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:
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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:
- Dallas Museum of Art: Free general admission
- Nasher Sculpture Center: Adult admission $10, Children under 12 free
- Crow Collection of Asian Art: Free general admission
- Meadows Museum: Adult admission $10, Children under 12 Free
- Kimball Art Museum: Free general admission
- Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth: Adult admission $10, Children under 12 free
- Amon Carter Museum: Free general admission
- The Sid Richardson Art Museum: Free general admission
- Irving Arts Center Gallery: Free general admission
- Texas Sculpture Garden: Free general admission
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.