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Yes, Your Child Belongs In The Art Museum

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When hearing art museum, do you imagine only silent adults observing works? It’s time to erase those pictures from your mind.

Granted taking children to an art museum has the potential to be as much fun as leading a bull through the china shop, but with a bit of planning and thoughtfulness you can improve your chances for a great experience. 

I had the opportunity to visit with Leah Hanson, Manager of Early Learning Programs at the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA), for advice on visiting the museum with different aged children. 

Here are her suggestions:

DMACinderellaMuseumArt

Thomas Sully, Cinderella at the Kitchen Fire, 1843, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Pauline Allen Gill Foundation 2005.1. A popular painting with youngsters, you can find her in the DMA’s American Art Galleries – 19th Century, on the 4th Floor (Courtesy of Dallas Museum of Art.).

Preschool:

  • Search the galleries for their favorite color (How many greens can you find?) or look for your child’s favorite animal(s). 
  • Get into the habit of asking open-ended questions (What do you notice? Which artwork is your favorite? Why?) Don’t be afraid to sit down with your child on the floor to look up at a picture.
  • Play “I spy with my little eye something…” 
  • Purchase a couple of postcards from the gift shop, then go on a “treasure hunt” to find the matching artwork (this is great for elementary kids too).  
  • Don’t try to do too much with young children in a single visit. Looking at two or three works of art can make for an entertaining and memorable experience. The DMA is free admission, so drop the guilt if you only make it to one painting (Been there, done that, I’ve wrestled that grumpy toddler out to the parking garage after a short visit).   
DMA Image Mother/Child

Don’t be afraid to sit down with your child on the floor to look up at a picture (Courtesy of Dallas Museum of Art).

Elementary:

  • If you’re looking at a scene, make up a story about what’s happening. Discuss what might have happened before the scene and what’s happening afterwards. 
  • If looking at a portrait, make up a story about the person. What did she or he like, play with or read?
  • Choose a painting and have the kids pretend to give a “news report” about what’s happening in it.
  • Let the fun continue. Have your child set up their own “art gallery” at home. 

Older:

  • Plan a trip around the world by finding certain artworks. Utilize the DMA’s website to search their collection.  
  • Selfies with the art are welcomed (as long as there are no camera flashes or selfie sticks). 
  • Sketchbooks and pencils (no other art supplies) are also allowed in the galleries.
BougivalPaintingDMAMuseum

Maurice de Vlaminck, Bougival, c. 1905, Dallas Museum of Art, The Wendy and Emery Reves Collection 1985.R.82. Located in the Great Hall, 3rd Floor (Courtesy of Dallas Museum of Art).

In addition to the main galleries, the DMA is home to the Center for Creative Connections. The 12,000-square-foot learning environment provides interactive encounters with original works of art and artists for visitors of all ages. (My kindergartner always requests we visit the Young Learners Gallery upon entering the museum. The toddler runs to Arturo’s Nest.) 

A couple of important DMA rules to remember:

  • Do not touch any artwork. Hanson likes to tell young children, “There’s oil on our skin, which is good for us but bad for art.”
  • Maintain supervision with children under 12.
  • A good general rule is to stand at least three feet away from a work of art.
  • Food and beverages are not allowed in the galleries.
  • Strollers are welcome in the Museum; however, if galleries are very crowded, you might be asked to wait until more space is available.
  • You may bring a diaper bag and frontal carrier into the Museum. Backpacks and other large carriers need to be left at the Museum’s Coat Check, across from the Visitor Services desk at the main entrance.
  • All of the restrooms in the Museum are equipped with diaper-changing stations.
DMAStatueMuseum

William Wetmore Story, Semiramis, designed 1872, carved 1873, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Morynne and Robert E. Motley in memory of Robert Earl Motley, Jr., 1942-1998 1999.117.A-B. On the DMA’s Concourse (Central), 1st Floor. Ask your child, “Who do you think is she?” (Courtesy of Dallas Museum of Art).

If visiting downtown is too much for your day, Hanson suggests exploring galleries closer to home. She also notes the sculpture collection at NorthPark Center can be a worthwhile outing.

Some notable art museums in the DFW area:

Taking children to art museums sparks their curiosity, shows them thousands of ways to be creative and can inspire memories to last a lifetime. Plus when the Texas heat turns up, it’s a great way to spend time indoors. 

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6 Responses to Yes, Your Child Belongs In The Art Museum

  1. Rebecca @Read And Go Do February 12, 2016 at 10:02 am #

    My daughters are 3 years, 1 year and 6 months, and I love taking them to art museums! We try to go to visit one every couple of months. We usually read an art-themed book beforehand (a couple of favorites: ‘The Museum’ by Susan Verde, and ‘The Jellybeans and the Big Art Adventure’ by Laura Numeroff). By keeping the visits relatively short and engaging them in discussions about the art, we have a great time. If it’s been more than a couple of weeks, my three year old actually starts asking about when we are going to be going back. Her favorite piece at the DMA is a chair made of stuffed panda bears (on the fourth floor).

    I’d also throw out there that the Nasher is free the first Saturday of each month. Since it’s a sculpture museum the exhibits are fun to discuss, but it’s also more difficult to abide by a hands-off rule for little ones. We went last weekend and they have this awesome temporary exhibit outside that they describe as ‘walking through a rainbow.’ It’s a fog-filled room with various lights shining in to make the fog appear different colors.

  2. Erin Prather Stafford
    Erin Prather Stafford February 12, 2016 at 7:13 pm #

    Thanks so much for your comment, I will definitely check out those books. And I completely forgot about the Nasher being free on the first Saturday (here’s the March link for everyone who is interested: http://www.nashersculpturecenter.org/engage/event?id=67). I had heard of the fog/rainbow exhibit, I need to get the littles down there. They’ll love it!

  3. Erin Prather Stafford
    Erin Prather Stafford February 12, 2016 at 7:18 pm #

    Whoops, that was an old Nasher link, here’s the correct one for 2016! http://www.nashersculpturecenter.org/engage/event?id=248

  4. harshini February 18, 2016 at 7:04 am #

    Ms Erin Prather must say a great blog!The information or the suggestions on activities for each age group is really helpful for all the parents ,Activity based learning is very important for a kid to learn things in a more effective manner which has been very nicely explained. I loved the specific activities suggested such as asking your preschool kids to count the number of colours. A visit to art museum becomes really an exciting and educating activity if the suggestions given by you are followed. Thank you very much for sharing really useful information.
    Preschool Dallas

  5. Anne July 24, 2016 at 10:14 pm #

    The Crow Collection also has great family programs. They have a Pre School Program (http://crowcollection.org/learn/family/preschool/) and a free family day the first Saturday of every month: http://crowcollection.org/learn/family/adventure-asia/

    The museum is always free and they have a free Gallery Activity Bag (GAB BAG) for families to check out and use while in the galleries.

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