Tips for a Family Visit to the Art Museum

I had a request for information on how to plan a trip to an art museum with children. I can’t believe I haven’t blogged about this before, it is a great topic. (Thanks Laura.)

There are several things that you can do to prepare for a successful day at the museum.

  • I usually start by going to the museum’s website and looking for a button that will take me to their permanent collections. You can search on Google for the museum’s name, or I like to search on Wikipedia for the museum’s name.
  • My next advice is to scan through the museum’s collection to see if there are any paintings you have already studied or artists that you are familiar with.
  • You could pick an artist that has paintings at the museum to focus on and use resources you have or those from the library to share with your children before the trip. It always helps build enthusiasm if they are looking forward to seeing an artist they have learned about beforehand.
  • You can print out a few of the paintings (postcard size) that you will see and let the children carry them with them as they walk through the museum, using the cards for a sort of “scavenger hunt”. I would suggest three paintings per child would be a good number to start with. It makes it more interesting when they actually have some reason to be at the museum other than just wandering around and not knowing much about the painters.
  • Check the museum’s website for any lesson plans or activities they offer for children that relate to exhibits they have at the museum.
  • You could even print out a map of the museum from most websites and this could help you plan your visit. It always helps to know where the restroom is for those little emergencies.

Another aspect that you need to prepare you children for is the “manners” part of visiting an art museum. There are certainly no hard and fast rules but just common sense and common courtesy. Most people come to the museum to relax and enjoy the artwork so it is best to use your best “library” voices when you are talking in the galleries. In the past, my husband and I tried to hold the children’s hands as we walked along and this not only helped to keep them from running in the museum, it made it easier to point things out or discuss what we were looking at.

The Met

Plan to spend no more than 90 minutes actually looking at paintings. You will not be able to bring snacks into the galleries but most museums have some sort of cafe or outdoor eating area where you can take a break if you notice the children are getting weary. I usually plan to arrive as early as possible in the morning so my children are fresh. Make a trip to the restroom before heading to view the artwork. It is usually warm inside so leave the coats at the coat-check if the museum has one.

Met Egyptian Gallery

Another activity you can do while at the museum is to have a “theme” for the day. You could decide you are going to look for artwork that has hats in it or you could look for artwork that has circles or trees or horses or whatever you decide. This makes it fun for the children to really look at the paintings and then share with you what they see. If your children are older and have studied a little art history, you could challenge them to look for artwork from a certain art period.

Last but not least, plan for a few minutes in the museum gift shop. These little shops are like a treasure chest of art related books and resources. I always let the children pick out a postcard-size reproduction of some painiting we saw during our visit. We use these to follow-up our trip to the museum. A really fun idea is to take the postcard home and then have the child write some comments about the painting on the back of it to remember the experience with.

Here are some additional websites for you to scan for more ideas about visiting art museums:
Making the Most of the Museum Visit
Making a Museum Visit Fun for Toddlers, Teens, and In-Betweens

I really hope that you all attempt an art museum trip this year. Once you try it, you will look forward to your next visit. We visit the Crocker Art Museum every year and we never tire of looking at the paintings. We have our favorites and we always find something new and interesting to look at.

The Met NYC

Edit to add: You may be interested to read about our trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City: Harmony Art Mom’s Visit.

Child Size Masterpieces-How to Use


This post was updated on January 2, 2018.


Child-size Masterpieces are sets of over-sized art postcards that come in an over-sized book printed on thick cardstock. The art prints need to be cut (I do ours with a paper cutter) but you can easily remove them from the pages and use scissors and cut on the dotted line provided. The instructions for use are printed on the cover and I cut those out and put them along with the prints in an accordion type file. I own several sets so each set of prints is kept all together in a slot. On the backs of the cards are the title of the painting, the artist’s name, and a brief description of the art time period.

There are several activities suggested with these sets. The steps increase in difficulty and steps 1-3 are easily achievable by preschoolers. Steps 4-8 are appropriate for children from about age 6 and up. The cards for each step come in different sets so make sure you purchase a set that will accomplish what you want.

  • Step 1 – Matching identical paintings
  • Step 2 – Pairing two similar paintings by the same artist
  • Step 3 – Grouping four paintings by each of three artists
  • Step 4 – Learning the names of famous artists
  • Step 5 – Learning the names of famous paintings
  • Step 6 – Learning about the schools of art
  • Step 7 – Sorting schools of art
  • Step 8 – Placing paintings on a time line

What Do I Like About Child-Size Masterpieces?
1. Ease of use
2. Variety of prints
3. Inexpensive
4. Able to use them in lots of different ways
5. Aid to learning names of the paintings
6. Durability
7. Able to use them year after year
8. Appropriate for a wide variety of ages
9. Comes with ideas for using them
10. Can adapt the concepts with your own sets of art prints

Do you need the “How to Use” book?
Not in my opinion.

Which set to buy:
I would start with Level 1 if I have younger children, but you can use any of the sets that say on the cover that they are for steps 1,2, 3. They are labeled Easy, Intermediate, and Advanced but they all have the same amount of cards and the same activities.



Child Size Masterpieces 4

These sets come with the painting’s name on separate cards for a matching activity.

Child Size Masterpieces

If you think your children are ready for a bit of a challenge, purchase either one of the sets that say step 4 or step 5 on the covers.

Child-size Masterpieces are a resource you will use over and over again. We pull the cards out from time to time for a little review. I like that the sets can “grow” with your child.

  • The first time through you can learn the names of the paintings.
  • The second time through you can learn the artist’s names.
  • The third time through you can learn the school of art (renaissance, impressionist, etc)
  • A fourth time through you can learn to put the paintings in order according to a timeline.

child Size Masterpieces 5

You can make up your own way of sorting the paintings. I use the cards to point out art terms such as shape, line, texture, portrait, landscape, complementary colors, neutrals, and so on. These cards are such a great resource for parents that are just getting started in learning about art with their children. I highly recommend them.

Storing Child Size Masterpieces

Storing Cards

We use an accordion file to store our sets of Child Size Masterpieces. After cutting them out, I just put each set in one of the pockets. This makes keeping them sorted much easier!
HFA Grade 1 Cover Image

You may be interested in knowing that I use the Child Size Masterpieces in my Harmony Fine Arts grade 1 plans. These plans give you a plan for viewing them with your children over the course of a school year. If you want to have a pre-made plan, click over and see the sample for Harmony Fine Arts grade 1.

As an extra incentive, here is a discount code to get you started. Use the code below and receive $5 off your purchase of any Harmony Fine Arts plans, grades 1-8.

Discount Code: archive5

Harmony Fine Arts Purchase Now button

Taking Care to Make Good Habits-Charlotte Mason Education

Dad's Orchids
Just like a beautiful orchid, habits take time and patience to cultivate. If you are diligent, you will see them blossom.

Our family tries to make good habits when it comes to things like being grateful to our Creator, seeing the beauty in all that is around us, and enjoying the arts. All these habits come with the slow, gradual passing of time. The fruits of these good habits may not be seen for many years but they are certainly worth working on.

Habits and ideas are talked about in Charlotte Mason’s series of books. In my continuing effort to read through her series, I read chapter 9 in Volume 3 School Education. This chapter is titled “A Review of A Great Educationalist”. (Don’t let the title fool you, this chapter has some gems in it if you just read straight through.)

On page 99 there is a section that really caught my eye. Here she says:

Character doesn’t just come from exposing children to great ideas. It’s also the result of habits that we strive to instill based on those ideas. We recognize both principles–idea and habit. The result is that we have a wide range of possibilities in education, practical methods, and definite aim. Our goal is to produce a human being who is the best he can be physically, intellectually, ethically and spiritually; a person who will have the enthusiasm of religion, full life, nature, knowledge, art and physical work.

Ideas start in the brain and then we make habits to go along with those ideas. When we homeschool our children we have the opportunity to start so many good habits and fix bad habits, not by rewards but by putting good ideas into our children’s heads. She also says on that same page:

The culture of habit is a physical endeavor, to a certain degree. The discipline of habit makes up a third of education.

Good habits in our children start with good habits on our part. It takes time and patience to develop good habits like doing chores without being asked, being polite, being generous, paying attention, not wasting time, and being truthful. Habit training should bring joy to your family. There are far less times of friction as each family member strives to apply good habits, one habit at a time if necessary.


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