Art for all

If you want to introduce your child to art, but think a place like the Art Institute of Chicago is off limits to young kids, think again. The Art Institute staff encourages parents to begin visiting when children are very young and they’ve designed a variety of ways to make your visit appropriate to even the youngest of budding Picassos.

Susan Kuliak, assistant director of family programs, has some suggestions for making the most of your visit:

• Visit the museum’s Web site at before your visit to find guides packed with games, suggestions on works of art to visit and tips for families. Two family guides,"Faces, Places and Inner Spaces” and"Looking at Art Together: A Parent Guide to the Art Institute,” are available for purchase online or at the museum’s gift shop.

• Prepare an activity bag with a notebook for sketching, pencils, touchable items, a favorite toy and postcards from the gift shop that you can talk about prior to visiting the actual artwork.

• Pace yourself."What makes it work is breaking it up,” Kuliak says."Go to the museum, have some lunch, then visit the Kraft Education Center.” Stay only as long as your child is interested—for young kids this may mean only 30-60 minutes in the galleries.

• Visit the Kraft Education Center for stickers and guides with games. These free guides are geared towards different ages, from preschoolers to teens.

• Check out the museum’s Web site for family Festival Days or drop-in workshops, where kids can experience art and create their own art through hands-on activities. All family programs at the museum are free, although some require registration.

• Take the family audio tour. For $6 ($5 members), you can rent headphones and when you visit the galleries look for the icon of a headphone with Arty’s paw (the Art Institute mascot). The audio tour for kids includes information on art in many different voices and with sound effects and music to keep kids listening.

Kids who come to the museum when they’re very young are more likely to come back as adults, Kuliak says."It’s an appreciation for looking at the visual world beyond what they see here. It goes beyond the museum’s walls.”

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