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Creating a family friendly environment on reopening

As museums gradually re-open their venues safely and reconnect with audiences we continue our support for museums and galleries learning provision. MGS aims to support museum learning practitioners and enable them to provide a safe, welcoming environment and quality programmes for their audiences and visitors.

In partnership with Kids in Museums, and as part of MGS’s Knowledge Exchange Programme, we delivered a free webinar on how practitioners can create a family friendly environment on re-opening. Kids in Museums has written a blog for the session highlighting what you can do to help reduce risks and ensure a safe environment for your family visitors.

Kids in Museums aims to make museums excellent places for children, young people, and families to visit. We want all museums to be welcoming, accessible and fun.

Since the early stages of lockdown, we have been carefully watching research about visitor attitudes to museum reopening. By June 2020, 80% of respondents to a ScotInform survey wanted to visit museums immediately or fairly soon after they reopened. Across the whole UK, ALVA research shows that by July, families were the audience group who were most keen and confident about returning to museums.

Over the past decade, Scottish museums have taken huge strides towards being more family friendly and in 2019, we saw the first Scottish winner of the Kids in Museums Family Friendly Museum Award, the Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum in Dunfermline. In spite of the progress, we know that there are still many barriers to some families visiting museums.

There is a danger that some of the requirements of being Covid-19 secure could increase families’ sense of museums as stressful rules-based places and remove many of the things they enjoy about museums, such as dressing up and interactives. As more museums in Scotland reopen, it is essential that they work to be safe, welcoming, and accessible.

ScotInform research shows that some of the things that are most important to visitors when museums reopen are:

At the same time nearly three quarters of respondents say museums still need to be friendly and welcoming.

"Having an up-to-date informative website is hugely important. Make sure you manage expectations about the facilities that will be available as families want visits to be easy and comfortable."

To achieve this for family visitors, there are five simple things to consider:

Having an up-to-date informative website is hugely important. Make sure you manage expectations about the facilities that will be available as families want visits to be easy and comfortable. For example, many museums cannot offer lockers, cloakrooms, and buggy parks now and many are unable to offer space for people to eat their own food. Families need to know this so they can plan accordingly.

Updating your access information is also a must. According to Euan’s Guide, 95% of disabled people check museum website before visiting. Offering a visual story will help all visitors understand the changes you have made to become Covid-19 secure. It is also vital to think about simple adjustments like the height of sanitiser dispensers that will help both wheelchair users and children.

In the museum, it is worth thinking carefully about how you communicate hygiene and social distancing rules. There are some great examples of playful signage that display all the necessary information in a fun, light-touch way. You could think about using collection items or a museum mascot on your signs.

Families typically visit museums to have fun together and learn something. Many museums have had to remove key elements of this experience such as interactives, craft and drawing areas, and dressing up clothes to be Covid-19 secure. There are creative solutions to ensure that the visitor experience is still engaging and fun. Museums can be spaces for play, and there are ways to explore collections without touch and opportunities to use new technology.

At the end of the visit, make sure you ask for feedback. Think about fun ways you can collect feedback in person.  But if you are asking all visitors to pre-book, it will be simple to email a short survey too. In this new unfamiliar world, feedback will be invaluable in helping to improve the experience for future visitors.

All the science suggests that we are going to need to live alongside Covid-19 for many months. Museums are important to children, young people and families’ wellbeing and learning, and as a result, they need to adapt and ensure they continue to offer an excellent visitor experience for these groups.

For some great examples of how museums are adapting their family provision during the pandemic, please visit our How to use the Kids in Museums Manifesto to plan for reopening resource.

For support with developing your family learning programme and creating a safe, accessible and welcoming environment, please contact

For more on learning resources to support home-schooling, please visits our website.