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Sunday, July 13, 2008

tips on taking kids to an art museum

As a parent, you want the best for your child. art museums, and high culture, are part of that equation. unfortunately, most kids of a certain age (2-7) would rather stab themselves with a sharpened candy cane than stumble through an hour or two of art appreciation.

Trust me, the staff of the museum would likely be willing to provide your child with the sharpened candy canes in many loud, unpleasent cases.

Some parents have developed techniques to help their child appreciate the art, instead of just running around and touching stuff. I thought I'd share those that I have seen here, because they work extremely well.

1) Call ahead - if the museum is going to be particularly crowded today, your child's stress will be much higher, and they will be unlikely to get a good look at anything through the sea of legs. The time spent in the museum trying to do so increases, and this only stretches a young child's attention span far beyond the breaking point. Look for a day or time that won't be too crowded.

2) Arrange an outing with multiple families, and take a tour - museums have free tours by docents, and if docents discover they are talking to lots of children, they tailer their tour to entertain and engage the children. Again, call ahead, and find out what times there are tours. Team up with friends and relatives to take the tour together.

3) Bring sketchpads and pencils - sketching is almost universally encouraged when it does not interfere with other museum guests. On a day that is not terrifically crowded, a child can sit on a bench with an unrestricted view of that Carravagio masterpiece, and attempt to sketch out a copy of the painting. More recent art is quite popular among kids, (Miro, Mondrian, etc.) because kids can actually sketch a pretty good approximation of what they see. However, encourage your child to find paintings they like and recreate them in their sketchbook.

4) Make sure your kids have already had time to run and play before entering the museum. Before entering the museum, walk the kids around the grounds, and let them play tag first. Wearing them down a bit will make the experience much more bearable. Museum grounds are generally lovely, and often have cool installed sculptures to explore. (I particularly recommend the giant twisted chimney in front of the Fort Worth Museum of Modern Art that has an amazing echo-effect inside.)

Simple tips, but it always amazes me how often parents don't think about ways to make the experience enjoyable for their child. Art contemplation and appreciation does not come naturally to a normal, healthy five year old boy. If the experience, however, becomes remembered as enjoyable, your child can develop an appreciation of art that will serve them well in life.

And, for the love of jesus, don't touch anything while you are trying to point out things to your kid.

Thank you, and good night.

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