After some careful thought and input from the museum educator we are working with to revamp our Context for Families program, we have decided to reinstate our “Vatican for Families” walk. However, we do advise parents to read this post before booking that walk because while an extremely significant monument in Rome, the Vatican is simply not a space we would deem “kid friendly.”
The Vatican Museums are a space that often has up to 22,000 visitors daily, meaning the waits can be long even as you are moving inside the galleries. As it was designed as a Papal palace and not a modern museum, remember that most visitors inside are pushed along the same path, with hardly any places to sit and rest and a cafe only at the very beginning of the complex. This means that should kids need a pit stop, it is logistically very difficult for both the group and the docent. While these conditions are normally quite hard on adults, it can be excruciating on kids. Your kids should be prepared for this.
We’ve designed our Vatican for Families walk for a duration of three hours, without a stop at St. Peter’s, as this length of time is what even our docents most experienced with children have found to be the best in terms of attention span and fatigue.
Should families choose to book our Vatican for Families walk, we will certainly pair you with one of our family-friendly docents, who has been trained in an inquiry based learning method in order to have the entire family engage in the learning process. We also may use materials to educate and keep the interest of the family. Keep in mind that this walk is purposely aimed for the family as a whole and while still with a scholar, it is impossible for the docent to lead a discussion at a child’s level and also conduct a high level scholarly discourse with parents. We would suggest that parents or family members looking for a very scholarly experience directed at an adult level book our normal Vatican walks and look into a child care option for their children during that time.
We would also like to remind parents that the Vatican Museums are filled with priceless artworks and monuments. The space also has a spiritual significance and for many visitors is something they’ve waited years to visit. Our role is to provide a learning experience. We expect that your children will be well-behaved and refrain from touching the art, laying on the ground, loud behavior, running, and all other inappropriate behavior. Or, we expect parents to take any unruly children away from the group and out of the museums. Our docents are there to provide this experience for your children, but they are not in any way expected to be disciplinarians or babysitters for them.
Also remember that the content of the artworks within the museums and the discussions they spur can often be jarring for children who are not used to seeing depictions of crucifixions, martyrdoms, etc. Questions such as “What is a Virgin?” or “Why is that man bleeding?” are not unheard of and we recommend that parents prepare their children for these type of topics before they arrive.