One thing I hear a lot from parents is this:
"I'm afraid to take them to a museum/gallery. What if they break something?!"
Which, by the way, is a totally rational fear! I get it, I was fearful of bringing new things into my classroom for fear that they would be damaged easily or wouldn't maintain the interest of the children.
But, before we tackled our own museum adventure, like any new experience, we prepped, prepped, prepped!
I used the days before our museum excursion to discuss what we would see, what we would do, and how we should act. The boys obviously have been exposed to a ton of art, but we talked about their museum experiences. These experiences could either be personal, or found in media. They watch a cute show, Creative Galaxy, about an artsy alien and in one episode, he visits the museum with his friends. This helped shape some guidelines about what to expect. Books about museums work well too!
Thankfully our local museum, The Crocker, has amazing art programs for children and I'm sure other museums do as well! More information about the programs can be found here. We participated in the Wee Wednesday program which lasted 90 minutes. A wonderful docent led us in a reading and small tour of The Crocker on our way to an artwork that tied in with the story. On this particular day, the theme was "Trees". We read about the changing seasons, rode in the glass elevator alongside a giant redwood tree, and finally sat up close and personal with massive murals of the Sierra Nevada.
Discussing Half Dome!
The program finished with a group activity outside on the patio. Below you can see the children experimenting with magnetic building blocks, building tall, tall trees!
Afterwards, we walked the museum on our own. The boys wanted to take pictures looking at their favorite paintings.
I kept the conversation going by asking questions like,
"What do you see first in this painting?"
"What colors can you find?"
"What do you like most in this piece?"
"What do you not like about this piece?"
This helps them engage with the art on their own level, and relate to it in a way that is meaningful for the child.
All in all, we lasted about 2.5 hours at the Crocker Art Museum (with a lunch break of course) and we all enjoyed ourselves! This is something that I would easily do again. Did we get to see every piece in the museum? Of course not. Did we spend as much time with certain works as I would have liked? No way. But it was a new way of looking at the museum, and I would encourage everyone to tackle an art museum with young children.
Have you done this with your kids?
What great museums do I need to check out in your part of the world?