Countless studies show that early and frequent exposure to the arts and culture are imperative for a child’s development. At the same time, children and parents alike get stuck on how to “correctly” interpret and learn about works of creativity, potentially turning a leisurely trip to a museum or gallery into into an exercise in apprehension and inadequacy.
But finding an entry point to the art world has little to do with knowing the difference between Impressionism and Expressionism, and more to do with marshaling our intuition and simply looking at what’s in front of us. “Sometimes people think that you have to know facts about the art to have a good time in an art museum,” says Julie Bernson, The Trustees’ Associate Director of Education. “All you really need is your own imagination, experience, and interests to make connections and create conversation.” Much the same is true in learning about and appreciating our collective histories and culture. Letting your child’s curiosity lead your conversations forges a shared spirit of discovery, and helps build a lifelong love of learning. With a wide range of family-friendly attractions and activities in the worlds of art, history, and culture, Trustees strives to engage families across its properties and foster new generations of cultural stewards.
ALFRESCO ART APPRECIATION
Situated on 30 acres in Lincoln, deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum inspires, educates, and delights with contemporary art from New England and beyond through sculptures and changing museum exhibitions. Both inside and outside, The Trustees’ newest reservation—the largest park of its kind in New England—is a magical, welcoming destination for children to learn and engage with art. The best place for budding art aficionados to begin is deCordova’s outdoor Sculpture Park: the museum provides Family Activity Kits, or bring along your own drawing materials, and explore. Along the way, parents can pepper their children with simple, imagination-sparking questions. What does this sculpture make you think of? What material do you think it’s made from? How do you think the artist made it? Why do you think they placed the sculpture here? For unique hands-on experiences inside the museum, visit The Lab and Process Gallery, where interactive stations boost understanding and engagement for children and adults alike. deCordova’s expert educators also offer art-making programs for all ages—from toddlers on up—throughout the year. Upon returning home, clear off the kitchen table, pull out the markers and construction paper, and encourage your children to make their own masterpieces. “Making something while you are there or when you get home is the best way to really understand how an artist gets ideas and uses materials to express them,” Bernson says.
FROM INDIGENOUS CULTURES TO LITTLE WOMEN
Fruitlands Museum, founded in 1914 by Clara Endicott Sears, comprises a wealth of galleries and historic buildings—and serves as a natural attraction for young minds on a culture-focused journey. Tour the Fruitlands Farmhouse with your children and experience the inspiration for Little Women—authored by Louisa May Alcott, who lived in the farmhouse as a young girl—before discussing the book and its themes with your little women (or little men). Visiting the Native American Museum, which houses a significant collection of artifacts honoring indigenous New England cultures, can instill respect and appreciation for native peoples from an early age. Ongoing exhibits like One Thousand Generations and Objects and Meaning: Multiple Perspective on Native American Art and Culture enlighten visitors and open up themes of indigenous history in our area for discussion. Meanwhile, the Art Museum, which features more than 100 Hudson River School landscape paintings, provides a history-focused contrast to nearby deCordova. While exploring the property, ask your children about the styles and mediums on display.
And the museum often adds kid-focused elements to exhibits, including dress up, craftmaking, and photography stations to prompt engaging interactions and hands-on fun.
HISTORY IN THE MAKING
From the Crane Estate to Naumkeag and destinations in between, Trustees offers tours and adventures for every taste and persuasion—including a look at how the architects, artisans, and craftspeople behind its historic properties used a remarkably diverse assortment of ephemeral inspirations to create lasting legacies. Simply walking through historic houses and learning about those who built and inhabited them inspires imagination and curiosity, while playing a game of “Eye Spy” helps keep children engaged with the artifacts and architectural details. Helping children cultivate a fondness for arts and culture is remarkably simple. Follow your child’s interests. Encourage them to express their own creativity. Explore widely and nurture their curiosity. Ask questions and listen to their answers. One day, before you know it, they’ll be ones to start the conversation.