Things to Make & Read - MOMA books & Imitation Art


When the girls were younger we spent quite a bit of time at art museums. Why? Well, mainly because, as a new mom, I didn't know where else to go (I seriously think that DC hospital maternity wards need flyers referencing KidFriendly DC and Go Out and Play!). Further, I like art and in DC very few museums charge admission. I think P learned colors while pointing at various works of abstract art in the Hirshhorn's galleries. Then came T (whose current nickname is "the tornado"). And we tried visiting art museums with him but that didn't work out so well (read about our past experience here).

This winter, in place of museums I decided to buy the girls some art books, figuring we could talk about the paintings. Unfortunately, I came across several art books geared at older children and quite a few geared at young toddler-age children, but not so many for preschoolers (if anyone knows of any PLEASE let me know). Finally I discovered Philip Yenawine's set through MOMA and lately we've been reading these quite a bit. The books all operate interactively with questions such as "What is happening in this place?" and "Can you tell how this woman feels by the look on her face?" Reading and discussing them with the girls has been great; I love to hear their stories - "I think this girl is sad because her friend won't play with her . . . " Each book ends with an easy project, for example "Can you use colors to make a noisy picture? A funny one?" We usually forgo the suggested projects and instead I ask the girls to pick out one of their favorite pictures from the books and reinterpret it (an idea I read about on A Passion for Play). I was a little apprehensive that recreating masterpieces would intimidate my children, but they jumped right in (F in particular) and lately we've been repeating this project while I make dinner. Often F likes her version better than the original. For example, in the pictures below F felt that a person was needed in order to appreciate the butterflies and wondered why the original artist didn't think of that.

If you live in the area and are interested in other "artful" experiences with your children, KidFriendly DC has a great review of the National Gallery's Stories in Art Program (the winter session is going on now, I really want to check it out). Plus, the Corcoran has a preschool program (weekdays only).



  1. Have you checked out the Usborne Art Treasury? We borrowed it from the library last summer and did several of the projects. They start with a "masterpiece" and then provide instructions for creating a kid-friendly version of it. It got the girls talking about art and thinking about themselves as artists. Also, we have two "I spy" type books from that use works from the Met that they love to pour over. I totally want to take them to the National Gallery talks -- great idea!

  2. No I haven't heard of the Usborne Art Treasury, but will definitely check it out and the I Spy books. I finally got a library card, so I need lots of suggestions!



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