As a kid, my father would take us to the National Art Gallery in Ottawa. we would bring friends and basically giggle our way though the exhibits. We did our best to behave and look interested. The exposure had led both my brother and I into careers of art appreciation.
Now when I take my kids, I make sure I have an activity we can do. I also don't stay long. The rule is always to leave at the height of the fun then kids remember the experience as a good one. I try to go during free admission times or during family events.
If available, take advantage of the audio guide tours for kids. They are usually very good. Its worth the extra money to keep your kids engaged. Before visiting, I check out the gallery's website to see if there are any kids activities on-line. We surf the website and look at possible pieces we may see.
Once we are at the gallery, I begin with a visit to the gift shop.We always pick up post cards and decide which art pieces we would like to see. Then we search for them in the gallery. Kids can send the postcards to family or friends or keep them as a souvenir. Once you get home, display them for inspiration.
Bring a clipboard and play some games such as a treasure hunt or bingo. I found this bingo card by Carol Sabbeth in her book Impressionists for Kids. Its called Monet Bingo. She uses the following words for her bingo card: complementary, warm, cool, landscape, portrait, self -portrait, still life, pointillism, bird's eye, pleinair, pastel, seascape. For a list of ideas for a treasure hunt, click here for a sample.
MoMA. They had free audio guides for the kids and a really good online website for kids called Destination Modern Art. By the time the kids got there, they were pumped. It was a wonderful experience. At the end of it, my daughter told me that her favourite painting was one by Jackson Pollack! She still talks about the colours, technique and its size.
Have fun on your next visit!