help my 6-year-old better understand the journey she was about to take part in.

Here are 3 things you can do with your young child to prepare him/her for a visit to the National Museum of African American Heritage & Culture:

Hands on Learning and Education

PBS Kids is a great resource and they have an amazing interactive e-Card feature that highlights African American history.  Your child can hover over e-cards and then click on them to get more facts.  Once done reading, your child can send the e-card to family and friends via email.  As you tour the museum, refer back to the e-cards to refresh your child’s memory (I personally printed them for reference).

Highlight/Emphasize Progress

It is important for me to teach my girls the history of African Americans.  Unfortunately, it’s a tragic history that I have to tell even if it makes me uncomfortable to do so.  However, I do not forget to highlight the progress African Americans have made.  You can say something like this, “African Americans have made huge progress in so many areas such as voting and education, but our ancestors fought night and day to get us this far…”  Reinforce progress as you move around exhibits and the questions start to flow in.

If you don’t know, say so.

I personally choose not to sugar coat anything with my girls – it is what it is.  There’s not a teacher, school, textbook, etc. that will teach my children the history of African Americans before I do to the best of my ability.  I tell the harsh truth in an age appropriate way – you have to find what that means to you and how you interact with your children as the parent.  While touring the museum, my daughter consistently asked me “why?” – 50% of the time I had age appropriate answers, 25% of the time I didn’t answer because I did not have an age appropriate answer and the remaining 25% of the time I honestly did not know the answer.  If I knew the answer and the answer was age appropriate, I answered.  If I knew the answers and knew I did not have an age appropriate response for a 6-year-old (i.e. rape of women in slavery), I did not visit those exhibits. NOTE TO PARENTS: Emotionally loaded content and content not recommended for children is within red lines.  Most importantly, I was not afraid to tell my daughter that I simply did not know if I didn’t.

We were only able to tour for about 90 minutes before my daughter started to get tired.  Although we were not able to see all exhibits, what we did see allowed my daughter to feel empowered, enriched and educated about African American history in a positive and developmentally appropriate way.  We plan to visit again soon!

To learn more about NMAAHC, visit https://nmaahc.si.edu/.

To learn more about tickets to NMAAHC as well as sale day tickets, visit https://nmaahc.si.edu/visit/passes.

To learn more about the museum’s Early Childhood Initiative, visit https://nmaahc.si.edu/learn/educators/early-childhood.

With love + caffeine after a brief hiatus,

highly caffeinated

 

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