One of the wonderful things about raising children in a city like New York is the opportunity to expose them to world-class art from a very young age. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of the best places to do just that. Within its galleries, young eyes can gaze upon golden earrings worn thousands of years ago, swords and shields carried by knights of old, room settings in which our nation’s founders might have stood, and towering panels of bold color and swirling patterns. In every corner of the building, the Met inspires imaginations to soar.
But where to begin? The prospect can be daunting even for the most seasoned museum goer, let alone a family with young children. Fortunately, the Met offers a variety of programs ranging from story time, to walking tours, to art projects that will help you navigate and appreciate the museum’s vast collection.
“We want kids and adults to revel in the wonder of art,” says Jacqueline Terrassa, managing museum educator for Gallery and Studio Programs. “Our programs are designed to help children hone their abilities to notice, to imagine, and to create. If we spark in them a curiosity and a desire to explore more, then we’ve achieved our goal.”
According to Terrassa, the things children see and make in the Met can often open up new ways of viewing the world outside the museum walls. This has certainly been the experience of Upper West Side mom Sarah Cusick, who has been bringing her two children (daughter Clarissa, 7, and son Luca, 5) to Met family programs since they were toddlers.
“We’ll be walking in the city and Clarissa might point out a shape or an architectural style she learned about at the Met,” Cusick says. “And a while back, there was an ad campaign with an image of the Mona Lisa that started Luca talking about Leonardo Da Vinci.”
Here are some detailed descriptions of the family programs offered at the Met. All are free with museum admission, which is currently a $25 suggested donation for adults, $17 for seniors, and free for children 12 and under. Arriving 10 to 15 minutes before programs begin is advisable so you and your children have time to settle in.
Start with Art at the Met: Geared towards kids ages 3 to 7, the appropriately named Start with Art at the Met introduces children to beginning concepts of art appreciation like color, movement, and technique. Children walk through the museum and sit to hear stories or draw. Past sessions have visited the galleries of European Paintings, Greek and Roman Art, and Arms and Armor, to name just a few. Pencils, colored pencils, and paper are provided for sketching.
Start with Art Plus incorporates a more detailed art project such as collage, mask-making, or clay.
Start with Art: Thursday 3:30–4:30 pm; Saturday 11 am–noon, and 2:30–3:30 pm. No program on Nov. 22; no afternoon program on Nov. 10. Start with Art Plus: Sunday, Nov. 25, 2:30–3:30 pm.
Art Trek: Similar in nature to Start with Art but aimed at kids ages 5 to 12, Art Trek makes more stops on a typical tour and delves deeper into the history and background of each work of art. Children might be asked to compare and contrast two pieces they’ve seen or to relate the works back to subjects they might be learning about in school. Pencils, colored pencils, and paper are provided for sketching. Art Trek Plus might include a performance or other surprise along the way.
Art Trek: Saturday 11 am–noon and 2:30–3:30 pm. No afternoon program on Nov. 10. Art Trek Plus: Sunday, Nov. 25, 2:30–3:30 pm.
Story time in Nolen Library: Parents often use Story time in Nolen Library as a jumping-off point to explore galleries in the museum. Afternoon sessions are recommended for kids 3 to 7; morning sessions for those 3 and younger. “Strolling Guides” handed out at the afternoon sessions encourage families to search for subjects and imagery that have been touched upon in the books they’ve listened to. These guides are available upon request following the Toddler Story time, which focuses on books that young children love to hear, not necessarily ones that relate directly to art.
Story time in Nolen Library: Tuesday to Friday 3–3:30 pm. Toddler Story time in Nolen Library: Tuesday to Friday 10:30–11 am. No programs on Nov. 6.
How Did They Do That? Inquisitive visitors of all ages can examine the tools and techniques used to create particular works of art in How Did They Do That? Held one weekend each month on both Saturday and Sunday, the 30-minute workshops allow participants a closer look at pieces in the collection, as well as the chance to learn about the materials involved in their construction. Past topics have included Japanese screens and Islamic book arts. November’s theme is “Crossbows of the World” and will take place in the Arms and Armor galleries.
How Did They Do That?: Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 10 and 11, 1–4 pm with information sessions repeating every 30 minutes.
Sunday Studio: Another activity suited to all ages is Sunday Studio, where children are able to create their own works of art alongside originals in the permanent collection. Instructors are on hand throughout each two-hour session, so stop in anytime and stay as long or as little as you’d like. Japanese ceramics and American landscape panoramas are among the subjects featured in the past. This month, kids can try their hand making Egyptian hieroglyphs on papyrus in the Egyptian Art galleries. All art supplies are provided.
Sunday Studio: Sunday, Nov. 4 and 18, 1–3 pm.
Drop-In Drawing: An evening program open to both children and adults is Drop-In Drawing, held on one or more Fridays each month. Locations vary: one session might gather in the Roman Sculpture Court, another in the galleries of Modern and Contemporary Art, and yet another in the Astor Court — a recreation of a Ming-Dynasty style Chinese garden courtyard. November’s session will meet in the Carroll and Milton Petrie European Sculpture Court. Art instructors provide guidance every 30 minutes throughout the two-hour program. Paper and pencils are provided, but attendees are welcome to bring their own sketchbooks or pads.
Drop-In Drawing: Friday, Nov. 9, 6:30–8:30 pm.
Picture This! Developed for children 5 and older who are blind or visually impaired, Picture This! programs incorporate tactile opportunities and highly detailed verbal descriptions of pieces in the collection. Themes change throughout the year; in next month’s Museum Safari, kids will interact with works of art that depict animals. Like the other family programs at the Met, Picture This! is free with museum admission, but advance registration is required. To make a reservation, call (212) 650–2010 or e-mail email@example.com.
Picture This! Saturday, Dec. 1, 2–3:30 pm.
Discoveries: Parents with children on the autism spectrum will want to plan ahead for one of the museum’s Discoveries programs, which are designed for children 6 to 17 with learning or developmental disabilities. Advance registration allows instructors to keep group sizes smaller. The programs are multi-sensory, so handling materials, sketching, or movement are often incorporated into the tours. November and December’s theme is Power and Protection: A Look at Armor. To make a reservation, call (212) 650–2010 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Discoveries: Sunday, Nov. 18, 2–3:30 pm and Sunday, Dec. 2, 11–12:30 pm.
Self-guided tours: If you visit the Met on a day that no family programs are scheduled — or if you simply prefer to explore on your own — be sure to pick up a Family Map or Family Guide when you enter the museum. The Family Map features a fold-out poster with all areas of the museum replicated in miniature. Around the sides is a look-and-find challenge: spot a unicorn for three points, Medusa’s head for two points, and a Founding Father in a rowboat for four points. Each Family Guide focuses on a theme, such as Greek Mythology or the lives of children in Colonial America. For an additional fee, you can also rent Family Audio Guides that point out favorite kid stops throughout the museum like the Temple of Dendur and the Arms and Armor galleries.
Family Map and Family Guide: Available year-round at the information desk inside the museum’s main entrance. Family Audio Guides: Available at all admission desks and various gift shops; $7 adults, free for kids 12 and younger, and free for visitors who are blind, partially sighted, or hard of hearing.
Holiday Mondays: While the Met is generally closed on Mondays during the year, it opens its doors on special occasions for Charles H. Tally Holiday Mondays to coincide with school calendars. Four one-hour sessions are offered during the course of the day, each with a different theme, so children 5 to 12 may choose to attend one or more as they wish. Gallery tours, stories, and sketching beside original works of art are all part of the fun.
Holiday Mondays: Veterans’ Day, Nov. 12, 11 am–noon; noon–1 pm; 1:15–2:15 pm; and 2:30–3:30 pm.
The Cloisters: Whether or not your children are in their princesses and knights phase, everyone in the family will enjoy a visit to The Cloisters Museum and Gardens, the Met’s northern-Manhattan branch dedicated to medieval art. During the one-hour family programs offered on weekend afternoons, kids ages 4 to 12 may be asked to spot mythical beasts in tapestries, noble knights in paintings and sculptures, or ornate decoration on clothing worn centuries ago.
November’s schedule: Tapestry Tales, Saturday Nov. 3, 1–2 pm; The Medieval Knight, Sunday Nov. 4, 1–2 pm; A Medieval Pilgrimage, Saturday Nov. 17, 1–2 pm; and Medieval Clothing and Fashion–Ropa y Ornamentos Medievales (a bilingual program), Saturday Nov. 24, 1–2 pm.
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Metropolitan Museum of Art [1000 Fifth Ave. at 82nd Street on the Upper East Side, (212) 535–7710, metmuseum.org].
The Cloisters Museum [99 Margaret Corbin Dr. near Fort Tryon Place in Inwood, (212) 923–3700, metmuseum.org].
Marie Hueston is the author of “The All-American Jump and Jive Jig” (Sterling, 2010), and the forthcoming “Christmas Eve with Mrs. Claus” (Sterling, 2013). She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, son, and daughter.
©2012 Community News Group
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