Museums: 6 Tips for a Happy Trip
A trip to an art museum is, literally, a trip to a treasure house. The modern and ancient treasures displayed there can help to transport us and our children to other times and places and put us in direct contact with works of art. We can explore, intimately, the realms of color, texture, line and shape.
As with all trips of exploration and discovery, a museum trip will be more successful if you have done a little advance planning. Here are six suggestions for a happy excursion:
1. Determine the Size of Your Expedition
The first thing to consider is how large the expeditionary force is going to be. If there is only one adult then limit the number of children to one or two if possible, The younger the children the briefer your trip will have to be - short legs mean short trips. Babies may cooperatively sleep through a museum visit in a backpack or stroller, but if you can arrange to leave the baby at home, do. However, toddlers who have reached the stage when they are beginning to label everything they see are very receptive to some museum art and are fun to take.
Decide Which Museum to Visit
The next thing to decide is which museum to visit, if you are lucky enough to have a choice. School-age children really enjoy helping to plan an expedition. Perhaps they would like to enter the age of the Pharaohs or pretend they are traveling to Greece, Italy or other exotic destinations. Sometimes a book children have been reading, a television program or a school project will suggest an area they would like to explore visually.
3. Don't Forget Lunch
If much travel time is involved in getting to the museum remember to take a snack in the car or have lunch before you begin your museum tour. Your young explorers will then be in better condition to tackle the exhibits. If you are visiting a large museum you may want to plan a lunch break in any case. Some museums have restaurants or cafeterias, but these are often quite crowded at the regular lunch hour so plan to eat early or late.
Research the Exhibits
Find out in advance what types of exhibits the museum you plan to visit is showing. An "adults only" reconnaissance trip can be helpful in deciding what might interest your children, and you can look for shapes, colors and subjects which could be incorporated into fun games or serious searches when you come with them. Check out temporary special exhibits (for which there is sometimes an extra fee) in advance. If the show is very crowded your child probably won't be able to see much of it. Part of the enjoyment in going to a museum with children is in observing and sharing their reactions. When you are with a child it is fun to try looking at things through his eyes - you will probably learn something new about what you are seeing and also some new things about your child.
5. Rest, Observe, and Enjoy
Deciding what to see naturally depends on the interests of the young members of your party. If you are taking a toddler try pictures with bright colors and recognizable objects; little children enjoy identifying them. Figurative sculpture and the mother and child theme are also apt to appeal. You will often wish to lift little children up so that they can get a close look at things. With or without very young children, do take advantage of the benches found in most museums. Sitting down for a few minutes whenever possible gives everyone a chance to refuel. It also allows you to look at things from a distance, talk about what you like and make comparisons.
For four, five and size-year-olds pick out exhibits with lots of color, sculpture, primitive art or artifacts. Ancient statues which have lost arms or noses and pots which have been reconstructed like jigsaw puzzles may fascinate them. You can talk about how old these things are and how they may have been dug up. Children can have fun looking for the biggest things in a room, the smallest or the one they would like to have in their own room. You can make up games as you go along, such as asking them to find all the boats, babies or blue things. At home your child might like to try making his own museum-inspired paintings or other objects. The art of young children after all is naturally very close to most primitive and some modern art.
Older children are usually able to relate the museum experience to other things they are learning. A study unit on the Middle Ages, a book set in China, a documentary on American Indian civilizations, or something created in art class could all mean more to your child after a museum trip.
Buy a Guidebook and Ask Questions
There are many questions you can all try to answer about the works of art you see during your museum visit. It is interesting to know where they came from and where they were made. Consider purchasing a guidebook to the collection and look for posted labels; often they give information beyond names and dates. What materials were used to make the art works? Were they meant to be useful? Would you use them? Would you like to have them in your home? Could you make something like them? What do things from a certain place or period have in common? Can you see brush strokes on a painting and is the paint thick or thin? How is color used to create a mood? Can you find chisel marks on a sculpture or has its surface been polished smooth? Are you seeing the work of someone famous? What does each member of your party like best?
Before you leave the museum try to get a second look at the works of art your child liked the most. If there are postcard reproductions of them or books which include them for sale at the museum, you could buy some to take home. Even a small postcard can recreate in a child's mind the wonder of standing before the treasures of a museum.
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A hands-on science museum squeezed between the covers of a book. Tons of experiments are featured and nearly all of them can be done right on the spot using the magnifying lens, magnet, agar and other bound-in apparatus. Written by John Cassidy and the Exploratorium.
Houghton Mifflin Children's Books, $15.00 (Hard Cover)
In this reprise of Lehman’s Caldecott Honor title (The Red Book), the same red-jacketed, blue-sneakered, mop-haired, dot-eyed child is off on another adventure: this time to an art museum.
The entire family can explore Renaissance art while playing tradional-style card games. A book detailing the art, artists, and artistic styles of the period accompanies the game.
Also look for The Impressionist Art Game
This book will appeal to both children and adults as it presents the work of Post-Impressionist luminaries. Providing fun facts about the artists, how they lived, and what life was like in France during the industrial revolution of the 1800s, Van Gogh and Friends includes full-color reproductions throughout.
Simon & Schuster, $24.99 (Hard Cover)
An instructive 48-page book explains that hieroglyphs were originally picture words, but some of them later began to represent individual sounds roughly analogous to our alphabet. The 24 fine quality rubber stamps included with the kit are those single-sound hieroglyphs. The book leads readers through exercises in stamping words in hieroglyphs, matching words to hieroglyphs, and writing like an Egyptian by arranging the hieroglyphs in artful patterns. Nine puzzles and matching games are included so children can track their progress.
Combine Learning & Fun at Art Museums
"Mommy, I'm tired. When are we going?" These are familiar words to parents who take their children to an art museum without a plan to make the visit fun and interesting. Here are games you can play on your next museum visit.
The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art
Open since 2001 and the only institution of its kind in our country which is devoted to this art form, if the museum is still an unknown treasure that's because of its location in bucolic Western Massachusetts.