It’s never too early to start introducing your grandchildren to art appreciation. One of our GaGa Sisterhood members recently told me she brought her four grandchildren to the Dale Chihuly exhibit. They range in age from 6 months to 4 years. “The kids loved it,” she said, “and the guards followed closely behind us!” Inspired by one of the sculptures, the three older children lay down on the floor and made a flower pattern. She took a picture of them looking down on them from the floor above. She said even the 6-month old’s eyes lit up in front of one of the pieces, proving that art can be enjoyed by any age if you let them appreciate it at their own level.
Another one of our members, a docent at the San Francisco De Young Museum, shares this belief and offers some suggestions for taking our grandchildren to museums. Below are some Bay Area Museums as well as her advice on what to do before you go and once you get there.
Bay Area Art Museums
San Francisco Fine Arts Museums: Legion of Honor and De Young
Asia Art Museum
Cantor Museum, Stanford University
San Jose Museum of Art
San Jose Children’s Discovery Museum
Oakland Museum of California
Oakland Art Museum for Kids
Di Rosa Preserve in Napa
Before You Go
- Visit the museum website and find out what’s available for eating, photos,
picnic, and areas to play and run around. The De Young has a children’s
- Think about who you’re taking and their attention span. Consider 30 minutes
for a first visit or two 15-minute visits with a break.
- Explain three important rules: NO running, NO loud voices, and NO touching;
then explain why. When they feel the urge to touch, tell them to put their hands in their pockets.
When You Get There
- Take cues from the child on what they gravitate toward. Go with the flow especially if they see something else that catches their eye.
- Possible themes: look for animals or bugs and let them count the ones they find. Look for children in the art. Ask them to notice the different clothes they wear, their hair, their jewelry, shoes, feet, faces. You could ask them “who would you invite to your birthday party?”
- If you’re looking at sculptures, walk all around the sculpture. Try mimicking the pose and take a picture of the child in the pose.
- Think about your grandchild’s favorite stories and what they relate to. Then look for those themes in the artwork.
- Ask the children what they think is happening and what they notice. Pick one painting and write or tell a story about it. You can also bring paper and pens and sketch one aspect of a painting or sculpture.
- Visit the gift shop first and find a postcard of one of the museum’s paintings. Then try to find that painting in the gallery.
- The Di Rosa Preserve in Napa has a wonderful eclectic modern collection and nothing is labeled, intentionally.
More Local Museums
The Computer History Museum in Mountain View is dedicated to the preservation and celebration of computing history. They are home to one of the largest international collections of computing artifacts in the world, encompassing computer hardware, ephemera, photographs, moving images, documents and software.
The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose engages people of all ages in exploring and experiencing technology in our lives with interactive exhibits, an IMAX Dome Theater and a hands-on tech lab in their educational center.
The Los Altos History Museum, located in one of the few remaining apricot orchards of Santa Clara Valley, has a wonderful train exhibit upstairs, a saddle to sit on with a cowboy hat to wear, and hard apricots to roll down a chute. There are temporary exhibits on the main floor, which last 2 to 3 months.
Next to the Los Altos History Museum is the J. Gilbert Smith House. Built in 1905, the home is nestled under majestic heritage oaks and has been meticulously refurbished to replicate a farmhouse of the 1930’s. They have one bedroom with a lot of old toys, which you can look at but not to play with. There are old radios, typewriters, kitchen tools and gadgets.
The Museum of American Heritage in Palo Alto resides within the historic English County Style home and former offices of Dr. Thomas Williams, a prominent Palo Alto physician. Past changing exhibits have featured vintage toys, cars and sewing machines.
Books About Art
Looking at Pictures: An Introduction to Art for Young People by Joy Richardson
People in Art by Helen Williams
A Child’s Book of Art by Lucy Micklethwait
Art Up Close from Ancient to Modern by Claire D’Harcourt