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Art to Heart

Children's Museums

Is there a children’s museum near you? According to the Association of Children’s Museums, the United States has several hundred museums created specifically to serve the needs and interests of children. Program 5 of Art to Heart visits two well-known children’s museums: the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia and the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.

In addition, other types of museums may have areas specifically geared to children, such as the ArtSparks Gallery at the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, featured in Program 1 of Art to Heart.

Making the Most of a Visit

As Lori Baltrusis of the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis notes in the Art to Heart program, it’s often the parents who need direction on how to have fun, not the children. She encourages parents to relax, take their time, and play where their children are having fun instead of trying to rush through and see everything. Your child may want to spend the entire time playing at the water table, and that’s OK. You can always come back another time and see other exhibits.

If you’re considering visiting a traditional museum, research the museum before going to consider where your time will best be spent, recommends parent Mary Henson. Find out whether the museum has a children’s section, and plan your visit so the children’s section gives your child the “hands-on” opportunity at the right time for his or her development and interests. Look at a brochure or web site with your children to help them prepare for what they will see. Before going, prepare the children for the experience. A book from the library or a day of painting may help interest them in seeing the work of other artists. Discuss rules about touching, walking, and making noise.

While at the museum, show your child pieces that capture your interest and explain a little about why the art interests you. When looking at museum items, talk about them using descriptions and everyday terms. You might ask, “What do you think he’s doing?” or “How do you think she feels?” As you examine the art, ask questions based on your own reflections (“Do you see the apple?”).

At any type of museum, consider the children’s physical needs like rest, food, and water. Remember that you don’t have to see everything. The goal is for the child to have a positive museum experience and to look forward to the next museum trip.

Find Out More

  • Visit the Association of Children’s Museums web site for a list of children’s museums in the United States and around the world, along with information on how to make the most of your visit.
  • The Please Touch Museum web site has lots of useful resources for parents, including recipe cards for everything from lip balm to bubble soap and information sheets on topics like setting up an art area at home, enjoying art with your child, supplies, and teaching your child about art criticism.
  • The web site of the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis offers units of study and other teacher’s resources as well as online activities for children.
  • Find out more about museums and children in Program 1 of Art to Heart.

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