Art Museums: TIPS for Taking the Kids

Art Museums: How to get the Kids Interested  so you can Enjoy it, Too!

Kids art museum


Art Museum Goals:

When you want to see an artist’s exhibit and take the kids with you what are you hoping for?

*Hoping to enjoy the work yourself?

*Hoping to expose the kids to art?

*Hoping you’ll get brownie points for exposing the kids to culture?

*How about yes to all of the above??

How to Get Kids Interested in Art

1) Tell the story behind the piece.

Most art is based on religion or mythology. Go to the museum’s website and look for the famous pieces. Then, research the piece and the artist. (Or buy my Ebooks – I’ve already done it for you!) When you are at the museum, looking at the each piece, tell the story. Kids LOVE this!

Adventures in Prado art museum

Adventures in The Louvre art museum

2) Analyze the art.

Now, don’t panic – analyze is just a grown up word for ‘look at’ and ‘talk about’.  Ask questions like:

Why did he use such dark paint? Would you choose another color for her dress? Which one do you like best?

And…..why is her face pink? This link lets you change her and decide how color changes the mood! 

Art painting Warhol Marilyn Monroe

We had loads of fun discussing this piece of art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Yes, it is a leg. And an anchor. On a wall.

girl in art museum

Thank you, The Art of Education for this wonderful poster to illustrate ‘bigger’ words for discussing the art.

word list for art museum

3) Discuss parody.

Kids LOVE this! Introduce them to the concept of parody and then show them the most famous works of art in the world as you visit museums. They are a part of our culture.

The real deal – Girl with the Pearl Earring (Read here for the scoop on the painting and the subject. Also,  photo from Slate.)

art - Girl with a Pearl Earring, oil on canvas, 1665.

Girl with a Pearl Earring, oil on canvas, 1665.

A parody from buttons.

Art - parody of girlwithpearlearring

Parody with Balloons!

Art - balloon parody of girl with pearl earring


Jelly beans!

famous-art-jelly-beans parody

If your kiddos are old enough for deeper discussion, talk about the different words we use for parody – like spoof or take off. This can be a tough thing to explain to kids who don’t understand how someone can ‘steal’ an idea and use it.

Some parodies go in a different direction than the reproductions above. I love these on Mona Lisa.

The original Mona Lisa.

art -Mona_Lisa


Lego Mona

art mona-lisa-lego

Mona Lisa Bear

art Mona_Lisa_Bear_dribBig

Salvador Dali Mona! Love this opportunity to combine discussions – Mona and Salvador Dali!

art mona-lisa-Salvador Dali


4) Play with your food!

Create your own parody out of food! I love these clever ideas.

The original – The Scream, by Edvard Munch.

art The_Scream

Sushi scream by Tama-chan

art - The Scream parody sushi


Screaming toast

art -The Scream parody toast

Peep scream

art -The Scream parody peep candy

5) Think about combining what you see.

I love this book by Bob Raczka. What a clever and wonderful idea!

art book - Unlikely pairs book

The author combines 2 paintings to make a story of some sort. Read this book before you go to introduce the idea. Then, turn the kiddos lose when you get to the museum! Here is a page from the book:

art page from Unlikely pairs book

How many combinations can you make on your art museum visit?

6) Teach tolerance.

What does it mean? Simply that everyone has a different idea of what is beautiful. That is why there are some styles of art that make people wonder…is that really art at all?

Like this one by Picasso – Weeping Woman

art -Picasso Weeping Woman

And this blob we saw at the MET in New York.

Kids with abstract art

Art is a way to teach tolerance – and heaven knows, we can use more of that in the world. Show the kids that every work of art is beautiful…to someone. Even if that someone isn’t you – it can be enjoyed and appreciated on some level. Even if it is only to say, “Yes, I saw that!”.  Collect famous pieces of art like some people collect stamps in passports or baseball cards.

Sometimes seeing multiple pieces from the same artist can be very interesting. Once, after seeing La Pieta by Michelangelo in the Vatican,

La Pieta - art

we saw another Pieta in Milan called Rondanini. They couldn’t be more different. Only after seeing one could I fully appreciate the other.

This is one of my favorite books and it is perfect for teaching tolerance. It is an oldie (published in the late 70s), but a goodie and available on amazon.

The Big Orange Splot by D. Pinkus

Book - The Big Orange Splot

The houses on the street are all the same, neat and tidy, until one day a bird drops orange paint on the roof of Mr. Plumbean. Everyone is aghast at the blot on their neat and tidy street so Mr. Plumbean buys paint to fix it, but the next morning when everyone wakes up they find….


He has painted his roof, but not back to the neat and tidy original way. The neighbors all meet and give one person the task of setting Mr. Plumbean straight, but after the ‘talk’ that neighbor’s house is now painted differently, too!

text The Big Orange Splot

One by one the neighbors meet with Mr. Plumbean and then paint their house to reflect their dreams until the entire street has unusual homes on it. The people say, “Our street is us and we are it. Our street is where we like to be, and it looks like all our dreams.”

photos The Big Orange Splot

Perhaps not great for home values – LOL –  but a wonderful way to discuss that art is in the eye of the beholder.  We should  be accepting and tolerant of individual choices! What do your dreams look like? Great opportunity for discussion.

7) Teach idioms with art.

I love these idioms:

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Art is the perfect explanation for this idiom. Some people love one art style over another, one artist over another and those differences are exactly what makes the world go ’round.

A picture is worth a thousand words.

Sometimes you can’t begin to describe something but a picture makes it all clear.

Do I have to paint you a picture?

Not a nice way of saying to someone, “How clear do I have to make it for you?”

Paint the town

This means to celebrate!

8) Create.

Use whatever materials you have to let the kids create art – based on what they have seen, what they will see, what they come up with in their mind. Display it proudly on their walls or on the fridge. Encourage expression!

Art - Create and display

Need help with the planning? Don’t see your art museum as an ebook title? Give me a shout!

The Educational Tourist Picasso

Happy artistic and tolerant travels!

Natalie, The Educational Tourist






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19 Responses

  1. Excellent post as always!!!

  2. Aileen says:

    Truly, beauty is in the eye of the beholder! This is a really fun post and I like the variations/interpretations of certain famous pieces. Truly, art can be really fun and though it’s hard to decipher the meaning behind it sometimes, at one point or another, the meaning will just come natural to most.

    • NatalieTanner says:

      I agree and the discussions that come from it make visiting art museums even more fun! Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Great post Natalie! I really enjoyed the tips you provided and asking the audience to not just move on past one piece of art and onto the next. Like Aileen said and you mentioned in your post, it can be difficult to determine the artist meaning or mood, but you provided some really good tips to engage in the painting!

    • NatalieTanner says:

      I think that artists enjoy you having your own ideas on meaning or mood, too, in addition to whatever they actually intended. So much of art is a feeling..and everyone has their own. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Karilyn says:

    Wow. Super fun post. I never know how to talk about art to my son. I use the penny words for sure! I need to up my game!

    • NatalieTanner says:

      LOL! Glad we could help with that! Enjoy the discussions. Kids see things differently! Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Sarah says:

    This is such a great post with so much brilliant advice in it. Love the parodies, but also really love the advice on that poster. Wonderful

    • NatalieTanner says:

      Thanks for stopping by! I find art museums to be even more fun with the kids. Their perspective is always interesting and different from my own! Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Great post! I always find it interesting to talk about art with others because it’s all about your own interpretation!

    • NatalieTanner says:

      Me, too! Kids always have a really different take on things! Love to hear their perspective.Thanks for stopping by!

  7. Natasha says:

    Lovely post! Such great suggestions to get kids involved in the art world so they’ll hopefully appreciate it as they get older too. Plus some of the suggestions are just so much fun- playing with food is such a great idea! 😀 Really like your notes on tolerance too, I’m not a huge fan of modern art but knowing the story behind the piece usually helps me to at least appreciate where the artist is coming from.

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