Abstract This study investigates the effect of two different types of exhibitions on maternal scaffolding or teaching conversations within a natural history museum. A total of 31 mother-child dyads were observed and videotaped within two different exhibition halls and the conversation was transcribed for analysis. Using categories of coding that compared higher-level conceptual conversation versus perceptual conversation such as naming, the different types of teaching techniques were examined via paired t-tests. More conceptual, higher-level verbal teaching was observed within the traditionally designed exhibition hall than within a hall designed specifically for children and families. Interviews with the mothers indicated that they were aware of physical differences between the two exhibition halls and intentionally varied their scaffolding in relation to the physical context.