Do kids and priceless artworks mix? While the phrase ‘like a bull in a china shop’ might spring to mind, your tiny tornadoes will not only be welcomed, but thoroughly engaged and entertained at many art museums all over the world.

Introducing children to art at an early age is incredibly beneficial to their creative development, academic performance and motor skills, and helps to increase confidence and focus. Gallery visits are parent-friendly too, and perfect for family outings at home and abroad. So what are you waiting for? Take your mini-Monet to one of these galleries, pronto!

2018 Kids Summer Festival at NGV © Tobias Titz
2018 Kids Summer Festival at NGV © Tobias Titz

NGV International, Melbourne, Australia

The National Gallery of Victoria International (NGV International) is Australia’s oldest art museum, home to more than 70,000 artworks from across Europe, Asia, Oceania and the Americas. The Melbourne museum is also renowned for its dedicated Kids Gallery featuring rotating exhibitions and a sculpture garden with a playground and mist installation that kids delight in running through.

‘I am driven by the belief that children’s interactions and engagement with artists’ ideas in these inspiring settings can have a significant impact on a young person’s life – opening their minds to different ways of thinking and forging a meaningful connection with the NGV, which we hope will extend into their future lives,’ says Kate Ryan, The Truby and Florence Williams Curator of Children's Programs at the NGV.

The NGV International offers a range of art workshops to teach children about visual arts and global cultures. Free NGV Kids activity sheets are also available for kids to complete while exploring the gallery.

National Gallery, London, UK

The National Gallery in London houses one of the greatest European art collections in the world, including works by Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Turner, Rembrandt and the always popular Van Gogh. Introduce the kids to famous European masters; drop by an art workshop, or pick up a specially designed audio tour or printed trail to keep kids interested in the works featured in the galleries. There are even story, play and song sessions for kids under five.

Exploring the Getty Villa in Los Angeles © Christine Knight / Lonely Planet
Exploring the Getty Villa in Los Angeles © Christine Knight / Lonely Planet

The J. Paul Getty Museum, USA

The J. Paul Getty Museum, known as ‘The Getty’, is one of the world’s largest arts organisations. The Getty is broken up into two campuses in Los Angeles; the Getty Center is home to an incredible collection of pre-20th-century European artworks including Vincent van Gogh’s iconic Irises painting, while the Getty Villa, in Malibu, features art and artefacts from ancient Greece and Rome.

Both museums cater exceptionally well to kids, with dedicated family rooms that capture kids’ imaginations with activities related to the artworks in the museums, as well as printed scavenger hunts. The beautiful garden in the Getty Center with its winding trails and water features is a particular favourite for families.

The Louvre, France

The Louvre is a spectacular sight, from its transparent glass pyramid by Pei jutting up from the ground to the abundance of treasures it holds inside. Decking the hallowed halls of this 800-year-old museum and former palace in Paris are masterpieces including the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, The Raft of the Medusa and The Winged Victory of Samothrace.

Set aside plenty of time to explore the 35,000 artworks and artefacts on display inside the world’s largest art museum. Children visiting the Louvre are treated to an incredible variety of art and architecture; it can all be discovered on a family-friendly group, multimedia or audio tour, in design workshops led by mimes, through storytelling sessions or by using downloadable trails.

Tang Ling Nah’s ‘Wandering in Black and White’ at Art Playscape © National Gallery Singapore
Tang Ling Nah’s ‘Wandering in Black and White’ at Art Playscape © National Gallery Singapore

National Gallery Singapore

Immerse the whole family in the world’s largest public display of modern Southeast Asian art. Over 8000 pieces from Singapore’s National Collection are on display, dating from the 19th century to present day. The National Gallery Singapore has a strong family focus, with the region’s first dedicated art education centre. Enjoy programming that includes story time, family-focused tours, family art workshops, tween art workshops, drop-in art-making, and activity guides to the museum.

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain

An architectural marvel, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao was designed by Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry. The museum was purpose-built in the town of Bilbao to showcase modern and contemporary art, and features works that appeal to visitors of all ages.

On display are Louise Bourgeois' Maman, a giant spider-like sculpture that kids can walk under, plus a fountain sculpture that randomly shoots out water and Jeff Koons’ 12m-tall Puppy, a sculpture of a highland terrier dog created with thousands of flowers. Kids are spoiled for choice with activities designed to unleash their creativity including workshops, story and art time for under fives and family trails.

A young girl enjoys the fountain in MoMA's grounds, NYC © Christine Knight / Lonely Planet
Enjoying the outdoor space at MoMA© Christine Knight / Lonely Planet

MoMA, New York City, USA

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) opened in Manhattan in 1929 and is devoted exclusively to modern art – showcasing over 200,000 works. The family activities at MoMA are designed to engage kids and adults in fun activities and conversations about art, while they enjoy the extraordinary collection housed inside this iconic museum. A well-designed programme for families with kids of all ages includes special tours, art workshops, hands-on activity stations in the galleries, family films, audio guides and the interactive Art Lab. The outdoor sculpture garden is also a very popular place to take kids.

Auckland Art Gallery Toi O Tamaki, New Zealand

New Zealand’s largest art gallery, the Auckland Art Gallery Toi O Tamaki has over 16,000 works in its arsenal. The gallery has a large collection of New Zealand art, featuring works by Māori and Pacific Island artists, as well as paintings, sculptures and prints by international artists.

Families can learn about the history of New Zealand through the artworks and by engaging in the gallery’s excellent programmes. Family guides, art making, books and games are on offer, plus holiday workshops and an excellent neighbouring park.

A child draws on the walls at Vancouver Art Gallery – as part of an interactive activity © Anita Bonnarens
In some galleries, kids are free – and encouraged –  to draw on the walls © Anita Bonnarens

Vancouver Art Gallery, Canada

The largest art gallery in western Canada features a significant collection of works by prominent Canadian artists – particularly from British Columbia, including modernist Emily Carr. The Vancouver Art Gallery also has a large photographic collection including works by Ansel Adams, Cindy Sherman and Henri Cartier-Bresson. Families are made welcome at the gallery through weekly family programmes that include art-making and detective activities.

Yayoi Kusama Museum, Japan

Having opened in Tokyo in 2017, the Yayoi Kusama Museum is dedicated to the work of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. Kusama’s art is immersive and often interactive, making it the perfect way to introduce kids to art that will excite and inspire them. The Yayoi Kusama Museum offers a printed out worksheet and guide for kids to take with them around the exhibitions.

Van Gogh Museum, Netherlands

It’s not an art education without an introduction to Post-Impressionist Vincent van Gogh. The world’s largest collection of his work is housed inside the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, featuring more than 200 paintings, 500 drawings and 700 letters he wrote. Artworks on display include landscapes, self-portraits, still lifes and the renowned Sunflowers.

The little ones can get involved with a family guided tour, a printed family guide, ‘Vincent’s Travelling Case’ assignments, a treasure hunt and children’s workshops.

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