Are Britain’s heritage attractions child-friendly?

19 August 2019

Research finds families avoid art galleries, theatres and museums.

Heritage window
 
  • Many parents never visit art galleries (35%), stately homes (31%), theatres (23%), castles (15%) or museums (10%) with their children
  • Lack of child-friendly activities, cost and a perception that heritage organisations are not child friendly prevent parents from taking their children to visit
  • Art galleries (43%), stately homes (42%) and museums (39%) are the heritage attractions where parents are most likely to report having had at least one negative experience while visiting with their children
  • Cheaper tickets or free children's entry, activities and pop up events for children and hands on activities or interactive displays for children would encourage more parents to visit
 
Research commissioned by specialist heritage insurer, Ecclesiastical, has revealed many parents never visit art galleries, theatres or museums with their children.
 
The survey revealed over a third (35%) of parents never visit art galleries with their children, while just under a third (31%) never visit stately homes. Almost 1 in 4 never go to theatres with their children (23%), and just under 1 in 7 never visit castles (15%). While 1 in 10 never visit museums with their children (10%)1.
 
A lack of child-friendly activities, cost and a perception that heritage organisations are not child friendly are the top three reasons that prevent parents from taking their children to heritage attractions.

Many parents have a negative experience while visiting heritage organisations with their children

Of those parents that do visit heritage organisations with their children, many have had a negative experience. Art galleries (43%), stately homes (42%) and museums (39%) are the heritage attractions where parents are most likely to report having had at least one negative experience while visiting with their children. While more than a third (38%) of parents have had a negative experience visiting theatres and just over a third (34%) while visiting castles with their children.
 
The research revealed a significant gender gap in attitudes towards visiting heritage attractions, with fathers (48%) more likely to report having a negative experience while visiting a heritage attraction with their children in comparison to mothers (40%).
 
A lack of outdoor space or play areas, lack of parking or lifts and unfriendly staff or visitors were the main reasons that caused parents to have a negative experience.

How can heritage attractions encourage parents to visit with children?

Cheaper tickets or free children's entry, activities and pop-up events for children and hands on activities or interactive displays for children are the most popular incentives that would encourage parents to take their children to heritage organisations.
 
Many heritage organisations are already embracing innovative ways to encourage more families to visit. For example, Leeds City Museum offers baby-friendly curator talks, signposted selfie points and ‘Dadstastic’ Days to encourage families to visit. The York Art Gallery offers displays babies can touch and lick, low-level labels, comfortable chairs, and a dedicated Welcome Team to make families feel welcome and comfortable.
 
Faith Kitchen, Heritage Director at Ecclesiastical said: “As the leading insurer of Grade I listed buildings in the UK, we’re passionate about protecting Britain’s heritage. While it is encouraging to see that the majority of parents do visit heritage sites with their children, our research shows that a lack of child friendly activities, cost and a perception that heritage organisations are not child friendly prevent parents from taking their children to visit heritage attractions. While many heritage organisations have done some fantastic work diversifying their offering to attract more families, clearly more needs to be done to encourage parents and their children to visit these incredible places. By offering more activities for children and hands on activities heritage organisations can help to inspire the next generation.”
 
Lizzie Glithero-West, Chief Executive of the Heritage Alliance said: “It’s encouraging to read that up to 90% of parents are taking their children to museums, but some of the figures show as a sector we can go further. As a parent myself of 7 and 5 year olds who has spent a lot of time in cultural sites with them, I know the impact that excellent, engaging activities and an authentic welcome can have on us wanting to return. Conversely, a lack of understanding of children’s needs, or poor welcome can certainly have the opposite effect. So many heritage sites are offering innovative and exciting programmes and resources for families and this is clearly crucial in shaping our heritage-lovers of the future and ensuring the sustainability of these destinations.“
 
Peter Ainsworth, Chairman of the Heritage Alliance said: “I warmly congratulate Ecclesiastical on this work. Our wonderful Heritage is for everyone, of all ages and wherever we live. We were all children once and a love of beautiful and intriguing places, once sparked, never leaves us”.
1. The research was conducted by Censuswide, with 2,008 parents with children under the age of 16 between 24 May and 29 May 2019