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Take the Kids! The Best Family-Friendly Art Museums in DC and Baltimore {And Tips for Making Art Fun!}

Things to Do Just For Fun DC/MD/VA

Mention the words “Art Museum” to kids and get ready for the eye-rolling to begin. Take a deep breath and realize all hope is not lost of introducing your kids to a little culture. Check out our top tips for getting kids to enjoy art, along with our picks for the best kid-friendly art museums in Washington, DC and Baltimore.

1.  Take a Museum-Based Class.
Many art museums have art-based classes designed just for kids. This is a great way to participate in a program designed just for little ones without fear that your child will disturb the adults in the museum or be bored. In a typical museum-based class, kids listen to a story about an artist or related to a work of art, talk about a work of art in age-appropriate terms like identifying colors or identifying the expression on a sculpture’s face, and then complete an art project themselves.

In the Baltimore/DC area: Check out Young Portrait Explorers at the National Portrait Gallery, Art Explorer at the National Gallery of Art, Family Days at the Baltimore Museum of Art, art classes for babies on up at the Walters Museum, and Storytime at the Hirshorn.

2.  Look for Interactive Art.
Kids love art that isn’t just hanging stoically on a wall but that is fun and accessible. Keep an eye out for exhibits like the very popular Infinity Mirrors by Yayoi Kusama or The Art of Burning Man. These exhibits tend to be shown at modern art museums and are well worth the visit. Be sure to plan a visit when you see an interactive visit planned as many are temporary or traveling exhibits, although a few museums around the country do specialize in interactive exhibits.

In the Baltimore/DC Area: ARTECHOUSE is an art gallery focusing on the intersection between art and technology. Although some exhibits are more kid-friendly than others, all are interactive and fun for children. The Hirshhorn and The Renwick Gallery are the museums in the area most likely to show interactive exhibits. Keep an eye on their offerings.

3.  Look for Exhibits Kids are Likely to Enjoy.
Even if the Mona Lisa showed up in your city, it’s unlikely your kids would be impressed. For an experience the whole family will enjoy, look instead for art exhibits and museums likely to appeal to kids. Think creatively. If your kids love boats, traditional landscapes may be a perfect fit. Many kids enjoy modern or off-beat art. Do some research and you just may find a museum or exhibit that offers the perfect opportunity to expose your little (or big) kid to art.

In the Baltimore/Washington area: The East Wing of the National Gallery of Art is full of colorful, interesting art and sculpture. The American Visionary Art Museum is dedicated to Outsider art and sculptures that fascinate children. Exhibits have names like Giant WhirliGig and The Great Mystery Show.

4.  Look for Museums with Kid-friendly Activities.
Many art museums host regular or occasional events for families that help get kids interested in the art around them. Some museums have self-guided scavenger hunts where kids are guided through the museums in search of specific works of art in a way that feels like a game, challenging kids to find specific paintings or portraits with clues like “this painting has a yellow car and a blue house” or “find a portrait of a man in a white collar who looks sad.” Don’t worry – parents are given cheat sheets to help easily locate the work of art. Many museums also host Family Days that can feature anything from art projects to music and other live performances.

In the Baltimore/DC area: Check out the scavenger hunts at the American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery. The American Art Museum also hosts several Family Fun Days every year and hosts a day (or two) dedicated to the art of video games annually. The American Visionary Art Museum also hosts kid-friendly art-making events and an annual Kinetic Sculpture Race that takes sculptures through the streets of Baltimore.

5.  Take it Outdoors.
Most kids would rather spend time outside rather than inside a museum. For kids that won’t stay still to look at art, bring them to their happy place and look for an outdoor sculpture garden. Kids usually love both the larger-than-life statues and the ability to roam around while getting their dose of culture.

In the Baltimore/DC Area: The Sculpture Garden outside of the National Gallery of Art is the perfect place to allow kids to take in great art while playing, ice skating, or having a snack. The National Gallery of Art also has a rooftop gallery with a giant blue rooster and other fun sculptures.   

Jamie Davis Smith is a Mom of four from toddler to tween living in Washington, DC. She is a writer and photographer who loves exploring all that the area has to offer families. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, and many other blogs. She can be reached at [email protected].  

Tags: art museums with kids things to do activities families


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