Taking your child to an art museum is a great learning activity because it promotes awareness of the world and can be the first step in a lifelong interest in art. Art museums can inspire your child’s creativity and help him grow his appreciation for works of art. That said, the idea of taking your child into a large, very quiet building full of complex exhibits he’s not allowed to touch may seem a little overwhelming to you.
So where do you begin when planning your child’s first trip to an art museum?
The good news is some art museums have child-oriented exhibits or even entire wings designed for children to enjoy. At many museums, you can go on a family tour, take part in a art-themed scavenger hunt, enroll your child in a class, or sign him up for an art day camp or educational program.
For example, the Art Institute of Chicago offers a Touch Gallery where kids can explore sculptures with their hands. The Dayton Art Institute offers three self-guided gallery hunts for kids who want to do a little exploring. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art offers family programs every Sunday where kids can create art, watch theater and musical performances, and more. At the Dallas Museum of Art, kids can enjoy “Passports Around the World” on select weekends, where they receive little passport books they can get stamped when they find specific objects in the museum.
For your local museum, consider these tips for a fun, kid-friendly experience:
- Don’t try to hit every exhibit with a three-year-old—or even a ten-year-old, for that matter. If you want to build a love of art and enjoyment of art museums, it’s best if you start small. Instead of making a whole day of it, head to the museum in the morning to see a specific gallery, grab some lunch at the cafeteria, and then head home for some hands-on art-making time.
- Check out your museum’s website to find exhibits that may interest your child, such as a miniatures exhibit for kids who love dollhouses, or a theme of paintings or photographs your child loves, whether it be bugs, ballet, or beaches. Younger children are often most interested in sculptures.
- Talk about the art with your child. That doesn’t mean you need to brush up on your art history lessons. Just helping your child to connect with the art can greatly improve his experience. Point out locations in paintings where he’s been. Identify children and families in the artworks and talk about how they compare to your family. Or just pick out favorite colors. All of these things will help personalize the experience for your child.
- Allow your child the chance to make some art of his own. To keep your child engaged, give him a pad of paper and pencils to draw some of the art he sees while in the museum. Pick up a postcard of a favorite exhibit on the way out so he can continue to think about his experience even after the exhibit is over.
By following these tips, you should be off to a great start. Just remember to go with the flow. If your child just isn’t having a good time, don’t force the experience. Head home and try again in a few months. The world of art is always changing and evolving—and so is your child.
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