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Local Treks

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Sunday Mornings: Philadelphia Art Museum

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"As we go upstairs, we're going to look for the color red.  Who can already find something that is the color red?"

A few toddlers in our group point to things on the Family Activities Cart next to us; several more point to museum teacher Liza's red sweater.  No matter what, she's got their attention, even before we arrive in the European art gallery on the second floor.  There, carpet-squares are set out before a 15th century Flemish tapestry fragment showing "an allegory of Hope".  We're about to hear Liza read Caps for Sale and then do an art project. The toddlers find their squares, and the parents (and all of our gear) carefully line the periphery. It's Sunday morning at the Philadelphia Museum of Art - "pay what you wish" day, and family programs are free.

The reading has them all entranced - "Monkeys!" one boy shouts.  My daughter and her friend stomp their feet and shake their fingers along with the story.  And then Liza has them all look again at the tapestry behind her: "can you find the caps in the tapestry?  What colors are they?"  The tapestry's figures are wearing caps - blue ones, and red ones, and brown ones - just like the man in the story.  I watch my toddler find her way into the tapestry through this wonderful connection.

Soon we're off to the hall that looks like a medieval cloister - where  stone arches rise above a floor spread with kraft paper, glue, crayons, and sequins - to make our own caps. 

It is a great morning that we extend by going to the cafe on the ground floor (just a few steps around the corner from the museum's restaurant) and snacking on cheese and yogurt. Revived, we tour some more galleries, and play a whispered version of 'I-spy' in the European and Modern art wings.  One of the guards gets in on the action, pointing out a painting where four women's faces are hidden.  We are four parents, with three kids under four, and we have a blast.  It is possible we left some sequins in our wake, though.

When you go: come early to find parking and get your tickets for the activity.  You need to get the tickets from the admission counters, not from the Family Activity booth.  Don't count on juice boxes in the cafe - we were told they're only sold with the children's meal.  Bottled juice is available, and easy to split among a couple of kids' cups.

Many art museums regularly provide exceptional children's programming.  Some personal favorites in the US, besides the Philadelphia Museum of Art, are The Walters' Museum in Baltimore, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and The National Gallery in Washington DC.
Posted in Americas : Toddler by Fran W. at 1:39 PMPermalink

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