A Visit to the Art Museum


Several weeks ago, my husband and I decided to take the boys on an outing to the local art museum.  An art museum has a completely different culture and set of rules than a children’s discovery museum and I’ll admit, I had concerns about whether or not they would behave appropriately during this new experience.  Aside from a single almost-catastrophe when I grabbed Owen just as he was about to climb into a British Victorian era chair, they did just fine. In fact, the museum docents complimented their behavior (they must have missed the chair incident!) and I left the museum feeling confident that the experience was a success. However, it wasn’t without patience and practice, and I would like to share what I learned!

Tips for Visiting an Art Museum with Kids

Review Your Expectations

Expectations for your child’s behavior should align with the rules of the art museum. Ask your child:

  • What does “do not touch” look like? Sound like? Feel like?
  • What do “walking feet” look like? Sound like? Feel like?
  • What do “quiet voices” look like? Sound like? Feel like?

Firmly review your expectations with your child before entering the museum, and demonstrate confidence that your child will follow the rules.

Stroller-free By Design

Allowing your child to walk in the art museum gives you an opportunity to teach him the socially appropriate way to behave. Hold his hand and walk slowly through the exhibits pointing out colors, shapes, artists, and objects. When your child pauses to look at a painting, crouch down to his level and survey it from his perspective. Ask him:

  • What is interesting about this painting?
  • What colors do you see?
  • How are the people feeling in the painting?
  • How does this painting make you feel?

Forgo the 10 lb Diaper Bag

You know you don’t need even half of the things in it, and though they seem essential, apple juice and crackers are not allowed in the gallery anyway. Use a small bag that you can hang over your shoulder that only contains the bare essentials. Your shoulders will thank you!

Tips for Visiting an Art Museum with Kids

Model Appropriate Behavior

If you speak softly and gently, your child will mirror your voice and do the same. If you smile, act interested, relaxed, confident, and happy, so will your child!

Follow Your Child’s Lead

If she desires to spend quality time examining 1950s Pop Art, allow her do to so. If she wants to move on, even though you are still admiring a Picasso, ask her to wait just 1 more minute (giving children an opportunity to wait teaches patience), and then allow her to choose the next gallery. If your child’s attention span is exhausted after 30 minutes and you can sense that she is ready to leave, get out of there before the imminent meltdown occurs!

Bring an Activity

A planned activity will invite your child to further engage with the art and give him a break from rigidly controlling himself (which is exhausting for a child!). I brought along colored pencils and a sketchbook and invited the boys to recreate their favorite piece of artwork.

Tips for Visiting an Art Museum with Kids

A visit to the art museum is enriching, educational, and fun while providing children with an opportunity to practice self-control in an environment with high standards of conduct.

Have you ever brought along young children to the art museum? Please leave a comment and share your tips, tricks, and experiences below!

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About Melissa

Melissa Lennig blogs at Fireflies and Mud Pies, a children’s activity blog that inspires childhood through imagination, art, and nature. Connect with Melissa through Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.

Comments

  1. Thank you for this post. We are on spring break and this gives me the inspiration to tacke our local FREE art museum. The Minneapolis Institute of Arts used to be MY special place. I really need to share it with my six year old. A new sketch pad and colored pencils might be a lovely bonus for him (:

  2. Great tips! I like your idea of having your kids bring along their own colored pencils and paper. I have 3 kids ages 5 and under and some people are surprised that I take them to art museums all the time. If you set your expectations clearly it can be such a fun outing–even for toddlers. A lot of the museums around where I live in southern California also have hands-on areas for for kids. The Getty and Getty Villa have children’s rooms with interactive displays about some of the art in the main museum. (They can create their own art, climb on a model of one of those old Victorian beds, and more). The Getty museums also have “treasure hunts” the kids can go on throughout the museum and gardens. I imagine you could make up your own “treasure hunt” for any type of museum. I usually take my kids through the “no-touching” part of the museum first, and they we head to the kids’ areas to finish up our visit with hands-on fun.

    • Owen would be all over those bed models! Keeping him from trying to touch the furniture was most difficult for some reason. I thought for sure he would go for the Picasso that stretched down to the floor! How fun that your museum is so interactive! Thanks for sharing!

  3. I found you on Pinterest, great post! I just took my two boys to the Denver Art Museum and I was amazed at how kid friendly it was. I blogged about it here: http://theabundantlifeofk.com/?p=564 . I wish I would have taken them earlier!

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed the post! I love the “painting spot” The Denver Art Museum has! They truly have children’s interests at heart!

  4. We visit an art museum once a year – love your tips for young kids! A few of the things we’ve done to keep the kids interested is a color hunt (looking for the color in different works or art) and an object hunt based on their most current interests (so if they like animals, we look for animals throughout the museum). I enjoy our local museums because they all have outdoor sculpture areas so we can get outside and move around a little. I think your tip about ‘Follow your child’s lead’ is a biggie and will allow for a more enjoyable visit!

    • How wonderful that you get to enjoy art in a wide, outside space! I like the idea of an “interest” hunt! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Thank you for your tips. We live in a town dubbed ‘The Artist Town’ and there are lost of Art Galleries/shops, most cafes have art up for sale and lots of exhibitions but I wouldn’t dare take my 3 boys on my own, we do try to visit them when we can as a family. We also do our own virtual art tours by goggling an artist or style and discussing the art at home but nothing beats the real thing.

    • That sounds like a fun family outing! The town I used to live in had “art walks” Friday nights when all the galleries were open to the public and served appetizers and wine! We tried to go all of the time and that is when baby carriers were very handy to have around, as pushing a stroller through crowds in art galleries is not a good idea!

  6. Love these ideas! Another one I’ve always liked is to start your visit by going to the art museum’s gift shop and buy a few postcards with pictures of artwork currently on display in the museum. Give each of the children at least one postcard as their picture(s) to find as you tour the museum.