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Photo by Cora Kemp

Seven Ways to Make the Most of Your Art Museum Visit with a Child

By Kristin Feldkamp

Few people debate the benefits of art museum visits for children. Studies by others have shown that when children visit art museums they develop critical thinking skills and visual literacy in addition to learning about art, history, culture, and even math. Also, for many kids a museum visit is an opportunity to learn in an environment that doesn’t share some of the negative connotations that a classroom can have.

Rebecca Gross, in an article for the NEA’s Art Works Blog, describes a few more benefits:  “[Museums] can provide memorable, immersive learning experiences, provoke imagination, introduce unknown worlds and subject matter, and offer unique environments for quality time with family.”

Clearly, a visit to an art museum with your child is an opportunity to have a shared learning experience. You are viewing the art and learning something new together. But how do you get the most out of your visit? And how do you make the experience fun and rewarding for you and your child?

As a parent with a few museum visits under my belt, allow me to share some suggestions on how to get the most out of your visit. With permanent free admission for children seventeen and under and free admission for adults on Fridays from 5 to 8 p.m., the Clyfford Still Museum hopes you’ll make plans to visit soon.

  1. Take time before you visit to do a little research. Look at the Museum website with your child or share your findings. Check out current exhibition information, available tours and things you should know when you visit the Museum. You want the visit to be fun, so set the tone by talking about it in a positive way. Look for a few pieces of information that will engage and excite your child.
  2. Let your child help you come up with some guidelines. The conversation will vary depending on age, but discuss the importance of respecting the art and the other visitors. You want this to be a fun and successful visit for everyone.
  3. Consider your child’s temperament. Would your child benefit from a visit to the Museum without siblings? You might decide to take your children on different afternoons so that you can give each of them your undivided attention. Another approach is to make it a cultural playdate. Have your child bring a friend and take them for a treat afterward. You know your child best so plan the visit to suit him or her.
  4. When you arrive at the Clyfford Still Museum, take a moment to look at the exterior of the building. The Museum’s architecture is notable and worthy of a short discussion. Encourage your child to feel the hand-poured concrete on the side of the building. You can’t touch the art, but you can touch the building. It will give you a tactile experience that you can refer to later when you’re looking at the surface of Still’s paintings.
  5. When you check in at guest services, ask for the guide book: Looking at the Art of Clyfford Still with Children. Take a minute to look through the book and ask what your child thinks before you go upstairs. The book gives you child-appropriate terms to discuss Still’s art, like scale, color, surface, and environment. The Museum also has a Detail Detective handout that will turn you into museum sleuths.
  6. Allow your child to go at his or her own pace. Children’s learning styles and attention spans vary. Ask questions like “what do you see?” and “how does it make you feel?” Share your thoughts and feelings. Consider playing a game like I Spy with the paintings and artifacts.
  7. Make time after the visit to discuss the experience. Whether it’s a chat over hot cocoa after you leave the museum or at bedtime, be sure to reinforce the experience and share how much you enjoyed yourself.

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