With arts education practically an endangered species in today’s schools, your kids may not know a thing about Van Gogh or Picasso. And that’s a shame. Because arts education is far from frivolous. Studies have shown that exposure to the arts improves reading, writing, and math. It makes kids four times more inclined to be academically successful and much more likely to show up for school.
You don’t need to know the difference between Monet and Manet to get them started – you can learn right alongside them. Here are three museums that welcome families with open arms, and won’t expect hushed voices and tiptoed footsteps, either.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
New York, NY
Legend has it that if you spent just a minute looking at every object in this collection without taking a break, it would take more than 5 years to see it all. Considering that the MET has more than 2 million pieces of art, housed in a building a quarter of a mile long, it’s probably true. The good news is, they don’t expect you to “shhh” your children all the way through it. Before your visit, give kids a copy of the classic storybook, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Then crack open the museum’s “The Mixed Up Guide” and let them loose to discover all the art that made the story so magical.
The De Young Museum
San Francisco, CA
Housed in Golden Gate Park and boasting its own Garden of Enchantment, this art museum is a breath of fresh air. Start things off with the museum guide, a funky comic book called “The Ghost of De Young Museum.” If it’s Saturday, join the special family morning tour, then top it off with a free, kids-only art workshop. Local teenagers can apply for a spot in the Ambassador program, which trains (and pays!) them to be guides, or sign up for a free AP Art History class and then troll the galleries for inspiration.
The Art Institute of Chicago
From themed Family Art camps to studio tours, “Mini-Masters” art workshops for kids as young as three, and sculptures kids are meant to fingerprint to their heart’s content, this place takes children seriously. An art school and museum rolled into one, the Art Institute has more than 5,000 years of artistic booty under its roof. The Kraft Education Center is a haven for families. And the Lions Trail audio tour, designed just for kids, turns a visit to the art museum into an interactive treasure hunt.