My kids have shown an interest in art history for a while and their interest was heightened when we visited the Museo Picasso in Barcelona, Spain last fall. Since that trip, my oldest son has become fascinated by modern art, especially Picasso and his work. In fact, all of my kids have an appreciation for modern art and each has a favorite artist. My 9 year old enjoys Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollack and since we picked up the book, Papa Chagall, Tell me a story, by Laurence Anholt, my 3 year old has been in love with Chagall’s work, picking his paintings out in a gallery and referring to Chagall in a friendly voice as “Papa Chagall.”
With this new appreciation for modern art, we visited the Museum of Modern Art in New York City for the first time. As we do with most museums we take the kids to visit, I began our tour before we ever stepped inside. We talked about what pieces of art the kids could find in the museum and what to look for. We also discussed modern art generally and the other museums we’ve visited and loved, like the Museu Picasso and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Visiting museums that are intended primarily for adults often causes me to second guess my decision to bring my kids. That happened before we left for the MoMA; although my kids have an early love of art, they also are very active and I worried that they would be all over the place and none of us (or the people around us) would be able to enjoy the art. Thankfully that didn’t happen. The MoMA has a great program designed for children that kept my kids interested and involved.
One of the ways the MoMA educates kids on art is with various “Art Cards” that are found at information desks. The cards include a piece of art that can be found in the museum and provide information about the piece. The cards also suggest a variety of ways to look at the piece, what to look for, and things to notice. Some of the cards provide space for kids to create their own version.
When picking up Art Cards at the information desk, also grab the little booklet called “Places and Spaces.” The book includes activities for children to complete as they walk through the museum, like drawing a picture of the view out a window and then going back a little later to see how the picture has changed and looking for objects within various paintings. Once an activity is complete, the booklet is taken to the information desk, where a docent stamps the page. Both the booklet and the art cards are free and make great souvenirs of a visit.
There are also areas within the museum specifically designed for kids. The MoMA Art Lab is a great way for kids to move around freely and get their creative juices flowing. There are several stations set up for kids to create their own piece of art, such as painting, sculpture, etc. The front desk inside the Art Lab has a bingo sheet for kids to borrow and the kids can search for various art pieces within the museum and try to find all of the items on the bingo card. Art bingo was my toddler’s favorite activity at the MoMA. There is also an area next to the exhibition space (which is featuring the works of Warhol right now), where kids and adults can create their own masterpieces. We all enjoyed working with the instructors and materials provided to create our own Warhol-esque works of art.
But the main attraction of the museum is the amazing works of art. We’ve learned that when visiting a museum with young kids, sometimes a divide and conquer strategy is best. We typically start a visit viewing favorite works of art together as a family, and then as the younger children’s interests fade, we’ll split up – one adult will take the younger kids to do kid-related activities, while the other explores the museum at a leisurely pace with our older child. We meet up for lunch, and then swap places. With so many activities for children, the MoMA was perfectly suited for this arrangement.
We spent about four hours at the museum, and while the adults could have spent another few hours exploring, the kids fatigued. We ate lunch at the café on the 5th floor; prices were in-line with NYC restaurants ($8-15 for adult meals) and they offered a kids’ menu that included a hearty lunch and dessert for about $7. Snacks are not allowed inside the museum, but there is a courtyard where kids can enjoy their snacks while taking in some amazing sculptures.
We finished our visit up at the museum gift shop. There are lots of fun and interesting items in the store and near the check-out counter there is an aisle of small items priced at under $10. We sprung for a pack of cards containing matches of famous modern art paintings ($14) and we use them to play Old Maid, Memory, and Go Fish – it was probably the best gift shop purchase we’ve ever made and our kids play with them constantly.
Shortly after visiting the museum, my wife and I talked about how we wished we had visited the museum years ago and not let the high admission price scare us away. In fact, we loved it so much that we are planning on purchasing a membership for next school year. After the great time we had, we are looking forward to going back many times.
The Museum of Modern Art is located at 11 W. 53rd St.
Hours vary throughout the year, but the MoMA opens by 10:30am every day.
Admission for adults is $25 and children 16 and under are free. Seniors admission is $18.
Disclaimer: My family was given tickets to the museum in exchange for a review. The comments and appreciation of the museum are all our own.