Now we all have this idea in the back of our mind that we should enjoy art museums. But sometimes they leave us scratching our head and moaning at the lack of lovely Monet and the proliferation of weird, abstract modern
art. How do we instill an appreciation for art in our children? Why bother?
We bother because beauty is important to us. It enriches our life and lifts our spirits to surround ourselves with whatever is good, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable. Everyone needs something to think about. And no one wants to spend their whole life thinking about the dishes, traffic, dirty diapers and taking out the trash. In other words,
we desire and crave, as human beings, something bigger and more inspiring than the mundane details in front of us. We hope for something to lift our hearts with hope, to make us smile, or make us think. We are created in the image of a Creator, a divine artist and our souls long to imitate His creativity and are wired to recognize beauty and praise it. We enjoy cheering the limits of human accomplishment. We are inspired when we see something that is greater than what we think we could create.
How to instill an appreciation for art in our children is simple and fun. My suggestions are based on Charlotte Mason’s methods. As with music (see my post on early music education here), early exposure is the best method. There are great books that include art in a story format like Dan’s Angel. Children love to look at pictures. They might as well look at great works of art. Usborne publishes some great ones like Famous Paintings, Activity Cards and The Children’s Book of Art.
Here is the key to a great art museum visit: Preview the art and artists you will see. Some museums even sell postcards of their artwork. The Met has an amazing selection of postcards at http://store.metmuseum.org.
Most museum websites have some of their regular collection pictured on-line. Help your children fall in love with a piece of artwork that intrigues them. The idea is for the child to “own” the art; to feel like that piece is special to them, so when they see it personally, it brings joy and excitement.
Ask them questions about one or two particular pieces of artwork that they will see. Let them look at it many times. What is happening in this piece? What time of year is it? Who is in the painting? What is the sculpture made of? What was the artist thinking when he added this part? How many different colors do you see? Make a mind sharpening game of it by putting the postcard face down and asking questions.
I took one of my dolls to an art museum while visiting Nashville when she was 5. My daughter seemed interested in a piece of modern art on the wall. So, I tried to ask her thought provoking questions about it. “What colors do you see? How would you describe this painting?” She stared at it quizzically for a minute, then turned to answer me confidently, “I would say it’s real-ish.” Then she turned back to it for a second. “Real-ish,” she reiterated, “and blobbish!”
Let them sketch what they see. Most museums allow patrons to sketch in
their own notebooks, as long as it is with pencil, unobtrusive and not too close to the art. Most even allow colored pencils. Sketching used to be standard learning procedure on an art field trip. If your kids are going to draw, why not copy the masters?
Then, a trip to the gift shop for a souvenir postcard of a piece they enjoyed is economical and beneficial. Some museums sell coloring pages of their art. My kids have used their own money to purchase coasters, puzzles, wrapping paper and magnets featuring art they enjoyed. A children’s book from the library that features background on the artist is a great follow-up. Some research on other works by an artist is great reinforcement. The Usborne Art Treasury takes famous art pieces, shares some background information, then gives detailed instructions for a project inspired by the art. Currently my dolls are enjoying working through a several year program, Adventures in Art by http://cornerstonecurriculum.com.
Look for murals around town. Stop and check out public sculptures. Most museums are free for children and discounted for older students. Get out there and enjoy some art with your children!
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