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Art Museums with Kids

Taking the kids to the art museum can seem like a daunting adventure. But with a little advance planning your family can have a successful art museum trip with kids of all ages. These tips will help you get started.

Go at off-peak times. Try to visit art museums when they are least likely to be crowded, such as during the week instead of on the weekend. Your kids will be able to get a better view, plus it'll be easier to keep track of everyone.

Discuss rules beforehand. Be sure everyone knows the proper conduct for an art museum (no running, talk quietly, don’t touch the paintings) well before you even set out, then remind them of the rules just before you enter the museum.

Research beforehand. Pull up the museum’s website and browse it with your kids to find out what they’d like to see. Kids are more likely to cooperate during an outing when they have helped with the planning.

Read books. Visit the library before your art museum trip and check out picture books about art museums and art. A good starting point is a book such as “The Children’s Book of Art” (Usborne) or, for teens, “The Annotated Mona Lisa”. For younger kids, look for picture books such as “Katie Meets the Impressionists” by James Mayhew or “Camille and the Sunflowers” by Laurence Anholt.

Start right. Well-rested and fed kids are better equipped to handle an art museum visit. If possible, give them a chance to burn off some excess energy during a visit to an outdoor sculpture garden or walk around the block.

Buy postcards. Most art museums have a gift shop offering prints and postcards of some of the museum’s art. These make great, inexpensive souvenirs. Consider letting your child choose a few at the beginning of your visit; they’ll be able to hunt for their favorites in the museum itself.

Check in at the front desk. They may have a scavenger hunt or other clipboard activity for your kids to do while they tour the museum, plus they can give information about any child-friendly activities going on that day.

Play games. If the museum doesn’t offer activities for kids, create your own games. Stand together in front of a painting and play “I spy”, or encourage kids to find objects from the paintings that start with each letter of the alphabet.

Keep your visit short. Plan on a short visit; you can always stay longer if your kids are having a good time. Try visiting when the museum offers free admission (most do at some point during the week or month) so you won’t feel bad about leaving after half an hour.

Let them create. Older kids may enjoy bringing a sketchpad along to draw their favorite paintings. Younger kids will enjoy a visit to the art studio if one is available, or a follow-up art project at home. Books such as “Discovering Great Artists: Hands-On Art for Children in the Styles of the Great Masters” by Mary Ann Kohl can give you some ideas.

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