Art Smart: Tips for Taking Kids to a Museum Exhibit

Published on: October 22, 2013

Kids in a museumThere's an amazing exhibit at your city's art museum. You want to expose your kids to the culture, but don't want to expose yourself to cries of boredom (or with small kids, an endless parade of "Don't touch!").

So how you can plan a successful trip to the museum with your kids? To find out, we asked an expert, Regan Pro, Manager of School and Educator Programs at Seattle Art Museum, for her tips on making a family visit to a special exhibition a memorable one.

What are some reasons to consider taking kids to a museum exhibit?

Bringing your child to the museum allows for opportunities to look together, build curiosity, and create a foundation for further learning and exploration. The more times kids visit the museum, the more comfortable they will feel as children and adults in museum spaces, and the more familiar they will be with interacting with art in many different spaces.

And it’s fun! Museums offer opportunities to have fun as a family and create memorable experiences together.

What are strategies for taking kids to an art museum?

- Build from their interest. Let kids select and direct which works of art they want to visit.

- Pace yourself. Avoid museum fatigue! Choose just a few works to look at and don’t attempt to see or do too much.

- Ask questions. Prompt kids to look closely by asking them questions. What interests you about this work of art? What do you think is going on here? What questions do you have? What does it remind you of?

- Be aware of policies. Help remind young visitors not to touch works of art and help them understand why this is important (touching can damage works of art, and we want to preserve them for kids in the future to see and enjoy). Asking them to hold your hand or keep their hands in their pockets can help fight the impulse to touch.

- Sit down. Most museums, SAM included, allow kids to sit on the floor or benches in front of works of art. This is a much easier way to promote a longer look (and might give you a new perspective!).

- Respond creatively. Many museums allow sketchpads and pencils in the galleries and/or have studio spaces in the building for visitors such as SAM’s Chase Open Studio (on Level 2).

- Attend a family program. SAM’s family events provide interactive activities, performances and opportunities for kids to engage with the museum at their level. Many programs are free!

What are specific strategies for families with younger kids?

Take the time to look and then create using the free creative spaces available at the museum.

[At the Seattle Art Museum], there are a number of family-friendly spaces, including the opportunity to make art in the Chase Open Studio (on the second floor), read and play in the Knudsen Family Room (in the South Building on the third floor), or bring your toddlers to the SAMVA terrace (the area adjacent to the First Avenue and University St. entrance) to sketch, build and play. Take a break between viewing pieces of art.

How about for older kids, who might be more interested in learning about the art?

Encourage them to sketch and take notes during the exhibition regarding the work they are most curious about. Take a public docent tour of the exhibition to learn more about the history and the artists represented. Build on curiosity back at home by encouraging follow-up research such as borrowing videos from the library, exploring the resources online or downloading the audio guide.

For budget-conscious families, are there opportunities to visit Seattle Art Museum for less?

First, kids 12 and under are free always, even for special exhibitions. A SAM membership is also a good option for families because it allows you to come in and look at a couple pieces of art, and go home when your kids get tired.

First Thursdays are also discounted, and teens can see the exhibition for free on Teen Night Out. We also have some great resources for schools to visit for very reduced prices, so encourage your kids' teachers to visit and come along for the field trip.

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