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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Art 101

A Parent's Guide to Visiting Art Museums

As you know, our first theme this year is "Art and Artists". I have been planning a field trip to the Toledo Museum of Art (now scheduled for October 5th--stay tuned for details and permission slip). This led me to think of the nervousness some parents feel about taking their children to an art museum--one disastrous trip with whiny behavior can make anyone reluctant to try again. I found this great article on the honestbaby.com website and thought I would share it with you. I particularly loved the idea about having children bring sketchbooks - I have found this idea so useful when our class visits the botanical garden.

By Sally Marshall

Museum visits are a great way to have fun with your child, as long as you don’t think of them as Introduction to Art 101. Don’t plan to spend the entire day or even more than a couple of hours, because no kid can handle that. Go when your child is rested, and leave before he’s bored. If he gets tired, have a treat in the restaurant, visit the gift shop, or leave.

To avoid crowds, go during the week, especially when a museum first opens or an hour before closing. Avoid weekend afternoons, particularly rainy ones, and the first and last weeks of blockbuster exhibits. You’re more likely to visit a museum when you have a membership, and memberships allow you to make frequent, short visits.

You’ll be bored before your child if you:

• Follow your child’s lead. Ask where you can find things that interest him.

• Don’t lecture. Ask him to describe what he sees. Ask “What animal is that?”, “What shapes or patterns do you see?”, or “Does that man look happy?” Ask your child to imagine what would happen if a piece of art came to life. Guess which picture is each other’s favorite. Tell stories about the paintings.

• Do detective work. Play “I Spy”. Go on a scavenger hunt to look for pictures with specific items like flowers, hats or horses. Buy postcards or magnets with art your child likes, and look for the originals.

• View it differently. Look at the art from different angles, including close up, upside down and from the floor. Let your child imitate a work of art by posing like it.

• Nurture his inner artist. If he likes to draw, bring his sketch pad. Encourage him to do art projects at home inspired by art he likes.

Many museums offer programs and classes for children between the ages of 5 and 10, and these are sometimes free with museum admission. The programs offer kid-appropriate insights into art — through gallery talks, tours, art workshops and projects, story times or discussions of works. Before you bring a child to an art museum, you may want to talk about never touching the art, using an inside voice, and not running.

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