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Best Chicago art museums for kids

Kids are natural artists, and one way to celebrate their creativity and spark some new avenues for exploration is to visit a local art museum. Chicago is lucky enough to have four great places to see art, ranging from the well-known Art Institute to the perfect-for-younger-kids Elmhurst Art Museum.

All four offer opportunities for kids to join interactive art-making programs and to learn more about famous works of art. Here’s a breakdown of what you’ll find at each.

All four of these museums get kids involved with art through interactive programs.

Parents will love: The
museum’s small enough for preschoolers, but still big enough to
keep elementary school kids entertained. Always free, so it’s a
great way to see colorful artwork and educate kids on another
culture.

Kids will love: All the
skeletons and skulls in the Day of the Dead artwork. Nothing scary
here-the celebration of the dead is done with
ofrendas, altars honoring those who’ve died,
filled with items special to their loved ones. Grab a family guide
for the exhibition at the front desk.

Don’t miss: The gift shop,
with its sculptures and masks, which is almost as fun as the museum
itself.

While you’re there: Visit
one of the nearby Mexican restaurants where you’ll find great food
at low prices. There are also several Mexican candy stores and
colorful murals within walking distance of the museum.

National Museum of Mexican Art


Parents will love: The
stroller tours offered the first Wednesday of every month. It’s a
great chance for parents to learn about art without having to try
to corral energetic toddlers. Also worth noting-kids 12 and under
are always free.

Kids will love: Free family
days the second Saturday of every month where they can learn about
contemporary art through hands-on art activities, scavenger hunts
and look and learn stations. Even better, kids 12 and under eat
free at Puck’s on Family Day with the purchase of one adult
entrée.

Don’t miss: There are lots
of bright colors, large pieces of art and rotating exhibits. Yes,
there are areas where you might be covering up little ones’ eyes if
you don’t want them to look at colorful paintings of private body
parts, or you might decide to let the paintings just spark some
interesting discussions with your family.

While you’re there: Visit
the nearby American Girl or LEGO stores. Plus, there are plenty of
fun restaurants within walking distance.

Museum of Contemporary Art


Parents will love: How easy and inexpensive it
is to visit this museum-no fussing with downtown Chicago parking!
Admission is only $5 adults, $3 kids, and free for kids 4 and
under. Fridays are free for all visitors.

Kids will love:Making their
own art at free drop-in programs on Saturdays from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
On other days, grab an activity guide when you visit the museum to
help guide kids through the exhibits with games, questions and
scavenger hunts. Kids get a free prize for completing the
activities.

Don’t miss: The current
exhibition “No Rules: Contemporary Clay,” which uses clay in unique
ways. Check out the life-size tree with a tree house made from
porcelain or artist Teri Frame’s video performance where she
creates different faces on herself from clay. Kids and adults will
love this exhibit that goes beyond playdough.

While you’re there: This is
a small museum easily combined with a visit to the nearby Elmhurst
Historical Museum and the Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art, where
kids can learn about rocks and gemstones.

Elmhurst Art Museum


Parents will love:The chance
to expose kids to fine art. The Art Institute has been in our city
for more than 130 years, and it’s considered one of the country’s
finest. With 27 exhibitions ranging from architecture to armor,
from India to France, and from Impressionism to cutting-edge
Modern, there’s sure to be something to catch your child’s
interest.

Kids will love: The free
Ryan Education Center offers drop-in studios for kids to test their
creativity, often tied into one of the exhibitions on display. The
Family Room is a chance for parents and kids to think about what
they’ve learned and put it into practice. And the Told and Retold
rotating exhibit takes favorite picture books and invites kids to
try their hand at drawing with directives like “Draw your pet” or
“What’s your favorite toy?”

Don’t miss: Tucked in the
basement are the Thorne Rooms, 68 miniature dioramas that show how
interiors in America and Europe have changed over the past 600
years or so. It might not sound all that interesting, but boys and
girls alike are intrigued by the perfectly sized-for-them details,
including a step that allows them to peer in a bit more
easily.

While you’re there: The Art
Institute is right in the middle of the city, so there’s lots to
see and do without pushing little feet to the max. Head across
Monroe Street to Millennium Park, where kids can check out their
reflection in the Bean, or just get their wiggles out. And don’t
leave without a stop by the museum’s famous lions.

Art Institute of Chicago


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