Written by Angie Kauffman of Real Life at Home.
I have loved art for as long as I can remember. While I haven’t always been very adept at creating my own art, I have loved looking at and studying art.
It’s probably not surprising that this also translated into a love of art museums. Despite this, because my children weren’t particularly interested in art and I was afraid of their boredom, I resisted taking them to an art museum. Even though we were within easy driving distance of a large art museum, I kept skipping out on this amazing field trip opportunity.
Maybe you’ve resisted art museums for some of the same reasons. After taking my children to an art museum, I would urge you to reconsider as well.
You just might be surprised by what happens, if it’s anything like our art museum experience.
Art Museums: A Perfect Field Trip Destination
After we had exhausted many of our favorite field trip options one winter, I finally decided that my kids were old enough to go to a large art museum. While they had been to classes at a small local art museum, I was set to take them to a multi-floor art museum.
I figured that we would not stay long, but I thought the experience was worth the hour drive.
I was shocked when we began looking though galleries not at breakneck pace, but rather with intention. My children, who had never been particularly interested in art, stopped to really experience the art around them.
My oldest son, who I was sure would be bored, instead shone as our resident history buff and helped us to get even more from our art museum experience than we might have otherwise. Not only did he tell us all about various points in history, but he even engaged other people and employees in conversations about the pieces and time periods they were created during.
I quickly realized that I had been shortsighted in being certain that an art museum would be of no interest to my children. In fact, the museum trip that I had been positive would be a short one instead ended up being an all-day affair.
We left only because it was almost closing time!
Tips for an Art Museum Field Trip
1. Don’t just assume your children will be bored. Art museums typically have many different collections, which means there are a lot of different options for finding what might interest your particular children. If they are bored in one area, be sure to check out a different area.
2. Have realistic expectations for your children’s ages. If your children are all preschool-aged and younger, it might be expecting a lot to get through an entire large art museum. You might either wait until they are older or plan to just go to a couple of exhibits. My children were all elementary – middle school aged when we went, and we were able to stay for several hours.
3. Find out about experiences and opportunities for children. Many art museums have programs and/or areas specifically for children. By researching ahead of time, you can find out if these are only operating at certain times of day or certain days of the week. It would be disappointing to make a special trip to the museum and then find out that they have an amazing children’s program that is only operating in the mornings when your family went in to the afternoon.
5. Research camera and sketching rules. Many museums allow students to actually sketch copies of works in the museum. However, they often have rules about what materials can be used or even in what areas students can sketch. This can be a great opportunity for your budding artist, but it’s important to be sure that you’re following rules so you aren’t told to stop or move.
Likewise, know camera policies. In the museum we went to, cameras were allowed to be used on all of the floors of the museum except one. While this was fine, it was not so pleasant to be abruptly told across a gallery to not take pictures on that floor. Finding out the policies ahead of time could have saved us some embarrassment.
6. Watch for current and coming exhibits that are related to things you’re already studying. This seems like a no-brainer, but it has happened to us several times that we found out about great exhibits only days or weeks after they left. A great way to stay up-t0-date is to get on your art museum’s mailing (or emailing) list.
7. Relax and enjoy yourself. Talk with your kids about the art works that you see, but also just take some time to really enjoy the experience yourself. My kids were delighted to see how much I loved looking at the Impressionist works. It’s good to allow your children to see your own excitement and joy.
What are some of your favorite field trip destinations?
We just went to an art show recently. I regularly go and take my children. I’ve always called ahead and mentioned we are coming and what a good time to come is when it is typically less busy. I’ve also mentioned that I homeschool and a few times they’ve suggested certain things to us like given us a little tour or special program that they reserve for school groups etc. I think it would depend on the museum and the staff, but it seems that many places are becoming more homeschool-friendly and its worth asking if they have anything available. Our museum did not but were more than happy to set things up for us that they do for school groups if we were interested, even though I have a wide age range of children.