Yesterday I took my boys to the OKCMOA. It is one of their favorite places to visit. We were getting inspiration ideas for projects at home this week. Here they are looking at a giant assemblage piece by Alfonso Ossorio, titled INXIT. We are going to create our own assemblage pieces at home later today.
People ask me all the time, "Are you insane? How do you take your kids to a Museum?" Visiting an Art Museum should be a fun experience for you and your child. I do teach young children at the OKCMOA, but I love to take my own children there as well.
I believe letting children see art at a young age is important. Some of my first memories are going to Galleries and Museums with my own parents. Bringing them to a Museum is also a good way to start showing them proper Museum manners. These ideas mainly apply to young children, but can easily be adapted for older children as well.
In reality your first visit may not go as you plan. They might forget the rules you put in place, but try again. I find the more you go, the more familiar and comfortable they become.
When planning your trip to a Museum make sure you go at a good time for your child, not what is a good time for you. Ex. Don't go at meltdown time...Go after a nap... Go after they have eaten.
When you check in to your Museum look into a Membership. They are usually pretty cost effective and offer discounts or reciprocity for other Museums locally and in other states. Also look into any children programs they offer like tours, classes and more.
See if your Museum offers anything for children. Our Museum offers a really cool backpack (The Discovery Pack) to check-out. It is filled with fun things to do during your visit. This is perfect for older children.
Know the Museum rules for where you are visiting. Some prohibit photography, food, etc. in certain areas.
Prepare your children for their visit. Read books about Museums, art, color, etc. before you go.
Go over your rules and expectations for visiting a Museum with your child. Small children might need to be reminded several times. I mention rules to our toddlers at least 3 times during our gallery walks. They also might do best in a stroller. Remember that short attention span! If they do well in one area, be sure to praise them for good behavior! I say, "you all are doing such a great job using walking feet today! Thank you!" Be vigilant in watching and being responsible for your child while you are there.
Some good rules to explain are:
1. Never touch the artwork. This is my number one rule. We use our eyes to look at the art. Never our hands. I still hold my 4 year olds hand. We use the buddy system! I say, "will you be my buddy? Hold my hand!" I make him responsible for me-he thinks it's fun. Before the trip we talk about why touching art is harmful-the oils on our fingertips leave marks that can ruin the artwork-not to mention the artwork can be fragile and touching could puncture a canvas. Kids can put their hands in their pockets, on their hips, even on their heads...just not on the walls, pedestals or artwork!
2. Stay 3 steps back. You will be less likely to run into trouble if you stay 3 steps back from the artwork. If you get close, they will get close. We have to try to set good examples.
3. Put on our walking feet! We are sure to put on our walking feet when we enter the museum. We never run, gallop, skip, jump, etc. in the galleries. Someone can trip, fall and hurt the artwork or even worse, themselves!
4. Use our quiet voices. We use our quiet voices so that everyone can enjoy their Museum visit. This applies to adults too! :)
5. Save the Snacks. Save the snacks to enjoy outside on a warm day or on your car ride home. Food and drinks can spill splatter and damage works of art. Food in the galleries can also attract bugs that can be harmful to artwork.
6. Don't forget to have fun. Play a game with your child. Before we go we pick a color of the day. It's our magic color to find in the Museum. This will continue to engage your child as you make your way through the galleries.
Here my boys are laying on the ground and looking up at Chihuly glass on the ceiling. They each found their favorite piece and told me about the shape and color of it. (My 6 year olds was a "green party hat" a beautiful green cone and my 4 year olds was a "swimming baby" one of the Pucci's.
If there is a bench, take a break! We will sit and play I Spy. Ask your child questions. There are so many questions from easy concepts for little ones like color, lines, texture and shapes to more difficult concepts for older children like harmony, balance, dimension and movement.
Let your children teach you. I try not to give my children my personal opinion of what I like or dislike. I want them to form their own opinion.
Nudity. That large naked statue is just around the corner. What do you do? Shield their eyes and run? Well, don't run! This decision is for the parent/adult to make. I try not to make a big deal about it and walk by it. However, lately my 6 year old has started giggling and will say something like, "Do you see his butt?" (love that Kindergarten potty humor!)I usually say something like, yes I see it. We all have one. It's just a body! I don't dwell on it and keep moving on.
Usually your kids will let you know when they've had enough! Take your new knowledge home to make a creation you were inspired by.
Get out there and enjoy the Arts!
p.s. educators-be sure to ask what is offered for you!
Wife, Mom, Artist and Education Coordinator at City Arts Center. I believe art is a child's first written language. They have a creative spirit and imagination others tend to lose as they grow up. Many famous artists have tried to duplicate the way children paint and draw knowing that children have a true artistic bravery, unafraid and unabashed. I have the wonderful opportunity to share art with children and watch this process unfold. It truly is magical.