Image: Little girl with butterfly
Audubon Insectarium
The Audubon Insectarium in New Orleans is filled with creepy, crawly insect life. Besides fleas, termites and spiders, there’s a Japanese garden where the beautiful butterflies flutter by and sometimes even land on you.
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updated 3/2/2009 11:51:56 AM ET 2009-03-02T16:51:56

Anyone who’s ever watched in horror as a peanut butter-smeared toddler careens towards a priceless work of art knows that children and museums don’t always mix. The solution would seem to be that once you take the big step of starting a family, you stick to museums geared specifically towards rug rats.

The only problem with this being that just because you pushed out a baby or two, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to be enchanted by hordes of shrieking finger-painters led by a surly underpaid teen in an Elmo costume.

There has to be a middle ground: Somewhere between the quiet reverence of the Frick and the cacophony of Sesame Place, there must be places where your child can be exposed to brilliant new ideas, and you don’t leave exhausted and ruing your decision to reproduce. The good news is — there are such places and they’re all over the world.

The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles is the perfect example of a fine arts museum where your kid can look at fabulous art and learn new things and you won’t have to deal with dirty looks from uptight dilettantes who think children should be seen and not heard.

Folk art museums are also known to be more accepting of little people with big mouths. The Museum of Craft and Folk Art in San Francisco not only encourages children to learn about art, they have workshops where they can create their own art. Classes in African-American quilting, Ancient Greek ceramics and Indian palm leaf bookmaking not only teach them a skill, but enlighten them about cultures and places they might not have ever heard of. And you can have a relaxing stroll through the galleries while they’re busy.

Any parent passing through New York City would be remiss not to visit the American Museum of Natural History, if only to marvel at the giant blue whale that hangs from the entry hall, and its rich collection of dioramas. But there are also offbeat choices in the Big Apple.

Places like the New York Transit Museum, where your little one can study the art of subway and station design in an actual working subway station. Or take the ferry out to Ellis Island and learn about what it was like when his great, great, great grandparents came to the U.S. All of these options are just as pleasant for you as the little guys.

Believe it or not, it’s even easier to get a little culture for your kiddies when traveling abroad. For one thing, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to decipher it if someone’s talking about your horribly behaved child anyway, so who cares? (If a tree falls in the forest ...)

And if you stick to gigantic ancient structures — like say, the Acropolis — you can relax with the knowledge that it will be nearly impossible for your children to break anything. Hey, if it stood up to the Turks, it can handle your 5-year-old.

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