Posted on October 10, 2014 by Sheena Solitaire, Museum Educator, Family & Public Programs
Free Family Day: Bonjour Les Artistes is on Sunday, October 26th from 1:00-4:00 pm, and while on maternity leave this summer, I had the rare opportunity to attend a family day at the McNay as a parent as opposed to museum educator. My son, age 3, helped frame the day in a new light and I wanted to share a few insights.
1. Plan ahead. Give kids some background about the art and the museum. Check out the McNay’s website to see images or look for related books at the local library. If you take the free shuttles from Igo, Cody, or Parman library, you can even check out a related book for the ride!
2. Pack a snack. Although food and drink are not allowed in the galleries, there are plenty of beautiful places on the grounds to enjoy refreshments (Please leave food and drinks in one of the lockers by the lobby while you are in the museum).
3. Strollers are welcome. We even have elevators that go down to the classrooms in case a younger sibling is enjoying a ride (ie: hopefully napping).
4. Don’t rush it. There are tons of activities—art making, performances, music, tours, etc. If your kids are really interested in one activity, it’s okay to spend more time there, even if it means missing the next activity. Last family day, my son and I spent more time at the fish pond than any of the activities, and it was great.
5. Talk it out. Ask simple, open-ended questions such as: Which work of art do you like best in this area? Or, which piece tells you a story? I was amazed at how my son saw elephants in every work of art! Why? Because they were the best animal ever (lions are now the new elephants). We all bring our own unique viewpoints and that should be celebrated. Also, remember that while indoor voices are encouraged, whispers are not necessary. Be mindful of others, but don’t let that get in the way of meaningful conversations.
6. Stuff happens. Sometimes lines are long and we run out of (insert favorite color here) paper. Model for your kids positive responses for frustrating situations and (hopefully) they will follow your lead. And if you arrive early, the likelihood of having all of the choices at your disposal is much greater.
7. Tell your friends. Bringing friends to the museum or meeting up with another family is part of the fun!
8. Let your kids lead. Many school-aged kids visit the McNay on field trips. If someone in your family has been here recently, have them give you a “tour.” It will reinforce what they experienced on their field trip and give them a chance to share something special with you.
9. See some art. Make sure to visit the feature exhibition, as all of our art projects and performances are planned in connection.
10. Enjoy the “free”dom. Keep in mind that Free Family Days are totally free and a “low-risk” way to introduce kids to a local museum. There is nothing to lose, even if you just stay for 15 minutes.