Taking kids to an art museum can be an unpredictable adventure. They might love it, browse the art along with you and beg not to leave. They may also barely scan the art, try to touch everything and use the voice you begged them to only use on the soccer field the whole time. Kids are kids and expecting them to adore things that aren’t completely designed for them and then being angry or disappointed when they act their age is not really fair. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t expose our kids to art at art museums or give them expectations to live up to. What it does mean is that we help them reach these goals by giving them some tools.
Here are 5 simple games you can play with your kids at the art museum to keep them engaged in the art .
This game was created by my 6 year old on the way to the museum on Friday. I was explaining the next game on our list when he announced from his car seat that he had a better idea. I ran with it.
How to play :
One player chooses a work of art in a room/gallery but does not tell the other players which one it is. The other players try to guess which work of art is the secret one. You can ask for clues that give a yes or no answers just like in the game 20 questions. Whoever finds the secret one first gets to choose the next one in the next room/gallery .
I’ll Take That One !
How To Play:
Each player chooses one piece of art in each room/gallery to pretend they are going to buy from the museum. They must also say where they would put the art in their own home.
Build A Rainbow
How To Play :
This is essentially a color hunt. In each gallery see if you and your kids can find every color of the rainbow. To make it more challenging you can add a rule that you can only find one color per painting. So that painting with the rainbow … yeah not going to cut it! This is a great game to play with toddlers, just make sure that they know that art is for looking at and not touching ( we are still working on that too ).
How To Play:
Choose a color from inside a painting and the players can make guesses to what element it may be. For example if there is a brown dog in a painting the spyer will say ” I spy something brown” and the guessers will look for all the brown items in the painting, hopefully guessing the dog. This works great with kids of similar ability levels. My kids are just getting to the point where they can play games like this together and I love it. With older children you could do this with artists or genres saying ” I spy a Jackson Pollock” or ” I spy an impressionist painting.”. Adapt it to your kids.
10 Tips For A Fun Museum Trip ( even with toddlers )
- Go early when there are fewer crowds and your kids are fresh and open to learning.
- Go on a full belly.
- Look at the map together and find the bathrooms on the map. Suggest you check them out right away.
- Go on a free day so if you must abort ship when a meltdown arises you aren’t out an admission price . It can be busier but if your child isn’t the quietest ( I know mine aren’t) the crowds tend to make a loud toddler voice less distracting and make your trip more pleasant. You can talk to your kids in a regular voice and not worry about your kiddo being quiet.
- Find out if photography is allowed and if it is hand your kids a camera to document their trip.
- In and out. Most museums will allow you to have in and out privileges so if your kids need a breather take one.
- Play games to keep kids engaged . Some museums will have kid friendly maps or guides .
- Bring a sketch book.
- Know when they are done and find the nearest exit. Don’t try to see just one more thing. If you see the signs of a meltdown just go.
- Visit the gift shop and after you return home read about art, museums and artists to keep the learning going.
Books About Art Museums
Babar’s Museum of Art by Laurent de Brunhoff is one of my favorite art books for kids. My son has recently decided he hates it because he doesn’t want to see the elephant versions of the art. All the art in the museum are masterpieces that you will recognize redone with elephants. He slams the page in the way only toddlers with a definite sense of justice can and says ” No elephant paintings Mama, real ones!” Trust me though this book is awesome and he loved it a few months ago. The story is about how Queen Celeste wants to change the abandoned railway station into a museum to house all their collected art . The museum itself looks just like the Musee D’Orsay in Paris and the story also explains art for children.
Meet Me at the Art Museum: A Whimsical Look Behind the Scenes by Davis Goldin was a gift shop find at the museum we visited last week and the perfect book to keep my kids learning and interested. I read it to them while they ate lunch after our morning visit and they both really liked it. The book is a behind the scenes tour of an art museum. My daughter liked the inanimate objects that were turned into characters like the ticket stub and name tag while my son loved the insider info like how they choose paintings to display , check to make sure they aren’t fakes, and the security devices they use. I loved how it really explained the different jobs at the museum from docent to archivist to director and curator. The book held both their attention and reading it right after out trip gave us a fresh experience to relate it to.
Museum Trip by Barbara Lehman is fantastic. This wordless book has a clear strong message – that if exposed children can loose themselves in art, it opens a new world with new adventures before unseen! The story opens with a little boy on a school field trip to a museum, he looses his group , and soon finds himself in the art. After completing many mazes he is given a medal before he rejoins his group. My favorite part is as he is getting on the bus with his class he is wearing his medal and so is the museum curator. Love it!
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My kids have been busy playing with their new toys, my son has been building Legos and my daughter has been pushing babies around the house with her new buggy. I wanted to do something special to celebrate the amazing year we had so while they were playing I ran upstairs, found the bin of art and made an art gallery of their 2011 creations. It was a fun way to spend snack time and look back at our favorite pieces from 2011.
- Gather your materials. You will need your children’s art , painters tape ( so you don’t muck up the walls) , some snacks ( all gallery openings have snacks! ) , as well as something to use as a sign, and to write a blurb about the artists.
- I sorted through my kids’ art that made it to the keep bin in my son’s closet. I have a canvas bin in the corner of this closet that we run art into that passes the keep test. I also put in almost everything my daughter makes. She’ll get her own bin soon.
- I put the art up at their and slightly above their eye level. I was careful to have things my daughter made at a level she could touch… and as you will see that was a huge hit with her to be able to touch the pieces she made, and is clearly proud of.
- Make a sign for the door.
- Don’t forget a blurb about the artists.
- I put out art related books in the reading nook too.
- Add some snacks.
- Invite your guests of honor. I wish I’d done this when my parents were still in town because my kids loved seeing their art and showing it off to their dad, they would have loved showing it off to their grandparents too.
- I loved that she gravitated towards her own art.
- My son showed off the pieces he loved making – marshmallow art is his favorite. No clue why.
- After her brother had his treats , and gave a quick gallery talk about when he made this or that he went back to legos, but my daughter stayed looking forever. I see many more museum trips in our future, although she has already been to one of my favorite museums with me.
- Then we read a few books and quietly had another cookie. Here are some great fine art books to check out .
Happy New Year !
Art history is alive and well we just need to share it with your children, pick an artist, make a project and have fun with art history! Other than my family one of my great loves is art history and from birth I have shared art with my kids through books, museum visits and projects like these. Each project is listed under the artist who inspired it , click through the artists name to see the original tutorial and great books to go along with these projects.
If you are a regular reader you may remember that my son stopped napping and we started doing quiet time instead. Most days we still use the 1-2-3 approach but some days we mix it up to keep things fresh. One of his favorite things to do is to turn his bedroom into a museum. What I love about it is he is coloring on a vertical surface which is important for wrist development all the while he is also developing a love of museums without ever leaving our house! Here is what we do.
- Gather your materials. You will need some color wonder coloring pages. I use both blank and coloring book ones. You will also need some painters tape and color wonder markers. Now feel free to use regular paper , markers and / or crayons but I am not that brave when I am not supervising. Remember this is for quiet aka “Mama is downstairs working out and watching How I Met Your Mother reruns” time.
- Tape the pages up around their room. You want it all over the room because after they are finished they are going to give you a tour of the gallery.
- Let em’ go.
- Workout, read, go to the bathroom in peace .
- Time for a tour. He cracked his dad and I up with the names he gave his paintings. My favorite was ” Splish Dot Squash” .
- After the tour we add the new creations to a permanent collection.
Touch the Art: Brush Mona Lisa’s Hair by Julie Appel and Amy Guglielmo is the inspiration for this post and my son’s new found love of Renaissance Art. The book is a board book with touch and feel aspects to it. The text is cute but not a story, each page asks the reader to do something with the touch and feel item . The real gem is bringing the art to young eyes. The book includes wonderful masterpieces : Girl with A Pearl Earring , Birth of Venus, The Arnolfini Portrait and more!
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!
Hugo and Miles In I’ve Painted Everything by Scott Magoon is going on my Christmas list. I have renewed this book for months from my local library. I finally have to return this book and I just don’t want to! The book is all about Hugo a painter who has painter’s block. He goes to Paris with his best friend Miles for inspiration, and among the sites, the masterpieces and thanks to the Eiffel tower he finds it! I love this book and my son just eats it up. He wants to go to Paris to the “Moosay Dor-see” to see Van Gogh and climb the Eiffel tower thanks to Hugo!
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 .
- 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.
- Start by laying your canvas down with some extra paper or cardboard , this is messy.
- Pour your paint onto a plate – we just used one plate but you can do different ones for each color.
- 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.
- He took my brush and put a double spell on it too!
- Then we reached for the paint jars.
- 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.
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 alter pieces it was time to pack it in.
6.Have fun !