Making Art Museum Visits Fun and Educational for Triangle-Area Kids

Photo Credit: Trista Vandevenne

A trip to a local art museum may not be at the top of your kid’s list of preferred activities, but art museum visits can be as fun as they are educational.  The Raleigh area has lots of great museums that are family friendly. 

Eight tips for enjoying Art Museums in the Triangle with kids: 

Making Art Museum Visits Fun and Educational for Kids

Photo Credit: Trista Vandevenne

Tip #1 – Set up Expectations

Setting up expectations for behavior can help you avoid tantrums later.  On the car ride I’ll ask questions like, “Do you think we can touch the art that looks soft?” or “Can we color on the walls with our markers?” and my kids shout “Yes!” or “No!” 

It can also be helpful for children to know how long to expect the visit to be and what you may do afterward if they have good behavior, such as visiting the gift shop or having a picnic.

Tip #2 – Research Museum Resources for Kids

Many of the art museums in the area offer hands-on items to interest kids.  Some have areas set aside for kids to craft, and some museums have totes with binders of activities to borrow at the information desk.  Older kids may like trying out interactive museum apps or listening to information about the art on headphones during their visit.  My oldest likes bringing one of my old cameras to take pictures of her favorites.

Tip #3 – Let Kids Choose

Giving kids choices throughout the experience can help them take ownership of the visit as well.  “Which gallery should we go in first?” or “Would you like to move to the next gallery?” can help kids feel an important part of the experience.  This also gives children an opportunity to let you know when they’ve had enough and are ready to leave.

Making Art Museum Visits Fun and Educational for Kids

Photo Credit: Trista Vandevenne

Tip #4 – Make Art Interactive

Some art pieces are wonderfully interactive, such as the screen that makes your eyes go up in smoke at NCMA, but there are ways to make traditional exhibits more interactive.  We play a game in the Rodin exhibit at NCMA where we take turns giving a clue to a sculpture such as “Which statue has the most people?” and the other family members go stand by the one they think is the answer.  In other galleries, I may ask our kids to find a certain color or animal, ask them which painting is the happiest, or what shapes they can find. 

Tip #5 – Build Learning Connections

When visiting museums, our family discusses the medium used, many of which we try later at home.  We teach them that anything can be art and to create using whatever materials they have available.  Art museums can also be a great place to discuss history and geography by noticing differences in material and colors used by artists from different time periods and different places.  Use some of what you or they already know to build learning connections.

Tip #6 – Add Humor

My kids love posing like statues.  It makes for cute pictures, but it can also be a great way to introduce a discussion about why artists may choose to sculpt a person in a pose.  If you’re really struggling to keep a kid’s attention, count naked statues.  There are always giggles involved.

Making Art Museum Visits Fun and Educational for Kids

Tip #7 – Plan Extension Activities Ahead of Time

No art museum experience should end at the door.  We sometimes bring along our travel clipboards so the kids can spend time outside drawing.  Plan to make a stop at a thrift store or reuse center like The Scrap Exchange for unusual items.   

Tip #8 – Keep it Brief and Repeat Often

For younger kids, it’s best to try to limit visits to shorter periods of time.  In an area with so many inexpensive and free art museums, take advantage and plan to come back a different day to see another section of the museum.  More frequent visits will lead to better behavior, increased knowledge, and kids who truly love visiting the art museum.

Any kid can learn to love visiting the art museum.  How do you make art museum trips fun and educational for your family?

Visit these Five Family-Friendly Art Museums in our area:

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