Art museums are doing more than ever to reach out to families and create programs that will serve both caregivers and children. With just a little research, parents can plan visits to the best art museums in the world where they can enjoy the collections while simultaneously keeping their children happy and entertained. Moreover, museums provide learning opportunities during the summer months or for homeschool families who want to augment their book studies. This list is a round-up of 10 of the best art museums in the United States with great resources, workshops, and facilities for family-friendly visits.
A lot of modern and contemporary art can be confounded to adults, so kids programs at MoMA can be truly enriching for the entire family.
Choose from family gallery talks for children as young as 4, hands-on workshops and art activities as well as family-friendly films. MoMA also offers an "Art Lab" iPad app where kids can create their own artworks using shapes, lines and colors and a "Destination: Modern Art" where an alien cartoon character leads kids ages 5-8 through the museum's paintings, sculptures, and installations online.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art has a wide range of programs for children 3-12, many of which are interactive. On Tuesdays and Fridays from 10:15-11:00 am the museum offers "Baby Bird Playdate" in the Perelman Building where toddlers and their caretakers will enjoy circle time with museum, games, and gallery walks. For those with small babies, the museum also offers a "Stroller Tour" which allows the grownups to enjoy the collection without needing to fret if the baby begins to fuss. You'll be in good company.
The most popular event at the Philadelphia Art Museum is "Art Splash" where families explore a particular exhibition with studio art creations, interactive activities, and programs.
Family Festivals are held the first Sunday of every month with a roster of art making activities and concerts. Admission is always free for children under 12.
Parents love the "Just for Fun Family Center" at the Denver Art Museum. Located in the North Building, level 2, in the Duncan Pavilion, admission is included with general admission and is free for members and kids. Programs are tied to the exhibitions and included art making, exploring the gardens and clothes and costumes to try on.
DAM also offers "Family Backpacks" where you can trek through the galleries with art making games and puzzles. Each backpack includes different adventures and are tied to the museum's exhibitions.
Backpacks are available during the school year for kids ages 3-5 by request from the Studio on level 1 of the Hamilton Building.
The Denver Art Museum also offers birthday parties with art making activities, stories, and interactive gallery tours. Each party is two hours long and includes a gathering activity, storytelling in the museum and time for food and festivities. Available themes include:
- Raven's Box in the collections of the American Indian and Northwest coast.
- Animals On Safari in the Pre-Columbian collections
- Hooray For Horses in the Western American collections
- Into India in the Asian and Indian collections.
The Milwaukee Museum of Art (MAM) offers drop-in activities for kids every day. The Kohl's Art Generation Gallery lets kids explore the ways that artists can use everyday objects and even trash to create beautiful works of art. MAM has a strong collection of Haitian art where kids can engage with activities about the importance of community, family, religion, and museum. And like the Denver Art Museum, MAM offers ArtPacks designed for a full range of ages and attention spans. They are free and available from the ArtPack Station during regular museum hours.
On Saturdays and Sundays from 10am-4pm families can drop-in to Open Studios and explore different art materials and techniques. Check the monthly calendar for different themes.
Every Saturday at 10:30am hear a story read-aloud that relates to a work of art in the galleries, then created your own story or drawing to take home.
In the fall, winter and spring, MAM offers Youth Studio Classes for kids ages 6-15. Scholarships are available. During the summer MAM has Summer Art Camps where each class has a special focus on different media.
The Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas is an encyclopedic museum with masterpieces ranging from ancient Egypt, Renaissance paintings, and Pre-Columbian art. In order to make the collection more accessible to families, the museum offers kid and family programs ranging from creative art workshops, storytelling sessions, art camps and Saturday afternoon festivals.
The museum also offers free family gallery guides in the form of picture-cards for selected masterpieces in the permanent collection. Each card has fun facts and discussion questions that allow children and adults to interact with each other. Also, there are free audio tours with 25 family-friendly stops chosen to engage children between 7-12-years old. Visitors interested in the family guides and audio tours should inquire at the downstairs Information Desk in the Kahn Building or at the Visitor Services Desk in the Piano Pavilion.
The Getty Villa in Malibu, California is an immersive experience that makes visitors feel like they are in the Mediterranean in the 1st century. Gardens and large outdoor areas make the Villa an easy visit for parents, though in some areas, it may be slightly difficult to navigate with strollers.
The Family Forum was designed to be a center for children's activities at the Villa. Drop-in at any times and join in on hands-on activities with lots to touch and try-on.
Kids can step into a scene from an ancient Greek vase as an athlete or monster and act out original stories. They may also rub patterns of designs from ancient vases onto different crafts as well as play with potters clay. Inside the galleries, there are free activity guides in English and Spanish.
Garden Concerts for Kids is a free outdoor music series in the Central Garden that features many of the best children's musical artists in the country. Bring a picnic blanket and chairs and like admission to the museum the concerts are also free.
The Walters Art Museum offers programs and interpretive materials to support creativity, curiosity and critical thinking.
Visit the studios in the Family Art Center to create art projects with the help of museum educators. Drop-in Art is Free and open from 11am-4-m Saturdays and Sundays. No registration is required.
Art Babies is a program designed for newborn to 23 month-olds where caregivers are offered a tour of the museum where "cooing and crying" are welcome.
The Scout Program invites Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of all ages to learn about art while earning merit badges. These are two-hour interactive programs led by a trained educator in front of selected artworks. There is always a hands-on activity based on a specific badge and specially designed Walters participatory patch. Pre-registration is required. There are also Private Scout Workshops focusing on Daisy, Brownie, Junior Girl Scout or Cub Scout themes.
Birthday parties are very popular at the Walters Art Museum. Parties are for children over 4-years old, last two hours and include a tour, art activities, and 30-minute cake celebration. The maximum number of children is 15 (including the birthday child) and up to 15 parents/caregivers. The price includes a goody bag from the museum. There are four party themes that draw on the museums collections including:
- Mythological Make-Believe
- Quest for the Mummy
- Royal Celebration
- Jungle Jamboree
Finally, the Walters offers a morning program for children with Sensory Processing Disorders. Educators from the Walters and therapists from the Kennedy Krieger Institute guide the event that use visual resources, tactile activities, sensory breaks, hand fidgets and structured support. This is also an opportunity for caregivers to meet professionals and advocates from community organizations.
Kids often think they are entering a castle when they visit The Met Cloisters which makes it one of the most family-friendly museums in the world. Three gardens within the core of the museum make it easy to manage crying babies or let kids explore on their own. The Unicorn Tapestries are a huge highlight for kids who can chart the story of a unicorn hunt in giant 12-foot scenes that hang on the wall. The Met Cloisters also sits in the middle of Fort Tryon Park. There is a public playground just outside the 190th Street subway station on Fort Washington Avenue at the north entrance and a second playground on the southern entrance to the park on Dyckman Street. The only challenge to visiting The Met Cloisters with children is food so it is recommended to bring food or snacks or plan to have lunch immediately before or after your visit to the museum.
On the first Saturday of every month, The Met Cloisters offers a family program at 1 pm. Led by a museum educator, these programs include a tour of the galleries as well as a hands-on craft. There are also Spanish language programs available for children.
Admission is free for kids under 14 and the museum offers a mix of drop-in programs and scheduled workshops.
The Artist's Studio in the Ryan Learning Center is open daily from 10:30-5:00, no registration is required. Activities in the Studio are thematically linked to the artwork in the museum's collection and special exhibitions.
Mini Masters Workshops are grouped by age from 3-5 and 6-12 and provide programs led by museum educations, story times, games, carving clay reliefs and printing with ink on fabrics. Tween workshops for kids ages 9-12 combine gallery experiences to studio projects ranging from making suits of armor, painting in the Impressionist style, illustration, architecture, and photography.
The Cleveland Art Museum offers free scavenger hunts, Thursday Art Stories, Second Sundays Family Days and Stroller Tours of the collection.
CMA also offers a program called "My Very First Art Class" where young children and a caregiver are introduced to art and the museum through art making, storytelling, movement, and play. Programs are organized by topics like Spring, ABC, Color, Summer, Shape, Animals, Sounds, Opposites and Outside. Classes cost $65 per child/adult and are run over 4 Fridays. Registration in on a first-come, first served basis.