Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Boredom Busters: Kids at the Museum

"The Scream" National Gallery, Norway
The little C&Gs are not enthusiastic museum go-ers by nature. Which I was reminded of recently when they overruled my plan of going into NYC for a trip to MOMA. Lions and tigers and bears were at the top of their sightseeing agenda and we ended up visiting the Bronx Zoo instead. They loved making up our plan for the day and Mr. C&G and I were happy taking a break from being in charge.

When we do make it to the museums, it requires a bit of work on our part to keep the little C&Gs interested and focused on what we're looking at. We've found a few games and challenges that work well and give us at least two good hours of fun and adventure. After that, we're all in need of some gelato. And cocktails.

Many museums have helpful information on how to visit with kids on their website. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has phenomenal family guides online you can look at before you go, and they are also available at the information desk when you arrive. The Guggenheim has a downloadable activity guide for kids showcasing the unique architecture of the museum. Our first stop in any museum is always the information desk for maps, activity books, scavenger hunts, or any kid friendly info they have on hand.

Crafts at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has a "Family Art Cart" in the atrium on weekends (and during school vacations) that caters to your little adventurers. Check out one of the activity bags filled with sketchbooks and colored pencils, and choose a scavenger hunt pack based on your interests. We picked out the Egyptian pack and navigated our way to the Egyptian wing to learn about ancient symbols and to draw our own mummies. Be sure to check at the info desk of other museums when you arrive to see what they have available for kids activities.

Postcard I-spy is always a fun game if you're up for spending a few dollars in the gift shop before heading into the galleries. We let the little C&Gs pick out a postcard or two (try and pick something you know is in the collection), then it's their job to track it down. We have to give them a brief art history lesson (Monet's Water Lilies will be found in Impressionists, not ancient Roman sculptures) while they're looking at the map and then off they go. When we've left the museum and are seated somewhere nearby enjoying cocktails, the postcards make perfect scrap paper for the little C&Gs to color or play tic tac toe on.

Harvard Museum of Natural History collection
Big C&G came up with his own game that he calls iPhone I-Spy. We were at the Harvard Museum of Natural History for the umpteenth time recently when he suddenly asked Mr. C&G to borrow his phone. "I want to take a picture", he told us and off he went. When he came back he handed Little C&G the phone, showed him the photo, and said "find this rock somewhere in the gallery". A brilliant way to keep them both occupied for a good half hour.

We played it again at the Yale University Art Gallery by sending Big C&G a few galleries ahead to find his mystery artwork. Little C&G had to keep his eyes closed till his brother came back and then the challenge was on. He got stumped looking for the giant dots that turned out to be a corner of a comic book style painting by Roy Lichtenstein. The game works especially well with modern art and the crazier the better!

Be sure to check with the guards in the galleries to get permission to sketch or take photographs of the works of art. Most museums will allow photography, as long as you turn off your flash. You wouldn't want to end your day of adventure with a trip to the police station to bail out your suspected junior art thief.

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