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Top 10 tips for enjoying an art gallery with kids

From art educator Helen Lloyd


<P data-associrn="1454410"></P> <P>A visit to an art gallery with kids can be surprising, fun and memorable. </P> <P>As a museum educator I’ve spent many enjoyable years introducing children to art. The truth is, visiting a gallery with children can be a great experience – for you and them. It’s magical seeing their eyes light up and their imaginations spark when they ‘click’ with a favourite picture. It’s all in your approach. </P> <P>Try out some of these tips and you could find a trip to the gallery becomes a regular favourite outing. </P> <P data-associrn="1466885"></P> <P><STRONG>1. Warm up your eyes</STRONG></P> <P>Appreciating art takes time. Children these days are used to fast-moving digital images. It takes practice to slow down and really look at a painting, drawing or sculpture – even for adults. A great way to begin your gallery visit is playing a game to ‘warm up’ your eyes.</P> <P>Spot what’s missing: One person looks at an artwork, the others look away. The observer describes every detail they can see, leaving one item out – a hat, a tree, a bird in the corner. The others then look and try to guess what the missing item is. Choose a simple picture for starters. It’s great fun – and trickier than you think!</P> <P data-associrn="1466883"></P> <P><STRONG>2. Pick and choose</STRONG></P> <P>Less is more. Galleries can feel overwhelming if you try to see everything. In each room, try choosing one artwork to focus on as a family. Challenge yourselves to spend at least three minutes looking and talking about it. You’ll be amazed where the conversation takes you! Statistics show that most visitors spend just seconds looking at each item in an exhibition. By slowing down, you and your kids will really enjoy the art – and remember it, too. </P> <P><STRONG>3. Believe in yourself</STRONG></P> <P>You can’t be wrong when you’re looking at art. Give your children the confidence to form their own ideas about what they see. Is it a cloud in that painting, or a flying pancake? One child might love the energy of splatter-paintings, another might think they’re ‘messy’. Are landscapes boring or beautiful? It’s ok not to like something, it’s ok not to know what an artwork means to you, and it’s ok to disagree. If you talk confidently about your opinions your children will follow suit.</P> <P><STRONG>4. Flex your imagination</STRONG></P> <P>Art galleries are playgrounds for the mind. We adults tend to rely on the logical sides of our brains and forget we can loosen up and be creative. Join your kids in this game that takes them right inside an artwork – you’ll be amazed what you discover.</P> <P>Get in the picture: One person imagines stepping into an artwork and moving around in it. Everyone else asks questions about what it’s like inside. Is it warm? What can you smell, taste or hear? What are the people saying? What’s around the corner, outside the frame? Playing this game will help you to experience art with all your senses, not just your eyes.</P> <P><STRONG>5. Ask questions</STRONG></P> <P>We all learn by asking questions – and children are great interrogators! Encourage your kids to ask as many questions as they can about an artwork that takes their interest. Help them find the answers (why not ask that gallery host – they’re probably itching to tell you!) or help them come up with their ideas. Encourage them to use question words. When was this sculpture made? Who made it? How did it get so shiny? Why is it yellow? What does it mean? And don’t forget to wonder ‘What if’: What if it could talk? What would it say? What if it could move? </P> <P><STRONG>6. Guard the art</STRONG></P> <P>Galleries are treasure troves full of precious taonga (treasures) that need to be looked after so other people can enjoy them too. Help your children feel part of this team effort to be kaitiaki (guardians) of the art. Explain no-touching rules from the artist’s point of view. Imagine that painter from the 1800s dabbing colour onto her canvas - and how happy she’d be to see us looking after her masterpiece! Remind kids how they keep their most previous toys safe. </P> <P data-associrn="1466857"></P> <P><STRONG>7. Get to know your art heroes</STRONG></P> <P>How many artists or artworks do your children recognise? How many songs, musicians or pop stars do they know by comparison? The more you listen to a piece of music, the more you enjoy it. The same can apply to art.</P> <P>You might not get your kids ripping down their Katy Perry posters and replacing them with portraits of Rita Angus. But you can boost their enjoyment of art by helping them to get to know their favourite artists better. Ask a gallery host to tell you about an artist. Read the exhibition labels, search online. Get to know a few art heroes and see your children get excited about art. </P> <P data-associrn="1466856"></P> <P><STRONG>8. Get creative</STRONG></P> <P>There’s nothing like looking at art to make you want to get drawing. Why not turn your gallery visit into a fun sketching session? Most galleries will let you use plain lead pencils. Sit in front of an artwork that intrigues your children and start drawing it together – or spread out and do it alone. It’s interesting to see which object everyone chooses, and how your pictures turn out. Encourage your kids to see this as a springboard for their own creativity. The aim is to experiment! Try emulating the artist’s techniques. Even Picasso started by copying other artists’ styles – it’s how we learn.</P> <P><STRONG>9. Be the judge</STRONG></P> <P>Every gallery visit is different. The key thing is to make it fun so everyone wants to come back!</P> <P data-associrn=""></P> <P>Before you leave the gallery, ask your children to choose one or two favourites and say what they like about them. Share yours too. Award your favourites some imaginary prizes – most colourful, silliest, most detailed, most dream-like? Be creative with your judging categories. Next time you visit, see if your tastes have changed. </P> <P data-associrn="1466887"></P> <P data-associrn="1466907"></P> <P><STRONG>10. Make your own </STRONG></P> <P>After a gallery visit kids will be buzzing with new ideas. Help them get creative at home and take inspiration from what they’ve seen. You could encourage them to create their own mini exhibition on a wall, a door or the fridge. It can be fun to give their artworks titles, make frames and write labels for them. To make it extra special invite family, friends or neighbours over to the opening of your own mini gallery. </P> <P>To get kids started pick up a copy of the <EM>New Zealand Art Activity Book</EM>. It's packed full of activities to encourage children to see, think and draw like an artist. </P> <P><STRONG>Come again</STRONG></P> <P>The most wonderful thing about visiting a gallery is being able to experience the scale texture and surface of art in person. Its infinitely more enjoyable than seeing art online or in books. Could you imagine a world where art galleries have been replaced by online databases? If we don’t want to lose them we need to use them. Helping your kids to enjoy visiting galleries not only gives you quality family fun time but also ensures they can do so in future. After all our children are the artists of tomorrow, so make a date and visit again.</P>
Parent and child visiting &lt;EM&gt;Nga Toi&lt;/EM&gt; | &lt;EM&gt;Arts Te Papa&lt;/EM&gt; exhibitions

Parent and child visiting Nga Toi | Arts Te Papa exhibitions

Teenagers lying underneath Bill Culbert&#39;s &lt;EM&gt;Drop&lt;/EM&gt;

Teenagers lying underneath Bill Culbert's Drop

Child looking at Bill Culbert&#39;s &lt;EM&gt;Daylight flotsam Venice&lt;/EM&gt; in &lt;EM&gt;Nga Toi&lt;/EM&gt; | &lt;EM&gt;Arts Te Papa&lt;/EM&gt;

Child looking at Bill Culbert's Daylight flotsam Venice in Nga Toi | Arts Te Papa

Children listening to the &lt;EM&gt;Nga Toi&lt;/EM&gt; | &lt;EM&gt;Arts Te Papa&lt;/EM&gt; children&#39;s audio guide, &lt;A href=&quot;http://arts.tepapa.govt.nz/on-the-wall/KidsMediaGuide&quot;&gt;available online&lt;/A&gt;

Children listening to the Nga Toi | Arts Te Papa children's audio guide, available online

Children drawing in the Whare Toi | Arts Studio in &lt;EM&gt;Nga Toi&lt;/EM&gt; | &lt;EM&gt;Arts Te Papa&lt;/EM&gt;

Children drawing in the Whare Toi | Arts Studio in Nga Toi | Arts Te Papa

Children&#39;s artwork on display in &lt;EM&gt;Nga Toi&lt;/EM&gt; | &lt;EM&gt;Arts Te Papa&lt;/EM&gt;

Children's artwork on display in Nga Toi | Arts Te Papa