Museum, Here We Come

When was the last time you and your family went to a museum? Cold winter days provide the perfect opportunity, so pack the stroller or backpack. Museums, artful displays in libraries, city halls or stores are great ways to introduce children to artistic ways of thinking and seeing. When children see professional pieces, they gain a far better understanding of how sculpture, painting or jewelry evolves. Here are some tips to make museum visits pleasant:

Be prepared. Prepare yourself and your kids for your outing. Choose a kid-friendly exhibit — children’s hands-on museums or artist-in-residence demonstrations appeal to everyone in the family. Make sure to confirm exhibit hours. It’s also wise to ask about policies regarding young visitors and availability of tour guides.

To prepare children, try to find children’s books related to the exhibit and explore art materials such as clay, paint or beads beforehand. Take snacks, and schedule a short stay. (Ask jan how short is short?)

Focus! Choose a few captivating pieces of art that relate to your children’s interests or curiosity. A child who loves fairy tales might relish a costume exhibit, paintings of castles or knights in armor.

Show your child different perspectives by standing close to each piece, then farther away and then to each side. How do your perceptions change? Enthusiastically share information about the exhibit.

Use your imagination. Ask children what they notice or feel about the piece. Teach them to use elements and principles of design when describing a piece, such as form, texture, proportion and balance. Ask them to imagine how a work was made by asking probing questions such as, “How do you think the artist achieved this effect?” Then if the artist or a museum docent is present, engage that person in a friendly conversation.

Respond. Take home a museum brochure so you can talk about the exhibit later. Bring out the art materials again and urge children to try techniques similar to those they saw demonstrated or exhibited. Encourage them to build on what they have learned about the artist, styles and context.

When children’s needs and interests are addressed, they will be ready to visit art museums again and again!