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Start with Art: 5 Tips to Get Toddlers to Love Museums

Start with Art: 5 Tips to Get Toddlers to Love Museums

den den and girl
September 30, 2016

There is a common misconception that a museum is not a place to bring a toddler. Here at the Brandywine River Museum of Art, we want to reassure you that not only is it appropriate to bring your little one to the museum, a museum visit has many benefits. The five tips below will help make your family’s experience at the museum one you can all enjoy and remember for years to come.

1. Do your research.

PNC first sunday
Children get excited to see things that are familiar to them so before your visit, look on the museum’s website to see what may be on view. Print out some of those pictures to discuss with your toddler. Also, on the museum’s website you can get information on stroller entrances, café hours, parking, and age-appropriate programming. All of this will make your visit to the museum much smoother, and more fun, too!

2. Prepare the little ones.

Child in Get the Picture exhibit
Museums can seem like places full of rules which can be intimidating for both the child and the grown-up bringing them. Rather than telling your toddler, what they can or cannot do while in the museum, ask questions before arriving such as “Can we run in the museum?” “Can we walk nicely?” “Can we touch the paintings?” “What can we touch?” Instead of hearing a list of things they cannot do, the questions allow grown-ups to tell the child things they can do, in an interactive way. To reinforce the idea of not touching the paintings, have your toddler bring a favorite small toy or stuffed animal to hold that will keep their hands occupied. For the toddler who likes to run, walk through the museum in fun ways: tiptoe as softy as you can after seeing a painting with someone you don’t want to disturb (such as the sleeping dog in Andrew Wyeth’s Night Sleeper) or pretend to be small enough to fit into the paintings and take little, tiny steps.

3. Explore and find!

Family in galleries
As you go through the galleries, try to spot favorite works you discussed at home. Remember that young children like familiarity. If you go to the same museum multiple times, they will often look for the same few pieces of art to see. Encourage this behavior, as it helps children feel comfortable to see the same thing. This should not stop you from finding some new favorites though!

4. Engage.

kid with knights
As you look at the artwork around the museum, find ways to make it fun and educational, too. Seek out animals in paintings then mimic the sounds they would make. Count objects, identify shapes and colors, and recite nursery rhymes that remind you of a painting. You can even find portraits and pose like the people in them. For example, N.C. Wyeth’s illustrations from the book Treasure Island are great for practicing pirate poses.

5. Take a break!

Little Girls and by Miss Gratz sculpture at the Brandywine River Museum of Art

Remember, a little one’s attention span is short. Therefore, take breaks as needed. At the Brandywine River Museum of Art, we offer various locations for a change of pace. Look out the floor-to-ceiling atrium windows and discuss the changing colors of the leaves, the movement of the river, and the number of people or animals you see. Grab a snack at the Millstone Café or pick out a postcard of your favorite painting in the Museum Shop. Weather permitting, head outdoors and experience the landscape for yourself. Take climb and a photo by our sculptures, Miss Gratz, the cow, and Helen, the pig, and explore the trail along the riverbank.

Museums are places for all ages to enjoy. Hopefully, these tips are helpful as you plan your visit. We welcome you to visit on your own or join us for our toddler geared Read-Aloud Program, where young children and their grown-ups hear a story, interact with art in the museum, and make their own creative works. We hope to see you soon at the Brandywine River Museum of Art!