Today we went to Denver Art Museum, always a joy to roam around it while looking at amazing art variety collected there. Our trip today brought to mind a post I made a very long time ago at my old (now closed) blog. Four years ago we were lucky to attend a workshop in DAM that taught us how to help children enjoy paintings. As children grew we added some of our own games as well. I apply these ways to looking at art albums at home and online as well.
For children going to an art museum can be a challenge and quite an overwhelming activity, and I find that these little games help to keep even my very wiggly 6 y.o. interested. For D. these became a beloved part of a museum trip, he’s looking forward to them every time we go.
- Portraits: Look at face expressions and try to guess the mood and/or personality traits of the person depicted. For older children looking at the details in costume and trying to guess the occupation or era in which they lived is another fun activity (D. loves looking at swords and hats)
- Still life: What’s on it? Is it cold or hot? What would it taste like (for food)? What would it feel like (for other objects)? Would you take it home and why or why not?
- Landscapes: Discuss weather, smells in the air, what would you do if you happened to be in the picture right now… etc.
- Tell a story. Never miss an opportunity to tell a story about the scenery in a painting. I remember making up stories while looking at paintings one of the favorite quiet games of my childhood. Another interesting way to play would be to find a picture that would continue the story- this might be easier to play if there are several pictures of the same artist or the same style (that’s where postcard or stickers sets come in handy to play at home). For older children it’s a lot of fun to make up a name for a painting on the spot, describe the painting in two words only, remember your favorite painting/sculpture and write a short story about it (D. had a blast writing about Fox Games by Sandy Skoglund today)
- Imitate a picture. Creating living pictures was a popular entertainment before the age of radio and TV. It’s a good idea to try and imitate a pose on a picture. If there are more than one willing child, creating a tableau can be a fun party game.
- Find a color. Pick a color and try to find it on a picture or on many pictures in the gallery. At home we tried to play it bingo-style using playing cards sets from different museums.
- Live inside a picture. Pick a painting and try to imagine yourself inside it. Where would you hide? What does it feel like? This activity is my absolute favorite, children love it as well. gorgeous landscapes are the best for it.
- Pick a theme and try to find it on pictures, for example children pick a boat and try to find it on paintings throughout the museum, whoever gets the most of their chosen item wins the game.
- Sketch! As children got older it became fun for them to try and copy a picture they see and particularly like. So we always carry small sketchbooks and a pencil case (those are available at DAM as well). It is not always allowed (sometimes there is plainly no room to sit) especially for travelling exhibits, it is good to check beforehand for areas where it’s permitted. It is absolutely rewarding to see children’s versions of great paintings.
- For the activities listed above I find it easier to pick one game per visit for small children and for older to combine a couple.
- Prepare for a special exhibit. It is always good to plan a trip, and it’s worth it to look an artist over and pick a painting to keep a look out for.
- We don’t go to every hall in one visit, but rather concentrate on one or two.
- We usually stay for two hours at the most. Hunger is another thing to consider, especially for younger kids.
- Museums often have activities for children such as art backpacks and bingo cards, for example, so please check with your local museum for available activities.
Other resources to check out: