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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Yesterday on our facebook page I asked readers where their children loved going on family outings. Museums, the zoo and the beach were all mentioned along with science centers and more. I think that part of learning through play is setting a launch pad for a deeper experience and using books as a tool for that is an easy option . Whether you homeschool or just want to enrich your family time using books to deepen these hands on experiences your kids will learn more. I have rounded up books for each of these popular sights, click through the image or text for the full reviews of each title.
Going to the art museum, a local gallery or even an exhibit at a community college are all great ways to expose your child to fine art. Most have free days if they aren’t always free to visit. Here is a collection of fine art activities we have done here at No Time For Flash Cards.
Need some books about fine art too ? Check these out.
One of my biggest goals as a parent isn’t to fit my son into an idea of who I think he should be but to expose him to as many interests, experiences and cultural offerings I can within my budget and capabilities. I would love to take him to Europe to see my favorite paintings, or to hear an opera in Belfast’s ornate opera house … but he is 3, and even if we had that much money to spend on travel instead of student loans and our mortgage the idea of a jet lagged 3 year old scares me. One day he will see it all, I am determined but until then our cultural experiences are a little closer to home. We often go on field trips on Fridays and we rarely spend more than we have to- here was our latest adventure.
- Spend some time searching through your local sights ( zoo, symphony, children’s museums, art museums, aquarium…) websites. Most will have one day a month ( or more) that are free to the public. To me this is imperative especially the first time you go somewhere like this , because it’s a great time to test out if your child is ready, if the exhibits will hold their attention, basically if it’s a good fit for your family. You can also check their websites for cool programs, we found out that there was a special ( free) story time included with our free admission!
- Pack light but effectively. Obviously with only 1 kid I am able to keep it minimalistic these days. Extra pants, extra undies, a camera, snacks, wallet and it all fits in a small purse.It’s easier to chase after a kid with less baggage !
- Eat a meal before you go. A full child is a focused child!
- Make sure there is time for free exploration – don’t over schedule your time . If they like a specific exhibit go back to it as much as possible , within reason of course. My son loved the instruments, we went back multiple times.
- Encourage your child to take advantage of anything special – one of the educators took out a trombone to play with and at first my son was shy but with gentle coaxing was playing and talked about this more than anything on the way home.
- As I said before take advantage of the special programs, this was music story time where we sang, played drums and listened to a story .
- After a big day out nothing is a better than crashing in your car seat on the way home .
- When you are home keep the learning going with books, printing out pictures and going over what you did and what you learned!
Mole Music by David McPhail is a beautiful book about the power of music, trying hard and not giving up on your dreams. The story is about a mole who sees a violin on TV one day and decides to get his own and play. He is terrible at first but sticks with it. His music becomes beautiful, and over the years he thinks only he can hear and enjoy it. In reality his music is nourishing a grand tree above the ground that serves roles in great things including as a mediator in a battle where both sides end up coming to a peaceful agreement instead of warfare. Now yes I think that one little mole’s music ending a war is a rather large statement but if you break it down, music and the arts are vital and do transform people’s lives the way they transformed Mole’s. My favorite part is in one illustration Mole is playing anf in another tunnel you can see his old TV discarded and tipped over, I like that message.
Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin by Lloyd Moss is a big hit at our house and if you have a child into music or musical instruments this is a great book. You count the instruments as they come on stage for a performance and not only is this a great counting book, but it introduced musical instruments in it’s rhyming text and super fun pictures. I am biased though my little man is really really into instruments and loves this book. The day we bought it I had to sit in the back with him on the way home from the bookstore because he couldn’t wait to read it
Moose Music by Sue Porter is a goofy book about how what might sound like a racket to you, may indeed be music to other ears. Moose finds a violin in the mid and picks it up, and plays it. The sound is not music to the animals and people in the forest. They get angry, they threaten to chase him, and he doesn’t stick around. He doesn’t stop playing though he plays with all his heart and finally someone appreciates it. A lady moose , as you may have guessed it they fall in love and live happily ever after. My son thought this book was hilarious . It’s a cute lesson about following your heart even in the face of adversity.