Rediscovered Families

Enjoying Great Works of Art With Your Kids (Part 1)

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Photo Credit: Kirsty Kelly

You may have seen this photograph circulating around social media in the last few years. It was taken by Kirsty Kelly from Lanarkshire who graciously gave me permission to use the image. Kirsty’s photographs are gorgeous, but this one in particular captures a wonderfully unscripted moment. It is a picture of Kirsty’s daughter responding to a picture of Anna Pavlova painted by John Lavery. I love it!


Great works of art have a way of inspiriting our spirits and I have found that young children often connect deeply and intuitively with art. Kirsty’s photograph captures such a moment with her daughter- right as it is happening.

It is never too early to start enjoying art with your children. Of course the educator in me feels compelled to list the many educational benefits 🙂

  • Enjoying art provides many informal learning opportunities
  • Inspires creativity
  • Stimulates the imagination
  • Encourages observation skills
  • Gives insights into the worlds of other cultures and times
  • Provides opportunities for children to articulate opinions and form judgements
  • Develops visual perception (the process of taking images and giving them meaning).
  • Helps develop spatial concepts

Whoa! All those benefits from enjoying art? It sounds pretty impressive doesn’t it? But what I love the most is the bonding that occurs when parents and children enjoy art together. Something magical happens as memories are built and connections occur. How’s that for a win win situation?

There are many different ways to enjoy art with your children. If possible I would encourage you to visit an art museum at least once. There is nothing quite like seeing great works of art in real life. Also most art galleries have fun children’s programs that you can enjoy as a family.

Having said that visiting an art museum with younger children can be tricky, so you may want to do some planning. Alison at No Time For Flashcards has written a great post about having fun with young children at an art museum.

If you are not able to visit a gallery you can still connect with your children over a good picture. The Internet is a treasure trove of images and information, as is your local library.

So you have selected a great picture you want to share with your children like Children by the Sea in Guernsey by Pierre-August Renoir. What can you do with it? Here are some suggestions.

photo attributed to Super Free Parking

1. Talk About It

I have found that children have a great deal to teach us about art. They tend to come to the pictures with very few preconceived ideas and see things that we adults often overlook. Here is a list of questions to get the discussion going.

  • What do you notice first?
  • What else do you see?
  • What story do you think the artist was trying to tell?
  • What feeling words come to mind when you look at this picture?
  • What do you like about this picture?
  • What would you like to ask the artist?
  • What shapes can you see in this picture?
  • What colors can you see?
  • If you could jump into this picture, where you go?
  • What would you do?
  • What would you see? Hear? Smell?

Obviously you wouldn’t want to ask all these questions, but select a few of them, ask away, and then listen carefully. You will be amazed at what you learn.

2. Encourage Careful Observations

Photo attributed to Playing Futures

If you choose a painting that is full of detail, like Census at Bethlehem by Pieter Bruegel, encourage the children to hone their powers of observation by playing a game like I spy.

“I spy with my little eye someone putting on skates.”

3. Engage the Imagination

Art has a way of engaging the imagination. Take advantage of this by inviting the children to make up stories about the painting. For example, suppose you’re looking at a painting like this one – A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat.

Photo attributed to Don Merwin

Direct your children to choose someone in the picture and mimic the pose of that person. Ask

  • What are you thinking or saying?
  • What are you feeling?

Then help your children make up a story about their character. Alternatively ask some other leading questions such as

  • If the artist were to paint this picture today what would we see?
  • What would be different?
  • What would the people be doing?

Next week I will continue this post with a few more suggestions that will include art activities, movement, and some games you can play. Stay tuned for details!

I’d love to hear from you.  Do you enjoy art with your children? Do you have any tips for bonding through art? Have you any art museum stories to offer? Please leave a comment below.

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27 thoughts on “Enjoying Great Works of Art With Your Kids (Part 1)”

  1. These are great tips! I love it because it encourages creativity, imagination, engagement and activity with our children. It’s a much better option than seating on the couch watching a movie or playing video games. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Sharon Harding

      Thanks for your encouraging Kelvin. I’m a huge fan of encouraging imagination! we need a lot more of it in our world.

  2. I must admit I’ve never really thought about showing my children proper art yet, but these are great tips, I’d like to try asking them a few questions.
    Thanks for sharing #LetKidsBeKids

    1. Sharon Harding

      Thanks for visiting Karen. I’m always amazed at the things children see in art. It’s fun to explore it with them.

  3. Bonnie a.k.a. LadyBlogger

    This is a wonderful post and the photo of your daughter is wonderful! I have pinned this to my “parenting” board on Pinterest so other parents will try it.

    1. Sharon Harding

      Thanks for the pin Bonnie. This isn’t my picture ….. but I agree it is fabulous 🙂

  4. Eva @ The Multitasking Mummy

    I would love to do this when my son is a little older. At the moment, art for us is painting/crafting at home, but even that’s a challenge because he more prefers cars and trucks and just doesn’t have the attention span to sit and be creative. But he’s only 2, so I”m sure one day things will change.

    1. Your little guy is at an active wriggly stage and I can quite understand why he prefers his cars and trucks. You’ll notice a huge difference in him in the next few years. He may still prefer his vehicles, but you will be able to sneak in a lot more art!

  5. I love this! The kids and I have gone to a few art museums (usually on free days!) and their perspective on the things they see always amazes me and makes me think.

    1. Yay for free days! I’m always impressed with children’s perspective on art pieces. They see things I don’t even notice!

  6. What a wonderful photograph that is – and such a great post from you as well. We took our kids to the Tate Modern in Liverpool (UK) recently, and I was amazed at how well they connected with the art there. The museum has a wonderful interactive room too, which was perfect for them 😀 Thanks for taking part in the Parenting Pin it Party this week.

    1. Oh so jealous! I will be visiting family in the UK this May and we are hoping to go up to the Tate Modern in London. I love the interactive rooms in art museums. they make art so much fun! thanks for visiting 🙂

  7. Pingback: How to Enjoy Art With Your Children (Part 2) - Rediscovered Families

  8. As a homeschooling momma, I LOVE this! Sadly, our local art museum is closed for remodeling at present. We’re taking a trip to Cincinnati in a few weeks, and I plan to visit their museum while we’re there. I love the tips you’ve shared!

    Thanks for linking up to A Thoughtful Spot!

    1. I hope the remodeling doesn’t take too long. Have fun in Cincinnati! Thanks for visiting!

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  10. The advice to take your kids to an art museum at least month was a really great idea. I was wondering if you had advice on how to find art museums that are kid friendly or offer programs for kids? The list of questions to ask kids was useful and also a good list for anyone to think of when looking at art.

    1. Sharon Harding

      Thanks for commenting Vivian. I find a good place to start is to simply Google “Kid friendly art museums in (name of State/Province)” or “Art Museums that offer programs for kids in (name of State/Province).”

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