Hello! I’m Emily and I’m delighted to have been invited to join the LoveLuxe blog to talk about fun activities and celebrations for children. Today I am here to talk about taking children to an art gallery, some ideas of what to do when you are there, and creating artwork inspired by your visit with them afterwards.
I have enjoyed taking my children to art galleries since they were tiny but I realised after talking to my sister recently that not everyone thinks of taking young children to see an art exhibition, perhaps because they think they won’t understand it or perhaps because they themselves might feel intimidated by going to an art gallery. So, I wanted to share some of my experiences and ideas with you here to show how fun and exciting it can be for all the family. And the fun you can have together afterwards too if you create something together inspired by what you’ve all seen.
Last weekend we took our three children and their two cousins to one of my very favourite galleries, the Tate Modern. I love how a visit to an art gallery isn’t just about the art work but it’s also about the whole experience of the building, the gallery spaces and even the cafe and the bookshop. Children enjoy all of it! The space and scale of the Tate Modern is incredible even as an adult, just imagine being 18 months old in that space. So exciting!
Whenever I take the children to a gallery I try my best not to have any great plan or expectations. Little children are unpredictable. Sometimes a visit will last 10 minutes, sometimes two hours but whatever happens they always see something that we can talk about afterwards and that they remember. I also quickly learnt that I don’t take them to see an exhibition I’ve been really looking forward to seeing. This isn’t about me having some lovely, quiet time in an exhibition, with all the time I need to take it all in and think about it. This is about sharing art and the experience with my children. I’m very much led by them in a gallery space. What images are grabbing their attention? What is inspiring them? Art galleries are perfect places to explore colour, texture, scale, shapes and sounds. We find something we are interested in and have a conversation about it. What do they think it is? How does it make them feel? How does it make me feel? What colours can we see? What does it remind us of? We had lots of fun in the Poetry and Dream section of the Tate Modern talking about our dreams and about the artists’ dreams. Had we ever had a dream like the one in the painting?
Looking at art with children is so refreshing. There is no right answer. There’s no academic flounce. There’s nothing we are expecting them to see or get. It is so liberating to look at art in this way, especially if you have ever studied art. And when you are with children you don’t even have to stand there looking at a painting in a wise and thoughtful way, when you’re really thinking “what on earth is that?” or “I hate that but I better pretend it’s great because look at all these other people nodding and looking wise in appreciation.” I am sure you know what I mean! It’s great to encourage the conversations, to help children to look at the art, to point out things you think they might have missed or be particularly interested in but give them the freedom to explore it for themselves.
The exhibition that particularly captured our children’s imaginations on this visit was an exhibition by William Kentridge called “I am not me, this horse is not mine.” It wasn’t an obvious or easy exhibition to take the children into. It was dark and ominous but they really enjoyed the large space and the large projections, and were inspired by his use of 1920s, stop motion style animation. And it was this exhibition that led to our post-gallery trip activity this weekend.
Most mornings over breakfast we all draw together. The children love this time around the table and as the children and adults wake up we can join in, eat our breakfast and draw, while all staying together around the table, even little one year old Max joins in. So, this weekend we talked about our gallery trip over breakfast and reminded the children about the exhibition and the animations. It was amazing what they had remembered from our visit and how excited it made them to talk about it all again.
We decided to make some little stop motion animations of our own. First the children remembered some of the interesting and funny things they had seen including a clock with legs, people as machines and a man with a big bowler hat and then they drew their own pictures. For a while I’ve wanted to try using my mobile phone camera to do a tiny animation with the kids, so we talked a little about what an animation is (they didn’t get it!) and then showed them how to cut out some shapes so that you could move them around. Three shapes, a body and two legs, was all it took.
While they coloured in the shapes I searched on the Apple Store for “stop motion animation” and installed Stop Motion Studio. It’s a great little app, and for £0.69 is quite a bargain. All it does is allow you to take a series of photographs and then it combines them into a short video.
Once the shapes were all coloured in I showed the kids how to move them around on their pictures, and I took a handful of photos as they did it. My little boy was really interested in the camera and got involved with pressing the buttons (you’ll see a couple of blurry frames in the videos as a result!)
Little kids don’t have much patience, so we only did seven or eight photos, and then we looked at the results. My daughter’s eyes went wide when she saw the animation on the phone. It looped around and around and both of them loved seeing each other’s drawings come to life.
I kept it really short – this was intended as a taster, and now that we’ve done it once I’m hoping they will have a little more patience for the next time I suggest making something.
Here are the two tiny videos we made. On a laptop they loop around and around (I’m not sure if that’s possible on Vimeo).
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little exploration into galleries, art and creativity with children. I’d love to hear your experiences of taking children to art galleries.
For the next few weeks we are going to be very busy making and creating in the lead-up to Christmas, which will no doubt leave me constantly covered in glitter! I hope to be back soon to share some festive ideas with you.