Enjoy these fun things to do on a museum visit as you introduce your kids to famous artists and artwork!
I’m a huge fan of taking kids to visit art museums.
Yes! They will have a good time — and
NO! They will not ruin the artwork, I promise. 🙂
I have taken my kids to art museums dozens of times and (other than a few slightly embarassing questions) we have never had any mishaps.
Your 4-year old may ask why all the statues are naked, but that’s part of the learning that goes along with viewing artwork 🙂
And museums offer our kids a wonderful look into the creative minds and thoughts of others!
5 Fun Things to do at Art Museums
There are many types of art museums that you can visit – some have ancient art galleries (think mummies and greek sculpture), others have modern art pieces (which can lead to really great discussions with kids), and almost all museums will have paintings, drawings and photography.
One of the things I love about an art museum visit is that it will appeal to kids of all ages, from toddlers to teens!
A visit doesn’t need to be an all day event. I usually recommend that families allow 1.5 – 2 hours for touring a few galleries and stopping for a snack (seeing all that art can make you hungry 🙂
Here are a few tips for making your next museum visit a rousing success along with affiliate links to some of our favorite books & art activities for kids!
Go with the Flow
Enjoying art has a lot to do with how you feel that day.
Unless you have a specific exhibit you are planning to see, just go with the flow once you get to the museum. Ask the kids if they’d like to see paintings or sculpture (introducing art terms is a bonus on the visit!).
Look at the map to find out if the museum has art from different countries or cultures that you might enjoy. And then set off to browse a few things that catch your eye.
As you walk through the galleries, ask the kids to point out a piece of art that looks interesting to them. Ask them to tell you what they like about it or why they chose that item. Just a few questions can lead to some really interesting discussions.
Seek out the Familiar
It’s always good to have an interactive ‘game’ on hand as you browse an art museum.
One of our favorites is a variation of ‘I Spy’. Choose a color or popular object (such as a flower or a dog) and search the paintings, drawings and photographs to find your color or item. Kids are more likely to see the details of the various pieces of art as they try to ‘spy’ for their object.
You could also bring along some Art Cards like Professor Noggin’s History of Art and see if you can find the items or artists as you browse the museum!
Connect with a Book
One of the best ways to introduce kids to a museum visit is through books.
Choose a few fun reads to enjoy together before your trip to the museum or bring them with you and break for storytime while you tour. Here are a few that I would highly recommend before your next museum visit:
Museum Trip by Barbara Lehman offers a very creative and puzzling look at one boy’s visit to an art museum. When he stops to tie his shoe, he comes across a display of old mazes and soon finds himself caught within the art! Best for ages 4 – 8 years old.
Meet Me at the Art Museum: A Whimsical Look Behind the Scenes by David Goldin is a great look at what happens in a museum that visitors may not see in the galleries. The book also includes some well known pieces of art along with great terminology. Enjoyed by ages 3 – 9 years old.
Adventures in Asian Art: An Afternoon at the Museum by Sue DiCicco takes the reader on a beautiful tour of paintings, sculptures and artifacts. You’ll love seeing these three children tour the museum and visit various countries (Japan, China, Korea, India) as we learn about each piece of art. The book combines animation with photos of the actual museum items which is an awesome concept to get kids interested in art! A fun read for ages 3 – 8 years old.
A is for Art Museum by Katy Friedland allows kids to learn their ABC’s as they view the gorgeous colorful illustrations of artwork from the Philidelphia Museum of Art. Parents will recognize some of the very popular paintings and statues shared in this book. Excellent for ages 3 – 9 years old.
You Can’t Take a Balloon into the Metropolitan Museum (Picture Puffin) by Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman, this is a fun story about what might happen if you take a balloon on a visit to an art museum. While much of the book is done in black and white, all of the artwork is shown in full color.
And if you will be visiting The Met, be sure to get a copy of the Family Map – a kid-friendly introduction to the art you’ll see! Children ages 4 – 8 years old will be amused at the antics of the balloon as it travels the galleries.
Katie Meets The Impressionists by James Mayhew is a favorite series of books that introduces children to various artists. During a visit to the museum with her Grandmother, Katie magically finds herself drawn within five famous paintings (those created by artists Monet, Renoir and Degas).
Kids will learn some interesting details about the artists and the artwork in the story. Other books in the series (that are best suited for kids ages 3 – 9 years) include:
Katie and the Spanish Princess
Encourage your kids to be expressive during or after your visit!
They might want to draw or paint a version of their favorite picture. If there’s an outdoor area or courtyard, have them ‘act out” the sculptures they saw during their visit (seriously, my kids are always posing like Rodin’s The Thinker when we visit our local museum!).
Visit the National Gallery’s Interactive Art website to inspire your kids to make some online art projects.
When you get to the museum, ask the staff if there are any interactive or hands-on activities available for kids. Many art museums are very family-friendly and offer kid’s guides or apps that bring the art to life.
You can also check the museum’s website or call ahead to find out if they allow visitors to bring an art pad and pencil (again, many galleries and museums will encourage kids to sketch during their visit). I suggest bring something small like this Mini Sketch Pad for younger kids or a great Pocket Sketch Journal for older kids & teens!
It’s not all about the Art
Sometimes a visit to the museum is less about the art and more about what the kids enjoy.
Art museums tend to have very high ceilings and kids will notice this right away. They may want to hear their echo as they enter the lobby (it’s a great science opportunity!).
Older kids and teens may want to being along an ipod to listen to music as they browse the museum (always have headphones) and my kids really love learning about the artwork by using the online website connected with out local Nelson Atkins Museum of Art — it shares the details about each piece of art, the history and the artist.
Kids may also be enthralled with the architecture of the building or delighted by the fountains or flower gardens you can find outside many museums too.
Let them enjoy it! Make it a day of appreciating what you find to be beautiful and engaging whether it’s the paintings, the tall ceilings or the water displays.
More Art & Cultural Activities
7 Creative Ways to Share Art with Kids
30 Picture Books that Take Kids Around the World