Now that many art museums are beginning to open up again, here are some tips for taking your kids to art museums with less stress & more fun. If the museums in your area aren’t opening just yet, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has some great online tours for kids that are great virtual field trips. It can be daunting to take kids to an art museum if they get bored and start complaining. Here are some easy things you can do to up your chances of a fun & successful experience for all. Big first tip: Make sure your kids are fed and hydrated before going into the museum. We took our kids on a highly anticipated trip to The Hermitage in St Petersburg, Russia. Our middle son was eight years old; and his main memory of the entire experience is that he was hungry and thirsty. That pretty much ruined my experience of the museum, too. (I know you other parents can relate!) Being hungry kept him from being able to really focus on anything else. Because most art museums forbid you to enter with food and drink, it’s really important to take care of those needs before you enter. Tip Two: Find some interesting facts about the artist’s lives that your kids can relate to. This is a really fun way to help kids understand the time period and the influences and obstacles the artists faced. Art holds clues about life in the time and place it was created. Here are a few interesting facts: Did you know that Frida Kahlo painted self-portraits because she was ill a lot as a child; and her parents gave her art supplies and a mirror up over her bed so she could see herself? Did you know that Leonardo da Vinci was thought to have been ADHD? Several of the great masters like Degas, and Monet began losing their sight toward the end of their lives. You can tell when you look as how their artwork became rougher and more abstract as they got older. Mary Cassatt was an impressionist in 19th century Paris. She mostly painted mothers and children because it wasn’t proper for women to paint in cafes, clubs, or on the street. Tip Three: Ask a few well chosen, age appropriate questions like: What do you see? Processing this out loud can be really helpful and will give you the opportunity to probe further with statements like: “Say more about that” or “What else?” If you were looking at Andrew Wyeth’s famous painting, Christina’s World, your child might first say, “I see a woman sitting in a field.” But then as you probe more, he might notice how far away Christina is from the farm buildings. He might notice the subdued color pallet which conveys a somber feeling. If your child is younger, you might ask something like: Which of the pieces in this room make you feel happy? Sad? Why? Just talking with you about it will help your child process in his head and in turn will help him to be more complex in his thoughts about art in the future. He can begin to see how different colors and color combinations, as well as the subject matter and style, can elicit a whole range of emotions.If you look at several pieces by the same artist, you could ask your child what similarities and differences she sees. This version of spot the differences will boost your child’s powers of observation. So much of viewing and creating art is about noticing things.Another way to get your child to talk more is to start sentences with “I wonder….” You might say, “I wonder what the woman in the painting is thinking/feeling?” or “I wonder why she is sitting on the ground all by herself so far from the farm?” Then just stay quiet and let your child talk, even if there is some uncomfortable silence. By the way, did you know that Anna Christina Olson, the subject of the painting, had a degenerative muscle condition that made her legs paralyzed by the time she was thirty years old? Wyeth, Andrew Tip Four: Before going to the museum, explain to your child that art can be totally abstract, totally realistic or somewhere in between. Much art is neither entirely abstract or entirely representational, but falls somewhere on the continuum. The art term for realistic is representational. Your art is representational when it clearly shows (represents) real people, places or things. Abstract art has lines, shapes, and colors but it doesn’t depict specific people, places, or things from reality. Once your child understands this, you can ask: is this art representational, abstract. or somewhere in between? Is it more toward representational of abstract? Why? Tip Five: If the museum is large, don’t try to see everything. Choose a few exhibits that you feel are most important or would be most interesting to your children. Have they been studying Native American history or a particular time period? Tying in the art of a particular time period or culture is a wonderful wholistic way to educate. If the museum’s website shows the different collections, you might even ask your child which art looks most interesting to her and plan your trip around that. Tip Six: Take advantage of museum programs for kids, if they seem high quality and creative. Some of the museums do a better job than others. Tip Seven: Purchase some postcards or other memorabilia in the museum shop if you can so that you can continue the conversations about the art when you get home. Fun Bonus Tip: Give your kids a bingo board to fill out, or create a scavenger hunt. Download and print our bingo board here and have fun at the museum!