On our recent trip to New York City we visited the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). As big fans of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) I was surprised at Sunshine Doll’s request to go to MoMA instead (or Mooma as she previously thought it was called). She had studied the art movements in co-op and was excited to see both the pieces she had studied. They have free Fridays, otherwise expect to break the bank a bit if you are an adult that wants to visit. The Met used to be pay-what-you-wish. That was one reason we visited whenever we were in New York. The MoMA always had an intimidating price tag. Hooray for free Fridays!
Baby visits MoMA
We loaded up and took a short subway ride. Rainbow Baby was snacking on some juicy grapes to keep her from disturbing other subway passengers with her happy squeals. We were able to side-step the free line with guest passes through the generosity of a museum member. We headed to the permanent collection galleries where we knew Van Gogh’s A Starry Night awaited us.
No sooner did we start browsing the gallery when my baby began to point at a painting on the wall of the gallery and make happy screeches. I looked up to see what she was excited about. It was a still life painting of grapes! She smacked her lips and put her hand to her mouth – her sign for food. She recognized grapes in the painting and wanted some. We passed the painting a few more times, always with a reaction from our 12 month old. This got me thinking about babies and art. I have always loved Charlotte Mason’s art appreciation method. My girls’ have a collection of art postcards that they add to when they visit museums, starting from quite young. But what about babies?
I believe that music appreciation begins at a young age. Exposure to good music invites a child to appreciate complex music throughout life. Can art be any different? Children’s literature, toys, and illustrations tend to be cheesy, cartoon images. How can we expect a child to enjoy art if we wait until middle school to expose him or her? Tastes are well on their way to being formed by then. I am not suggesting that we create flashcards and quiz babies, or expose them to edgy, modern art. Neither Goya nor Guernica are preschool subject matter. I am proposing that very small people enjoy looking at quality art. The true, the good, and the beautiful can be appreciated in age appropriate applications, chunks of time, and content.
So, what does that look like in practical application? There are some lovely board books with art out there. Culture-Baby has a helpful list. There are also lovely stories that are well illustrated. Caldecott awards are given for best illustrated children’s books, so look for their stamp of approval. What about laminating art postcards and attaching a few together in binder rings for baby to peruse with you? What about hanging reproductions on their walls? I learned the trick of framing fine art prints from calendars from my mother-in-law, a woman who is always ready to browse an art museum with us.
My grandmother always had art on her walls. When I was little I had no idea that they were reproductions of anything famous. Gauguin’s Tahiti natives adorned the guest bedroom where we slept when we spent the night. My sister and I giggled over their lack of clothes. We asked my grandmother why and she responded that they thought is was just fine to be naked on that island and apparently had no embarrassment over it, and to please go play and not stare at the naked people. Which reminds me of a dear three year old I know. Apparently he was listening in on a homeschool art lesson featuring Gauguin. He told his mother not to worry, that if something ever happened to her he would become a noble savage. He knows himself well!
What other art applications would be fun for the littlest ones? Where do you incorporate art for the high chair set? I would love to hear your ideas! You can find my post on how to teach children to appreciate art here.
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