Wednesday, August 26, 2015

7 Tips for Taking Preschoolers to the Art Museum

Ever take your children to the art museum?  A couple weeks ago my friend and I brought our 3 preschool boys to our local art museum.  Can I admit something to you?  I was kinda  SUPER nervous about how it would go.  Three active boys walking around a building of beautiful, priceless, breakable artwork?  What could go wrong?  (Ha!)

Pre-mom years, I loved  visiting art museums with my husband.  But once I had Chuck... I put aside those visits because of my fears.  But oh, how I love looking at beautiful things.... and oh, how I love making art and crafts with my son.  Now that he's a bit older I figured it was time to give it a try.  So I asked for suggestions on FB... and we bravely visited the art museum with our 3 very active and curious kids.

Guess what?

It went pretty well!  We had fun and the art stayed unharmed!  Huzzah!  So here's a post detailing 7 things that we did to make our art museum experience more enjoyable (and educational) for the kiddos.

7 Tips for Taking Preschoolers to the Art Museum

7 Tips for Bringing Preschoolers to the Art Museum

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(Hey! Who's that boy in the photo?  Not Chuck. It's one of our friends!)

7 ways to make the art museum fun for you and the kids!

1.  Start off small 

You don't need to see the entire museum.  You choose where you go and how long you stay.  There's no need to push through or rush.  You can always come back.  (I felt much better after realizing this!)  What's really important is to make it an enjoyable experience for you and them.... because then you'll want to come back!  (And that's what it's really about, right?  Building art appreciation in young ones.)

2.  Do your research beforehand 

Now, I'm not saying that you need to look up all the artists exhibited and learn their lengthy histories as well as a bunch of fancy art terms so you can teach it all to your kids.  (Although if you can do this-- kudos to you.  I'm lucky if I find enough time in the day for private showers!)  Nope. I'm talking about minimal research here.  Find the museum's website, peek around the exhibits just so you have a vague notion about what might be interesting.  Or get the Cliffs notes version and ask for the advice of friends who've visited the museum before.  Or, if you don't have a chance to do any of that... no worries!  Just talk to the person at the front desk.  They'll probably know the locations of the kid-friendly exhibits.  The tiniest bit of research will surely help guide you the day of your visit.

3.  Eat beforehand

I know, I know.  Duh Leslie.  This is an obvious tip....  but oh, it's so important!  We all know that hungry preschoolers and parents are cranky preschoolers... and parents.  Most museums probably won't allow you to bring food inside, so make sure to eat up before you walk around!

Activities to keep kids interested in the art museum

4.  Make it a game

If your child is like mine and not particularly enthused about seeing beautiful artwork (although his momma is, so the poor boy has to endure it, bless his little heart), then here are some games to make it more enjoyable and interactive!

  • Shape Hunt-  Draw out some shapes on a piece of paper before your visit.  Then, have your child look for those shapes while walking through the exhibits.  This is such a great activity because you get to practice your shapes (bonus pat on your back for incorporating math with art) AND you're teaching your children to really look at the artwork!  (Give yourself another pat on the back.  You're training your kids' keen art eye!)

  • Color Hunt-  Similar to shape hunt, make a checklist of different colors that kids should look for in artwork.  (I put both my shape hunt and color hunt pages on a clipboard.  As we walked around, kids crossed out the various shapes and colors that we found.  Plus, I don't know what it is about clipboards... but they make things like instantly cool for kids.  Weird.)

  • Postcard Hunt- I din't try this out, but my super creative blogger friend Bar (from the gorgeous Art Bar Blog) suggested this idea and it's fabulous.  If you have time, visit the museum store beforehand and buy a pack of postcards showing artwork in the museum.  Then, have children go on a scavenger hunt and find those pieces of art! 

5.  Bring Sketchbooks

 Ever take an art class in school?   I remember bringing along fancy sketchbooks on field trips and sketching different artwork as I walked through the museum.  It was really thrilling because I felt like a real artist just sitting there and drawing.  Ooh la la!

I wanted to give the boys that same experience, so I made them really simple notebooks from cereal boxes and computer paper.  Each boy was thrilled to receive his very own "Art Note Book."  (With their names printed on them to make them extra special... of course!)   Whenever we saw something particularly inspiring or beautiful, they would pull out their markers and sketch out what they saw.

(Side Note:  Ok.  Maybe markers weren't the best choice.  Some of the guards seemed quite nervous about our kids with markers in their hands.  Ha!  Preschoolers and markers?  What could go wrong? To prevent the kids from adding their own personal touches to the art, we only gave them markers when they were seated and ready to draw.  They weren't allowed to hold the markers as they walked around the museum.  That seemed to pacify the guards, and we were welcome to sit and draw as we pleased.)

6.  Find your favorites and least favorites

 Ok.  This one is also pretty obvious, but it worked!  Kids love talking about things they love.  So we had no problems finding our favorite and least favorite artwork in the room. Of course, this led to discussions about why we liked some artwork over others.  It also encouraged all of us to really take a look at all the artwork in the room before making a decision.

7.  Treat yourselves afterwards

Done for the day?  Artwork unharmed?  Children all accounted for?  Then, yay- you've had a successful day at at a cultural institution!  Go celebrate and treat yourselves to something nice.  This doesn't have to be something super big or expensive.   It can be something small like a frozen yogurt, box of raisins, juice box, eating lunch outside, visit to the park... anything to give a positive end to your day.

And that's it!  Hopefully you find one or more of these tips helpful when bringing your kids to the art museum.

And if you have any more ideas, I'd love to hear them too!

What are YOUR tips for taking preschoolers to art museums?

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Happy making, friends!

Here are 7 tips for making art museum visits enjoyable for you and your preschoolers!