Before people actually visit The Cummer, they often think that art museums aren’t places for young children. What is there for them to do? Art museums are quiet and little ones can’t touch anything. If they break out in tears, it’s a mad rush to the exit to save the rest of the visitors from the disruption or to avoid shear embarrassment.
At least that’s the mindset we are used to. At the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, you often find children under five. There is an etiquette to follow, but it is a place for people of all ages. Parents even hold on to tiny hands through the galleries introducing young eyes to old works of art. I’ve even seen parents guide babies’ hands over the sculptures of the timeline in Art Connections giving a brief art history lesson.
If you are at a loss for how to start your child on the journey of art appreciation at an early age, here are some tips:
Make Short Visits
Don’t make a day of it. Young children have short attention spans. Spending 30 minutes at the museum on your first visit may be just enough time to pique the little guy’s interest. After all, you can always come back another time. If he starts tugging on your shirt tail, you know it’s time to call it a day.
Engage your young art enthusiast by asking questions. “What do you see?” “What shapes and colors do you see?” “What are the people doing in the painting?” This way, he is looking more closely and learning how to converse about art.
Use Five Senses
We all perceive the world through our senses, but especially young children. Museums are not just for looking. Think about what they can hear, smell, touch and taste. Some senses are fed in different parts of the museum but challenge him to meet all five.
Okay, tasting in a museum may not be appropriate but you can pick up a hot chocolate from the cafe on a cold day and it could begin a tradition for your family; when you go to the museum you get a hot chocolate (and a latte for you).
Take advantage of Art Connections and The Cummer Gardens as sensory experiences. Touch artwork, cut and glue paper, and build a sculpture in Art Connections. Smell the scents of flowers, listen to birds and the river flowing, and touch the sculptures in the Gardens.
Have No Expectations
Don’t expect your little one to be an art connoisseur right away. If you go into this adventure with no expectations of what your child should learn or say or do, it will make for a more relaxing experience. Build on the experiences by visiting often and you’ll see that your child will slowly form his own impression of the museum and what’s inside.
Attend a Class
The Cummer offers a class, Art for Two, once a month for children ages 3 to 5 years and their favorite adult. You will spend time in the galleries learning to look at art and then work together on an art project in the studios. This a great way to get your feet wet and learn some first-hand tips from our resident art educators. See our class calendar for more details.