Jackson Pollock Painting {and tips for the museum}

jackson pollock style painting for toddlers

I packed up my monster yesterday and we went into the city and to the Seattle Art Museum. I’ve taken him to galleries and to kids museums before but this was his first time checking out a museum with diverse and masterful works . I was giddy with the thought of him seeing a real Warhol, I was in my 20s before I got to. After our art project I have tips below on how to make field trips like this work for toddlers. Of all the awesome art we saw yesterday the one that he enjoyed and was the easiest to adapt to our needs was Sea Change by Jackson Pollock .

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some paper, canvas or cardboard. We used cardboard because you need to have a fairly large piece and it’s all we had. You will need paint( I thinned ours just a tiny bit with a few drops of water) , a plate and some paint brushes.
  2. Start by laying your canvas down with some extra paper or cardboard , this is messy.
  3. Pour your paint onto a plate – we just used one plate but you can do different ones for each color.
  4. Dip your brush in and fling it on. To get my son to use the right flinging action I told him to put a spell on the canvas, and it was perfect. We both flung the paint on.
  5. He took my brush and put a double spell on it too!
  6. Then we reached for the paint jars.
  7. Let Dry.

This is a true lesson, while doing this we talked about the painting we saw and how Jackson Pollock made it. I asked him if this was as big as the painting we saw and other little questions to make connections to the field trip and this activity. Most of all though we had fun putting spells on the canvas.


Affiliate link.

art books for kids

 Action Jackson by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan is a great book not only about Jackson Pollock but also about how an artist goes through the artistic process, their influences and what their life is like. This book is perfect for older children, but my son loved looking at pictures and Jackson Pollock’s dog! I would suggested this for anyone with budding artists!

Tips for Visiting A Museum with Toddlers and Preschoolers

1.Take advantage of free days.

This make it less frustrating if you need to leave because they have melted down or are done before you are. Also these days are busier which for an adult can be a negative but when you have a young child a noisier ( still not noisy) museum is a plus. We were able to talk in normal voices without distracting anyone. I didn’t have to shush him more than once and because of that I was able to positively reinforce how well behaved he was being and that encouraged even better behavior .

2.Go on a full belly.

Feed them right before you go , hungry = cranky.

3.Have realistic expectations.

We lasted almost an hour.

4.Don’t linger.

Accept that you may not have time to read the info for the works, at least I didn’t. After getting home and my son was napping I went on the museum’s website and caught up on what I missed.If they really like a specific work of art go back to it, many times if need be. For me today was a chance to teach my son that art isn’t just in books and that people can experience it collectively . That sounds lofty but it’s absolutely attainable if you break it down. By returning to a painting he liked ( Target by Jasper Johns) three times I was trying to foster a desire and love of seeing art in person. I want him to like art and museums and so following his lead was helping attain that.

5.When they say loudly that they are done.

Head for the elevators. This was the only time I shushed him today but it was clear to me and the 4 others looking at the altar pieces it was time to pack it in.

6.Have fun !

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  1. Trisha says

    That would be fun. I'll have to see if our local college art museum has a Jackson Pollock. That museum is free and small, which makes it a great place to take little ones. Many colleges have art or natural history museums that you can enter free of charge.

    We did the shaker activity from your other blog with a water jug and some pebbles. It was fun!

  2. Hannah says

    Funny that you should mention Jackson Pollock; we recently discovered jacksonpollock.org, where you can scribble just like him and create on-screen masterpieces (change color by clicking the mouse). Your son might enjoy it — my three year old certainly does!

  3. cabadov says

    one of my favourite ways to paint 🙂 And if you do it on paper, add a spray bottle and the water makes the colours run which look great. My oldest has a large mural she did this way hanging in her room.

    Such great ideas. Thanks!

  4. Infant Bibliophile says

    Oh, I'm totally jealous, because I had a visit to the art museum on my calendar this week and we didn't make it! I think my son will be great at not touching the paintings, but someone warned me recently that the museum also has antique chairs all throughout the museum — explaining that they're not for climbing on will be tough. I used to work in a museum in college, and I thought the group tours had a clever idea when they'd make a game out of showing the children to hold their hands together behind their back (or in front for that matter), to avoid touching. Love the Jackson Pollock painting project!

  5. Katalin says

    Any recommendations for taking 3 kids of different ages and having them get something out of it (well, maybe not the 15-month old, but maybe the 3 and 4.5 year old)? I'm dying to take them to a gallery but they feed off one another's energy and I'm afraid they'll just run around.

  6. Tanya says

    you and i are so in synch! maybe because our kids are so close in age (my daughter born 11/30/06). we have our first trip to the portland art museum slated for sunday (family day)! we've been to many galleries and looked in books. so exciting to introduce her to some of the big names that i learned to love & admire so many years ago!!

  7. says

    I love that you’ve finally addressed going to museums with little ones. We are spoiled here in London, because most of the museums and galleries are free, so we average 2 museum/gallery trips a month.

    In my experience, it takes practice, just like everything else. It takes a few trips to the same museum and other museums so that little ones learn what is expected of them. Once they get the behaviour down though, they are golden. My daughter is only four, but now knows how to act (no running, yelling, that kind of thing), to ask questions of the experts standing around, and that it is okay to stand, stare and point at something interesting (as long as it is not another museum patron).

    We’ve also found, at least in London, that many of the museums and galleries have educational trails and activities hidden behind the front desk, which are also sometimes leveled for age. You just have to ask. The websites also list kid-friendly days and activities.

  8. Corinne says

    Another great resource is your local library. We have free museum passes for our patrons. They “check out” just like a book. I love being able to tell people about all the free things libraries offer!

  9. says

    We recently took our 3 children to the art museum in Philadelphia. Overall, we had a nice time. However, their age range made it a little difficult. My nine year old loved it and wanted to read all of the descriptions. My six year old enjoyed it, but was definitely on her own time schedule. At the exhibits she liked, she wanted to stay a long time. However, at other exhibits, she got very impatient. Pretty typical for her age. My three year old, did well for about an hour. After that he got a little whiney. He also had a hard time understanding that he could not touch everything because the only other museum he had been to was the Please Touch Museum (children’s museum in Philly). Therefore, I totally agree with you that you have to go with an open mind, not have too many expectations, and follow your child’s lead.

    Thanks for your post. I love the project. I will definitely have to try this with the art play group I am starting. Do you intend to do other projects based on famous artists?

  10. says

    Oh, my girls love to look at art and talk about it. This suprised me at first, but one day I caught them looking at famous paintings in a book and discussing what they liked about them. We have a few great art books at Usborne ( I sell them part-time). A new one that I just purchased is First Book of Art. It shares a lot of famous works of art and then has a kid friendly project that relates to the art work. My girls also love The Children’s Book of Art (an intro to famous paintings). I know how much you love books, so I wanted to share.

    Take Care!

    Creative and Curious Kids!


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