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Visiting an Art Museum With Small Children

Art is like second nature to a child. Most young children can spend hours coloring, painting, and creating with modeling clay. So much of childhood learning is associated with art, including recognizing shapes and colors, and honing fine motor skills by cutting with scissors or using a crayon.

Unfortunately, despite art’s influence on development, many parents are still intimidated by the thought of bringing a young child to an art museum. Museums are quiet places, with a lot of expensive items, which can be two giant red flags in the world of parenting small children! But a visit can be a benefit to both you and your child, with just a little bit of preparation and some direction. 

Before you visit a museum or gallery, find two or three pieces of art you want to share with your child. Most museums have websites that will display some of the art they have on exhibit. Pick pieces that you know will be at the museum on the day you visit. Together with your child, research the artist, finding where he or she is from, or what the artist is best known for. For example, if you find a painting by Van Gogh, explain that he is a Dutchman who makes very interesting movements with his brush.  You may want to even print out pictures of the art you want to see, so you can find its “match” when you are there.

If your child sees something he is interested in at the museum, stop and take time to look at it. Going to a museum is not a race, but you also can’t expect your child to be interested in everything. Let your child spend as much or as little time looking as he feels comfortable.

It’s important to remember that even if you cannot touch the art, you can introduce the concept of “touching with your eyes.” You can point out shapes, colors, and lines. Tell children to listen to their thoughts when they see a painting. Let them know that they can share those thoughts, or keep them private, because art is personal. Ask your child what thoughts he/she thinks the artist had before creating the art.

Show your children that they can stand further back from a painting and ask them if they see something different. If you look at an abstract painting, you can ask what the shapes remind them of, or how the colors make them feel.

Spend time in one room of the museum, and count how many paintings have people in them. Ask your child how he would feel to be a part of the painting.

Teaching art appreciation can open up a child’s world. Art not only reinforces what children learn about shapes and colors, but it can also be a tool for teaching in other areas of development. The trick to visiting an art museum or gallery is recognizing these benefits and going in prepared to reap them.