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Kids + Art

alec vanderboom

How to get a child to love art

It’s okay for kids to listen to classical music on the radio instead of the concert hall. To watch movies instead of live theater performances. Yet, if you want to truly nurture an “art-art” lover, skip the mumbo jumbo of Baby Einstein painting books. Head right to the art museum.

This is impossible you say! Just a few pointers to encourage you to branch out from the Natural History Museum to take in the Hirshhorn & National Galleries during your stay in D.C.

Babies love art museums. Put the baby in a sling and as long as you go at a gentle pace, you can stare at pictures to your hearts content. Jon and I trade off baby duty + the hand of a relatively responsible older child. The other parent gets to hold the hand of the squirmy toddler.

Kids love sculpture. There is something really cool about being able to examine a life-like thing up close. Take a long stroll through the 18th sculpture hall which you usually brush past.

Spend time in the pre-Renaissance Galleries. The focuses of these paintings are almost exclusively religious. I use this as an opportunity to quiz them on their saints & bible stories. It’s truly inspiring to see how many different versions of our Blessed “Mama Mary” can exist in the same room.

We’ve had wonderful luck at the Black Box video installation at the Hirshhorn Museum on the Mall. One video showed 99 of the Guards at Buckingham Palace march in interesting formations. Another was a ballet of trucks. (Lex’s favorite!) This month is a highlight of

Keep the visit very short with kids (under 25 minutes). It helps that in D.C. all of the Smithsonian art museums are free. When I visit art museums at other cities, we usually get a two-day pass. We plan for four hours over two days, rather than one massive time block. That way we can see what we want, without risking a toddler meltdown. We also take the kids to the Museum cafeteria for treats. That way one parent can handle three kids while the other gets some quiet gallery time.

Why go through this added hassle? It’s really beautiful to share a passion for art with your family. The kids talk about what pieces they like, and many times it surprises you. You and your spouse can take in a new painting (even if its at different times, holding the hands of different children) and you’ll have something exciting to talk about over dinner. Your family will make tired Museum Guards smile. And someday, hopefully, your kid will unconsciously feel happy and at home while staring at a new acquisition at the Louvre.