Taking children to art museums can be daunting, but we find it fun and rewarding. It has taken some practice, as they are often an unusual environment for children. Kids might not know how to enjoy themselves or behave in a way that is appropriate to the environment. A little preparation can make it a much smoother, more joyful experience. With some practice, our local art museum has become my child’s favorite place to go.
- Research the space.
Find out how child friendly the space is, if there are any children’s play areas, if there is a café or place to eat a sack lunch, and what sorts of opportunities there might be for a break. An energetic child might do better if you know where they can have a quick walk outside or a visit to a play area. My child also sometimes needs a quiet break for a cup of steamed milk and a discussion of the things we’ve seen and learned, so knowing if there is a café or place to picnic can also be handy.
- Talk about the art.
Kids thrive when they know what to expect, and talking about an experience before you have it is often a good way to make them more comfortable and get them excited. Talking about what you’re going to see beforehand will help them settle in and engage with the art more quickly.
- Talk about expectations.
Because my child is still fairly young, I established the expectation that we are going to hold hands in galleries. I explained that even the gentlest touch can harm the art and that lines on the floor and ropes in front of things mean he is not supposed to step beyond that boundary. Everyone should be able to enjoy art, so we have to take care of it. All of these rules about being careful can make art feel a bit unapproachable, so I try to find art we are supposed to interact with whenever I can.
Like libraries of old, art museums are generally hushed and calm, and some children may have trouble adjusting to such a quiet environment. We talk about it beforehand. If your child frequents another space, such as a church, where they are used to using a quiet voice, that is a good comparison to make. I remind my child that we can talk as much as we want, we just have to use soft voices, so that the people around us can have their own experiences with the art.
- Find out what resources they have for kids.
Art museums nowadays aren’t always the quiet, imposing places they were when we were children. They often have painting spaces, interactive exhibits, or maps tailored to little ones. Our local Denver Art Museum has little art spaces for kids throughout and offers backpack for families that help make the experience more child friendly. Other museums we have gone to have had painting areas, special maps, or play spaces intended for children.
- Remind your child that art is fun and for everyone.
In some of the more stern, cold spaces where art finds its home, it can be easy for a child to think it is for grownups. Remind your little one that art is for them. Talk about some of the different ways you make art at home and how you experience art in everyday life.