4 easy ways to enjoy the Art Institute of Chicago with kids

The Art Institute of Chicago is an amazing institution full of masterpieces and treasures, making it no surprise that it was named the best museum in the world by TripAdvisor in 2014.

Here are some ways to take full advantage of this great local gem with kids.

Visit the Artist’s Studio

Designed for families with children, these free drop-in programs take place in the Family Room of the Ryan Learning Center and offer families a chance to craft their own works of art together. No registration is required. You can find the schedule here.

Take a tour

To help you navigate the Art Institute, you can download a self-guide for a tour. Family-friendly tours include “When I Grow Up,” which takes visitors to five different galleries to see different artists’ portrayals of various jobs, and “Play Ball,” which features different games and sports in art. There is also “Marvelous Monsters and Beautiful Beasts” as well as “Families in African Art,” “Every Picture Tells a Story,” and “Gods and Heroes.”

The guides include questions to ask kids about what they think is going on in the pieces, and  gallery games to encourage kids to interact with the art and help them catch some of the more interesting–and possibly harder to spot–aspects of the works. You can find the six different downloadable self-guides here.

Take a class

The Art Institute offers some wonderful classes that give kids a chance to explore the exhibits, as well as explore their own creativity. Mini Masters classes are designed for kids 3-5, accompanied by an adult. (Some of my favorite memories of my daughter when she was in preschool are the direct result of Mini Masters classes!) Family Workshops are offered for families with kids 6-12. Classes are just as engaging for parents as they are for little ones.

Classes are held on weekends and cost $5 per member, $8 per non-member. Registration is required. You can find a schedule and register here.

Match the art to your child’s interests

If your child is a budding horticulturalist, don’t miss Georgia O’Keefe’s Yellow Hickory Leaves with Daisy. You can find this bright yellow painting in the American Art section in Gallery 265.

If your child loves dolls, travel or history, the Thorne Miniature Rooms are a must see. Each room is set in a different historic period, to a scale of one inch = one foot, and every detail is perfect. If these are of interest, be sure to check out the The Sixty-Eight Rooms Adventures, a series of books for middle grade readers by Marianne Malone set in the Thorne Rooms.

Good to know: The Art Institute of Chicago is open daily from 10:30 a.m.- 5p.m., and it stays open late on Thursdays until 8 p.m. General admission is always free for kids under 14. If you miss the period for free admission, consider checking out a Kids Museum Passport from your neighborhood branch of the Chicago Public Library. The museum is a must-see gem for parents and kids alike.

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