A guide to introducing your children to art
Art is such a fantastic way to teach our children about the world. It gives us a way to express ourselves and share with others. Solo Moms are uniquely connected to their children and are the most likely gateway to their child’s creative discoveries. Art offers beauty, expression, connection, and a continued platform for education and communication. Here’s how to make sure art is part of your family—whether art comes naturally to you or not.
Around your home and neighborhood
Start to look around you in your own backyard. There are plenty of craft and art classes on YouTube and books from your local library. As you are out driving or for a walk, show your children the multitude of art that is around them. You can head to a local craft fair to see handmade crafts and art, and meet the artists. Local galleries in your town and city will have family-friendly hours to encourage people to come and view the works. Ask questions about the artists, and teach your kids to look for some inspiration. Maybe they have tried painting, water coloring, or drawing. You can always ask to take a photo and try to create your own version of the work you just saw. Take a look at a Solo Mom’s work on ESME, and see how she was inspired to create her own art.
Community and local programs
Most cities have neighborhood art classes for children, including family days. A great place to start is at your local YMCA, where you can get a full list of its classes and programming. Another resource is your local community center, where you will find classes for every age group.
Children’s museums are always fun-filled and a hands-on way to get involved in creativity. Many memberships offer reciprocal admission around the country, which can be a wonderful way to spend part of a day on your next trip out of town. A list of children’s museums can be found on Wikipedia. Here are some of the top museums in the nation:
- Delaware Children’s Museum, Wilmington, Delaware, boasts a studio where little artists can paint and sculpt.
- Children’s Museum of the Arts, New York City, focuses on kids creating their own art. From claymation to painting, the museum has drop-in art activities and a large collection of art all created by children. It is jam-packed with inspiration.
- Boston Children’s Museum, Boston, has KidStage, a kid-sized theater where budding actors can perform; a Japanese House; and a Global Gallery, showcasing children’s exhibits from around the world. Kids can also design and construct their own creations in the art studio or woodwork shop.
- Brooklyn Children’s Museum, Brooklyn, New York, is the first children’s museum in the country. Among the many fun-filled attractions is the museum’s main exhibit, with 30,000 objects from around the world, including a shark jawbone, masks, and fossils.
Museums are filled with art, and although some have less than a child-friendly feel, these top establishments will embrace your budding painter, and your own whimsical and creative mind.
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, has free kid-focused tours, including maps of the building, separated by age, where kids get to create their own artwork inspired by the Met’s collection. The maps lead families on scavenger hunts in the Greek and Egyptian collections. Children under 12 will enjoy the museum’s free drop-in family programs, offering sketching and storytelling activities.
- The Houston Museum of Natural Science, Houston, hosts monthly Family Fun Labs, where children and their parents can engage in craft classes together. At its satellite location, a children’s art gallery showcases local students’ creations.
- The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, has a beautiful sculpture garden, featuring the famous Spoonbridge and Cherry sculptures. The museum has many family programs including tours; art-based activities; and Arty Pants, a bimonthly drop-in program for preschoolers.
- The Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles, has an 8,000-square-foot gallery inspired by Noah’s Ark, which includes a large ark where kids can climb and play. Skirball has many family programs including concerts, art, and magic.
- Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, has a permanent installation of five portrait sculptures from different time periods that kids can explore with their hands to learn about form, scale, and texture. Mini Masters classes for 3- to 5-year-olds accompanied by an adult include reading and exploring several works of art in the galleries, and doing an art project. This famed museum also hosts a weeklong family art camp.
- Dayton Art Institute, Dayton, Ohio, offers self-guided gallery hunts and gives families “Gallery Bags” during their visit that are filled with items children can use while they’re in the museum, such as a museum-designed ABC book and a magnetic board to make artwork.
- De Young, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, hosts two family tours during the weekend and offers family audio tours of its permanent collections. The Garden of Enchantment showcases adorable animal sculptures and features a pond leading into the children’s museum.
- Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, has drop-in programs in the galleries for children aged four and up that can include a treasure hunt and an art-making activity. Preschool playdates for toddlers include finger plays, singing, and making art in the galleries.
- Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, has Family Days, including hands-on art making and live theatrical, musical, or dance performances. The museum has created fun- and interactive-filled tours for the entire family.
- Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, has family night once per month, featuring films and performances in the galleries. For its program Passports Around the World, offered on select weekends during the year, children are given passports and a list of objects to find in the permanent collections; when they find the objects, they receive stamps with the object’s country of origin.
- Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts, has created guides in many languages, helping parents talk to children about fine art. The museum has an array of family art classes (many are free with museum admission) and multiday minicamps called the Arts Adventures Club.
What to remember before you plan your art adventure
- Choose an area of interest. Think about your child’s budding interests before you plan a trip to a museum or local class. It is always a great way to introduce themes to and find common ground for your child. No art is too difficult to understand. A child of any age will gain something from it.
- Don’t pack in too many sights. Children can get easily stimulated. Start small, and lower your expectations regarding how long you may be at a location, especially the first few times. Plan to see one thing or participate in one class. You can always extend your visit if your child is having fun.
- Skip the lines. Standing in a long line can ruin the family fun. Instead, visit the museum when it’s typically less crowded—on a weekday or at night—and head for the permanent collections rather than the special exhibits.
- Bring art home. Take a pad and a pencil, and encourage your child to draw everywhere you go. Drawing will stimulate children to get creative on their own.
Use the Internet
Many museums have websites featuring kid-friendly options. Visiting these websites is a great way to start talking with your child about many of the pieces you may be seeing at the museum:
- Joslyn Art Museum
- Los Angeles County Museum of Art
- Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Saint Louis Art Museum
- The Museum of Modern Art
- Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Regardless of where you find inspiration, introducing art into a child’s life is an invaluable gift that keeps on giving. We’d love to hear some of the ways that you incorporate creative appreciation and expression in your family. Share your experience at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rebecca Cherry is an accomplished musician, writer, and creative seeker. She is enjoying her new role as a Solo Mom to her baby girl. You can follow her on Twitter at @CherryRebecca and Facebook at Rebecca Cherry.
Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.