I love to visit art museums and I’m learning to love to take my kids too. Sometimes this can be a little tricky, but through experience and research, I’ve found several ways to help make our visits to museums with kids fun, educational and as stress-free as possible. In fact, during the summer of 2014 when we took our three girls (ages 7, 5 and 2 at the time) to Paris, we visited the Musee D’Orsay and they STILL talk about it and how much they loved that museum experience. These days, they love to go to special exhibits and expositions here in Nashville and on family trips whenever we can. Here are my 10 best tips for an art-filled, kid-friendly museum experience:
- Limit your trip to 2 hours or less – This may require that you ONLY focus on one section during a particular trip, but I’ve learned that after two hours they will start to crumble – at any age. If you have a stroller-age child bring the stroller (or a baby carrier) if you can – which may allow you to extend your visit a bit.
- Bring a journal or sketchbook with colored pencils and allow your kids time to draw a work of art – or several -that they see.
- Visit the gift shop FIRST and purchase a few inexpensive postcards of works in the museum and then try to find those works as you explore.
- Alternatively, give your child the task of choosing a favorite artwork at the museum and then find the postcard at the gift shop before leaving.
- After looking through a particular room or exhibit, make a game of telling everyone to go stand by their favorite work of art. Then visit each persons favorite and ask them why they like it!
- Create a scavenger hunt for your kids (or check to see if the museum already has a scavenger hunt available for kids). I created one for my girls at the Musee D’Orsay in Paris with items such as “find a painting made up of dots, find a clock, draw a statue, etc.” Often, just to be prepared, I’ll create a quick scavenger hunt of things I know are in the museum based on research online to use as a back-up if the kids get bored. I did this before our recent visit to Graceland in Memphis, TN but the kids were so engaged, we never needed the scavenger hunt.
- Look for programs for kids on the museum’s website – our local Nashville Frist Center for the Visual Arts has an entire section devoted to kids called ArtQuest where the kids can learn more about the exhibitions and create art themselves. They also have regular events and programs specific to kids that connect to the current exhibits.
- Find out about a specific exhibit/artist at the museum and do some research on those works with your kids before visiting. When my oldest was 6, a Norman Rockwell Exhibit came here to Nashville. Before visiting the museum, she and I looked up some of his work online and she fell in love with Rockwell’s Ruby Bridges painting, “The Problem We All Live With.” We read up about it and even watched a video online. She was so excited when we got to the museum and saw the piece in-person.
- Focus on just one or two masterpieces – If your kids are old enough for this, try preparing them for just one or two of the most important works in the museum. This will give your child a very basic understanding of art and a particular piece to remember their visit by. You can wing it while in the museum or prepare for it beforehand.
- Focus on a specific artist – Research an artist featured in the museum beforehand and ask the kids about their primary medium (photography, watercolor, sculpture) colors, technique, etc. Later, you can have your child try to emulate a piece or technique they saw.
Do have other ideas and suggestions for visiting museums with kids? Any favorite museums that you and your family have explored? Please share in the comments!