Children’s Museum Networks

There are four networks of children’s museums in the U.S.:

  • ACM – Association of Children’s Museums
  • ASTC – Association of Science-Technology Centers
  • NARM – North American Reciprocal Museum
  • and ROAM – Reciprocal Organization of Associated Museums
  • (If there’s another that I missed, please let me know at matt@matchstick.com).

    Belonging to a network means you can go for free or reduced entry to any other museum in the network. We’ve saved many hundreds of dollars by joining. Typically, the cost of joining one of the networks is $20 or so in addition to the cost of an annual membership at one of the museums in the network.

    We frequently go to children’s museums when the weather is wet or cold, and it can be a great way to have a playdate without having to mess up the house. And then when taking road trips to the grandparents, we will look for a museum on the way that is in one of the networks, and we go for free.

    ACM is the Association of Children’s Museums and has 341 member museums. You can use their online tool to find a museum or look at their PDF, current as of February 2017

    ASTC (pronounced “Aztec”) is the Association of Science-Technology Centers. The ASTC Passport Program is similar to the ACM one, though the focus is on children’s science museums. Their list of 364 participating museums is in a PDF, current as of 2017

    The NARM (North American Reciprocal Museum) Association is another network, much larger than the other 2, with 896 participating museums. NARM includes many historical sites and other kinds of places beyond the STEM-focus of ASTC. Use the NARM interactive map to find museums near you, or look at their PDF, current as of 2017.

    ROAM (Reciprocal Organization of Associated Museums) is the newest museum network and has about 330 participating museums, listed on their website. Most of the museums in the ROAM network are fine arts museums, but the list is eclectic and also includes arboretums as well as history and cultural centers.

    Many museums belong to more than one network, so by joining a museum you may gain access to over a thousand other museums around the country.

    Look at these four networks for a children’s museum near you and see if there are other museums in the same network you are likely to visit, e.g. near a relative’s home. You may be surprised at how many children’s museums are out there. Many have limited marketing budgets and don’t advertise much.

    Many public libraries now offer museum passes available to be checked out. You often have to reserve them in advance. If there is a museum you have been considering taking the kids to, but have been reluctant because of the price, ask at your local library for a pass.

    Parenting Rules

    A growing list of wisdom I’ve gained over the years.

    No grudges/punishments after midnight. This applies to spouses as well. Everyone (including you) gets a clean slate in the morning. Everyone deserves a fresh start and second chance. And just as importantly, it’s stressful and exhausting to try and remember every bad behavior that needs correcting.

    If I am grouchy and see my kid do something bad, I may make a rule (“no TV for the rest of the day!”). If/when they do it again, my instinct is to then extend that rule (“no TV for a week!”) but this is too hard to enforce and then what the kid ends up learning is that I don’t follow through on my threats. There are no good easy ways to maintain discipline, but if I am inclined to start doling out punishments that will last for more than a day, better to just change the environment, physically move them and me somewhere else.

    • Related to the above, give feedback immediately. A popular concept these days is ‘gamification’ and the essence of that is immediate feedback, both positive and negative. If a child (or employee, or spouse, or friend for that matter) does something that you want to reinforce, don’t make a mental note to give them ice cream later – give them a hug and praise them right then and there. Similarly, if you see behavior that you want to correct, again, don’t delay your reaction. If your reaction is not immediate, the child will not associate your reaction with their action and your reaction will seem irrational.

    Sugar is ok as long as you have a plan for where the kids will be when they are burning it off, running around and screaming, and where they will be when they crash, grumpy and unmotivated. A sweet treat about an hour before leaving a playground is great because the kids will run around and start to get tired around when it’s time to leave anyway.

    … more to come