Having worked as an art teacher with a focus on museum education, I want to expose my children to museums from an early age. This weekend, we took a trip to a local art museum, where I used to work and teach.
If you're a parent, particularly of small children, you're probably cringing at the thought of bringing your kids to an art museum. Don't be! To me, a museum is not some sacred, silent space of contemplation and dead air. Instead, its treasures can be great teaching tools for children and a way for you to model appreciation of the arts to your kids.
When possible, let your children guide you through the museum. Take a cue from their interests, whether it's in the colorful abstract paintings or a weird chair made from wagon wheels, as seen below.
In addition to sketching, you could even plan a little treasure hunt in the galleries. This is best done by first previewing or becoming familiar with the collection. At home, collect some objects that represent some of the works in the galleries, like subject matter (little people, buildings, or items from a still life) or the materials (wire for a wire sculpture, a piece of metal, etc.). Have your children walk around looking for the artwork(s) represented by the objects.
Rather than just a quick scramble to find artworks, be sure to stop and talk about each work once you find it. At the end of the hunt, you might treat your kiddos to some hot cocoa in the museum cafe, or pick out some postcards in the gift shop.
Don't let the experience end at the museum door. Bring the experience home by creating a mini museum using a box and art materials. Let the kids decorate a cardboard box with paper or paints, then fill the museum with sculptures made of wire or play dough and paper paintings on the walls. At our museum, we used to make these with school groups with huge success. The kids really enjoyed this activity, especially personalizing the space.
However you choose to enjoy a museum, the important thing is getting there! The sooner you start, the sooner your children will become familiar and comfortable in museums. Who knows, you just might have a little curator blossoming in your home.