In anticipation of Remembrance Day we recently visited the Canadian War Museum with our 2.5 year old monkey and 4.5 year old firefighter. The cost for our family of four was $30 and parking (for just over two hours) was $8.75.
We planned our visit with two of their friends, who are the same ages, for several reasons. We enjoy the company and our boys travel better as part of a 'herd'. Surprisingly there is less running and silliness as they tend to stick close to their friends. Because there is a lot of graphic material at the museum, we also appreciated the distraction of having friends with us. The kids were curious about the exhibits but were easily distracted when an adult directed them elsewhere.
If you haven't visited the museum, you may want to visit their website before planning your trip. There are floor plans on the website and although at times the exhibits feel maze-like, its easy to skip different parts of the galleries or leave the exhibits for snack or bathroom breaks. We spent 2 hours there and visited all four Canadian Experience galleries as well as the LeBreton gallery.
Many of the photographs, art, and videos on display are graphic. For some children it may be overwhelming or scary and as a parent it can be difficult to answer questions about the weapons and violence on display. In some of the exhibits the audio of gun shots and machines is also loud and unexpected.
Unlike some of the other museums in the city, the exhibits are geared towards adults and older children, which is to be expected given the content. That being said all four kids had a great time looking at the vehicles, clothing, and diorama's. They tried on hats, listened to audio explanations of different exhibits, and enjoyed the areas where they have replicated different periods of war (trenches, cafe).
The monkey even found somewhere to monkey around!
In areas where the material was graphic or frightening, we passed through quickly directing their attention to the next part of the exhibit. My answers to the 4.5 year olds questions were simple and one-two words, instead of trying to over-explain (e.g., when he asked what a soldier was doing I said "lying in the dirt" instead of "preparing for battle"). Its a good idea, before your visit, to think about how you want to answer questions about war, blood, guns, and death, so that you're prepared when the questions arise. Because Remembrance Day is discussed at school, its probably easier with older elementary school children who have already been introduced to the topic.
The highlight of the visit was the LeBreton gallery where all the large vehicles are on display. Even though the kids can't climb on them they enjoyed looking all the different types of trucks, especially the ones that served meals or acted as a mechanic's shop.
Have you visited the Canadian War Museum? How did your children react?
Sara is mom to 4-year-old ” firefighter” and 2-year-old “monkey”.