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Encounters with Art

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2015 Feb

Encounters with Art

Art is a natural part of our world. Explore art with your child by focusing on your child’s interests as well as his or her aesthetic and intellectual abilities. Find opportunities that encourage your child to:

• Find art in the everyday world—calendars, book illustrations, paintings in the home, murals in libraries, elements in architecture, design of ornamental gardens, monuments, and sculptures. Play a game when traveling in which your child searches for artworks in the environment.

• Visit a library or bookstore. The librarian or bookstore clerk can identify books honored for their outstanding illustrations.

• Look for patterns in the visual world. Identify shapes or patterns formed by artistic elements in buildings or search for similarities or differences in common objects.

• Talk about artwork by describing what the painting depicts. Other ways to talk about art include exploration of line, shape, color, and texture.

• Make up a story that is related to the content of the artwork. For example, pretend to be a character in a painting and tell what is happening.

• Express personal ideas and feelings about individual works of art. Value your child’s perspective.

• Recognize art as an important aspect of life that represents different places and different cultures around the world. Art offers children a worldview.

• Share and enjoy art with your child. Read about, look at, and talk about works of art that you encounter. Conversations should be casual, not like a test or lecture. Expose your child to art from different cultures and times in history. Encourage your child to talk about works of art by making comparisons, finding similarities, and identifying differences.


Museums house cultural artifacts, natural specimens, and works of art that all have visual attributes. Children enjoy looking at and talking about these objects by drawing parallels to their own lives and experiences. There are many wonderful books that introduce museums and encourage children to think about their role in the world.

A successful trip to a museum requires some thought and planning in advance, but the rewards will be well worth the time invested. The museum visit should build on specific interests of your child. Kids enamored with collecting bugs in the backyard will probably be interested in collections of insects at a science museum or a nature center to learn more about these unusual creatures. A budding interest in ballet expressed by a young child taking dance lessons might suggest a visit to an art museum to see paintings and sculptures of dancers. Whatever the preference, it is important to select exhibits or works of art that have a common idea or theme for your tour.

A visit to a museum should be fun and inspiring! Beyond planning your visit with your child’s interests in mind, remember that selecting a few pertinent exhibits or galleries is typically more effective than touring the entire museum. Value your child’s responses. It is likely that your child will show an interest in something not included in your plans. When you demonstrate respect for your child’s point of view, you enhance your child’s overall experience and attitude about museums.

Museums have different types of presentations. Look for interactive exhibits, special tours or programs designed for young children, and publications that offer suggestions that relate to specific exhibits. Family guides often highlight exhibits that appeal to the young visitor as well as suggest activities for engaging the child in meaningful encounters with art.

Art museums are often the most challenging environments for children. For younger kids, keep the gallery activities simple. Think about those that would engage your child:

• Read a children’s book that relates to your museum visit. Reading can take place at home or at the museum. Select a book that has a theme that relates to the art you plan to see. Some works of art actually have children’s books written about them.

• See several different artworks that relate to the same theme.

• Create a personalized tour for your child using postcards from the gift shop. Purchase the postcards before you bring your child to the museum. Your child can look at and talk about the postcards beforehand. Encourage your child to think about the artwork. Since the postcard doesn’t show the actual size of the artwork, it is fun for a child to guess whether the actual work is large or small. During the visit, finding the works of art will add an interesting dimension to the experience.

• Orient the museum visit in a different way each time you go. For example, plan a “shape” day and look for shapes in art. Each time your child spies a particular shape, let him or her pretend to draw the shape in the air. Look for shapes in your environment on the way home. Once you return, let your child make a drawing using different shapes or create a collage using cutout shapes.

• Ask your child to strike a pose similar to that of a figure in a sculpture.

• Encourage your child to use his or her imagination through storytelling or pretend play. For example, when looking at a painting of royalty, let your child pretend to be the king. Ask your child to wear a majestic robe and crown and make up a story about the king.

• Allow your child to pick a favorite art postcard from the gift shop following the museum visit. Buy two of the same card and help your child begin a collection. After several visits, the cards can be used for a matching game at home. Cards can also be used for storytelling games or for planning future museum visits. Returning to see old favorites at the museum is often fun for a child. When relatives visit from out of town, your child can plan the tour using favorite artworks.

• Encourage an older child to sketch with pencil and paper something interesting found in the art galleries.

Source: National Endowment for the Arts

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