Viewing an art museum with small children may perhaps not be on the top of your list of things to do, but there are some cities where you really can’t leave without going to the art museum. A trip to Paris without visiting the Louvre, New York without the Met, Madrid without the Pardo, it just wouldn’t be right!
While not every museum has family days, here are ten ideas to help engage children in a trip to an art museum, ensuring that everyone has a good time.
- Read stories about some of the artists you are going to see. Whether you read the stories before or after your visit, they help make the visit more meaningful. There are several series for children on artists including the Katie books such as Katie and the Mona Lisa or Katie and the Spanish Princess as well as the series by Laurence Anholt including Degas and the Little Dancer among others, any of which would be a good place to start.
- Set up some sort of scavenger hunt: find things to locate or count, i.e. haystacks, bridges, children, churches, noses, paintings where people are frowning, paintings were people are laughing, the list is endless.
- Sit down and create your own masterpiece: some museums allow you to freely sketch what you see as Simon did in the Louvre in Adèle & Simon.
- Make up stories about the paintings like Katie did in Katie and the Mona Lisa: what would the people in the paintings say to each other? Which other paintings would they visit? What would happen next?
- Encourage children to pose like some of the sculptures: this was amazingly popular and much harder than it looked.
- Pipe cleaners: they’re great for impromptu sculptures.
- Play eye spy looking for details in paintings.
- Look at pictures from different angles and distances. Do the pictures change? How did the artist do that? Find two paintings of the same or similar things and talk about why they are the same or different.
- Scavenger hunt part 2: look online and find images from the exhibits or pick up postcards from the museum gift shop and then try and find the works of art in the museum itself.
- For smaller children, look for colors and shapes they know: How many different blues can they find? How many different circles are in that painting?
More and more museums have family days or regular children’s programs and activities that are worth attending. Some of the ones we’ve stumbled across include Portland Art Museum Family Days, Guggenheim Family Sundays, Family Programs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Louvre treasure hunt with Paris Muse and That Lou, Family Workshops at the National Gallery of Art, Family Fun at the Seattle Art Museum, and the activity bags at the British Museum. But even when there isn’t a family day, we’ve had fun and my children are excited to go see the paintings they’ve been reading about.