Dedicated to providing an ongoing forum for docent education and the exchange of ideas since 1981

Tours with Children and Teens: A Handbook for Docents and Guides

cover2Building on the 2017 Docent Handbook 2, the National Docent Symposium Council has published Tours with Children and Teens: A Handbook for Docents and Guides. The new publication enhances and deepens information and guidance for touring with children pre-K through high school, home schoolers and multi-aged groups, and those with special needs. It provides practical help and suggestions, based on research, and offers extensive examples from a variety of museums. Color photographs of art from a variety of museums enliven most tour examples. Acknowledging the reality of virtual tours for children and teens, the new publication also covers opportunities and challenges for these tours and insights based on what is still very much a developing process. The approaches presented throughout the handbook are equally relevant for in-person and virtual tours. We hope Tours with Children and Teens will inspire confidence and enjoyment for the important work of docents and guides with younger visitors.

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  1. Basics
  2. Getting Started
  3. Tours with Younger Visitors
  4. Tours with Teens
  5. Tours with Home-school, After-school, and Multi-age School Groups
  6. Special Attention
  7. Candid Conversations
  8. Challenging Behaviors
  9. Live Virtual Tours


From Chapter 3 “Tours with Younger Visitors”

Third to sixth graders are eager to explore, discover and learn.

Therefore, museum tours should use a variety of methods to encourage engaged participation with children this age, such as close looking and open-ended questions.

Eight-to twelve-year olds are particularly well-suited to looking closely, thinking about what they see and hear, and wondering about what’s going on. They are increasingly observant, attentive, articulate, empathetic, and quite un-self-conscious within their peer groups. They enjoy partnering or forming small groups to accomplish a task and are learning to collaborate. They respond to questions that invite a wide variety of responses and active participation in discussions.

Animals in Art is a compelling and popular museum subject for children in this age group. We often prompt animated conversations when we examine two- and three-dimensional representations of real and imaginary animals, compare their features, and wonder about their attributes.

  • How dangerous do you think it might feel to get close this ancient bronze sculpture of a tiger? Why do you think the sculptor tried to make this creature look scary?
  • This tiger was made for the entrance to a tomb. What do you think the effect might have been on someone trying to get inside the tomb? Let's compare the bronze tiger with a painted ceramic guardian figure made up of parts from several different animals.
  • As we look at other animals, such as a carved jade dragon or a bronze bird, think about what qualities an animal would need to make it a guardian figure. What questions would you ask to help you decide?

Continue to explore and discuss several other museum creatures, noticing features and attributes, finding favorites, distinguishing between depictions of real and imaginary creatures, pondering what each was used for.

Which might have been guardians? Why? What other roles might these animals have played?

  • As a follow-up, try a short art activity. Ask children to select some favorite features of real and imagined animals to create a guardian figure of their own. Where would they place their animal guardian?

Coming soon!