How to prepare children for visiting an art museum

An interesting contribution on how to prepare children to visit an art museum, with interviews with some U.S. museum educators. Article by Rebecca Gross translated by Ilaria Baratta

Very often the topic of children in museums is discussed. In this very interesting article written by Rebecca Gross and published on the U.S. National Endowment for the Arts blog, tips are given on how you can prepare a child for a visit to an art museum.Here is the link to the original. And I have translated it for you!

Without a doubt, going to an art museum can be taxing for a child: there are rules to follow, unfamiliar names of artists, and subjects that, at first glance, seem impossible to relate to. That is why, to ensure a positive experience, it can be essential to prepare your child before going to a museum. In fact, with a little prior preparation, art museums can be surprisingly rewarding for children and can be a starting point for an interest in art. We asked Blue Star Museums educators to share with us some tips on how adults can prepare children before a visit to art museums. Here’s what they told us.

Bambini al museo

Decide in advance what part (or parts) of the museum you want to see in more detail; don’t force them to linger too long. Look on the Internet and, if possible, show your child one or more of the works you would like to see at the museum. Print them out and, if you can, let him bring a figure or two for him to hunt for the works inside the museum. The figure will serve as a starting point for talking about the work: why it is interesting, what it is made of, what the story is, and how the reality is different from the printed figure."- Susan Hogan, Hawaii State Art Museum Educator

Visiting a museum is a special opportunity for adults and children to have fun while sharing cultural experiences. To prepare them before the visit, you can start talking about art by taking the paintings in your home as inspiration. Choose your favorite piece of art and tell them why you like it and what it makes you feel. Ask him to do the same and talk about his favorite painting in your home. That way, when you are all together at the museum, you can talk about the works you liked the most and why. - Katherine Cox, Education Director, Huntington Museum of Art

For all people, but especially for families, visits to an art museum turn out best if there is some preparation behind them. Look on the museum’s website for upcoming organized programs for families, such as Wichita Art Museum’s ArtVenture, which is offered once a month, and choose the appropriate day to have fun interacting and participating. Prepare about the subject matter, activities, and current exhibitions related to the special family program. The day before the visit talk to your child about what you will see and do in the museum. Read him an age-appropriate book that emphasizes how visiting a museum can be fun, to help give him a good experience (How to Take Your Grandmother to the Museum and Night at the Museum are just two examples). Share with your child your concerns and expectations about the museum visit. Be sure to talk about both yours and your child’s. - Courtney Spousta, Curator of Education, Wichita Art Museum

Taking your child to an art museum can be one of the most surprising and educational ways to spend an afternoon. Getting him to participate in a kids’ art event or class is a fun way to start engaging him at a level appropriate for his peers. After the program, he will be more interested in seeing the museum, as the visit will be the fun next step after the lesson followed just before." -Kerry Kuhlkin-Hornsby, Director of Education, Columbia Museum of Art

I always recommend that parents do a little bit of preparation before visiting a museum. Look at what exhibitions are going on and have your child choose what he or she would like to see (you can look up books or videos on some exhibition topic if your child is not familiar with it at all). Plan your itinerary, including breaks for snacks or lunch, and review it with your child before the visit. To avoid museum fatigue, limit yourself to one or two parts instead of wanting to see it entirely. Bring a notepad and pencil to draw or write down what particularly interested you. - Laura Howick, Director of Education, Fitchburg Art Museum

Simply looking at things tools, artwork, toys followed by discussion of them can prepare children for a full museum experience. Rarely are opportunities offered where close observation of an object is favored, followed then by meaningful discussion about what was seen. This is often a key aspect of a museum visit, without which someone may feel lost. Creating opportunities for children to develop these skills can help foster the sharing of observations, studies and opinions about a work of art, making it a usual part of every visit."- Matt Timme, Mirken Coordinator of Education and Public Programs, Colby Museum of Art

To ensure the best possible experience in the company of children at an art museum, first be prepared! Find out what you will see in the halls, what interactive experiences the museum offers, and what programs are available for children. At Cranbrook Art Museum, we offer special art experiences for visitors of all ages, and you can explore current exhibitions through the use of a simple touchscreen. Most art museums offer family-friendly activities and interactive experiences, so find out what’s right for you before you go to the museum.
Now that you are ready, get your child excited by informing him or her about what you will see and do at the art museum. You have found out what is on display; now help your child look for information too! In this way, the museum visit will be filled with joyful exclamations like I know this one!!! Many objects in an art museum cannot be touched (explain this to him before you go). They are unique pieces in the world and we would not want to end up breaking them by touching them. There are many ways art can be damaged, including greasy hands (even after washing your hands, you can leave greasy fingerprints on a mirror!).
At an art museum, it is always fun to have a notepad and pencil, so your child can draw what he or she sees and you will have a special notebook of your child’s dedicated memories of your museum visits. Although this preparation takes little time, it has the advantage of creating a ’much more memorable experience for both you and your child!"- Kelly S. Lyons, Curator of Education, Cranbrook Art Museum

It is essential that children be exposed to a variety of cultural experiences in their formative years. A good way to prepare them to visit the Racine Art Museum and RAMs Wustum Museum is to talk to them in advance about what they can see and how they can navigate their way through an art museum. The collections featured are posted on the museum’s website, so adults can learn about information before their visit. In addition, it would be helpful to explain to children how they are to behave (e.g., do not touch anything); this should be done in such a way as to encourage the child to be respectful of art and to make them understand the importance of museums and creative culture. Adults can use this opportunity to teach children how to relate to their surroundings, how we can make them part of us, and to appreciate and care for our local art resources as they are part of our community and history.
Children naturally act like children. They should be encouraged to ask questions, to talk about the works they see and how they feel about them. Having a notepad or drawing materials, actively involving them, gives vent to their artistic expression. Another activity that encourages the child to be involved is a scavenger hunt. Adults can simply prepare a sheet first with general questions that apply to each art museum: Find your favorite work of art, Why is this your favorite?, Find a work about which you would like to make up a story and write a short story, Is there a work you don’t like and why?, In how many works of art is the color blue present?, etc. This is when notepads come in handy!"- Tricia Blasko, Curator of Education, Racine Art Museum

Warning: the translation into English of the original Italian article was created using automatic tools. We undertake to review all articles, but we do not guarantee the total absence of inaccuracies in the translation due to the program. You can find the original by clicking on the ITA button. If you find any mistake,please contact us.