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Art Education

Museum Moments at Home

Look, talk, imagine, learn, and wonder—together! During a child’s earliest years, their brain makes one million neural connections every single second. Inspired by Vroom, these Museum Moments activities provide you with the tools you need to be a brain builder—while encouraging a love of art. We’ve modified the in-gallery activities for you and your little ones, ages 5 and under, to use at home.

  • Look at the artworks below with your child. Click on each image to view a larger version.
  • Use the prompts to talk about what you see. The Brainy Background explains how the activity is helping your child grow.
  • Have fun!
Image: Robert S. Duncanson, Minneopa Falls, 1862. Oil on canvas. Purchase, Andrew A. Ziegler Fund, M2007.37. Photo by John R. Glembin.

How’s the Weather? (Ages 1–2)

Activity: 

Talk about the weather in the painting. If you could step inside it, would it feel hot, cold, wet, windy? What’s the weather like around you today?

Brainy Background:

Asking your child these kinds of questions encourages your child to hold a picture of something in their mind. This is an important skill for imagination, creativity, and focus.

Image: Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione, Noah and the Animals Entering the Ark, ca. 1650. Oil on canvas. Centennial Gift of Friends of Art, Myron and Elizabeth P. Laskin Fund, Fine Arts Society, Friends of Art Board of Directors, Francis and Rose Mary Matusinec, Burton and Charlotte Zucker, and the Milwaukee community, M1988.182. Photo by John R. Glembin.

No Words (Ages 2–3)

Activity: 

Ask your child to look for the animals in the painting. Are they sitting or standing? Look at their faces. If the animals could talk, what would they say? What sounds would they make to get your attention?

Brainy Background:

You can help your child learn to communicate with words and in other ways by noticing how animals communicate when they have no words. Use what your child notices to ask questions and help your child think like a scientist, applying what they observe to their own life.

Image: Kehinde Wiley, St. Dionysus, 2006. Oil on canvas with carved and painted frame. Gift of the African American Art Alliance in honor of their 15th Anniversary, with additional support from Valerie A. Childrey, MD, and Sande Robinson, M2006.16. Photo by John R. Glembin.

Acting Out (Ages 2–3)

Activity: 

Strike the same pose as the figure in the painting. Ask your child to copy you.

Brainy Background:

When you and your child copy each other, your child is learning to focus and make connections between what they see and what their body is doing. Being able to follow movements and focus are important skills for learning new things.

Image: Ruth Grotenrath, Untitled, 1963. Casein on Masonite. Gift of Schomer Lichtner Trust and Kohler Foundation, Inc., M2008.193. Photo by John R. Glembin.

What’s Your Size? (Ages 2–3)

Activity: 

Take turns pointing to different shapes in the painting. Which shape is the biggest? Which one is the smallest?

Brainy Background:

Playing this game helps your child focus on details. They’re learning about size and practicing to notice differences between objects that are similar, a skill needed in school and life.

Image: Michael Lenk,The Fifth Day of Creation, ca. 1965. Acrylic on canvas. Gift of Friends of Art, M1999.27. Photo by Larry Sanders.

Animal Game (Ages 2–3)

Activity: 

Choose an animal in the painting, and say, “I’m thinking of an animal.” Provide clues to help your child guess what animal you’re thinking of. Keep giving clues until your child finds the animal. 

Brainy Background:

Playing this game helps develop your child’s working memory, including their ability to recall names and details. It also turns waiting time into a fun learning activity.

Image: Alexei Jawlensky, The Gardener, 1912. Oil on cardboard. Gift of Mrs. Harry Lynde Bradley, M1961.75. Photo by John Nienhuis, Dedra Walls.

Faces and Feelings (Ages 4–5)

Activity: 

Look carefully at the person’s face. Try copying their facial expression. What do you think this person is feeling? Take turns making faces and copying different expressions.

Brainy Background:

When you talk about your own and others’ feelings, you’re helping your child learn to take a new perspective, which is helpful in getting along with others.

Image: Severin Roesen, Still Life, ca. 1852. Oil on canvas. Gift of Anita Vogel Hinrichs in memory of Ferdinand Hinrichs, M1988.133. Photo by Dedra Walls.

Seeing with Your Ears (Ages 4–5)

Activity: 

Invite your child to close their eyes and listen to you describe an object in a painting. To describe the melon slice in this work, you can say: “It’s a piece of fruit that’s pink inside with seeds. What am I seeing?” Give them a turn—close your eyes and let them describe something they see.

Brainy Background:

Your child is using focus by closing their eyes and listening to your description. In order to come up with an educated guess, they must use what they already know about objects and connect words to those ideas. Encouraging them to ask questions builds their critical-thinking skills.

Image: Georgia O’Keeffe, Lake George Autumn, 1927. Oil on canvas. Gift of Jane Bradley Pettit Foundation and the Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation, M1998.83. Photo by John R. Glembin. © Milwaukee Art Museum

Where in the World? (Ages 4–5)

Activity: 

Pretend you are standing inside the painting. Ask your child questions about where you are, and what you might see and hear. “Are we in a forest? The mountains? A city?” “What kinds of animals might we see?” “Do you think it is loud or quiet here?”

Brainy Background:

Pretending is important to learning—it helps your child imagine, be creative, and take the perspective of others. And it’s fun!

Museum Moments are sponsored by Four-Four Foundation and an anonymous donor.

Dianne Choie is the Youth & Family Programs Coordinator. She is responsible for the Museum’s ArtPack Station, runs the monthly Play Date with Art program for children to age 5, and teaches school tour workshops, Youth Studio Classes, and Summer Art Camps.

1 reply on “Museum Moments at Home”

I enjoyed every painting and all of the brain games too. I hope there will be more.

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