In years gone by, art galleries were in the same category as libraries and museums: staid, formal places where strict silence was the norm and indeed no children allowed to disturb the peace. Thankfully, times have changed, and people realise that an appreciation of art can begin at an early age. Some family-friendly galleries are specifically designed for youngsters, whereas others have rooms or displays set aside for children.
Auckland Art Gallery has always been ahead of the game when it comes to family activities, with art-making games available every day in their Todd Foundation Creative Learning Centre. There are often interactive installations to explore, specially designed for small hands and introducing art to children in an accessible way. Fun games can be printed out from their website to take to the gallery, including Architecture Bingo, a postcard to encourage drawing skills and a memory game.
Tauranga Art Gallery often has drop-in sessions for youngsters aged four and over, featuring a current exhibition, with the opportunity to introduce new art to parents and children alike. They also organise art studios during the summer holidays, using different mediums, such as clay, to enable children to create their own colourful masterpieces.
The Dowse Art Museum runs workshops for children and has a free Imagination Playground to encourage creativity. They employ special educators to teach different art techniques, allowing youngsters to develop new skills and discover the joy of creating their own artwork. Fun activities include making rain sticks from different materials, bringing music and art together.
Children have a natural inbuilt curiosity for the world around them and learning to appreciate art in all its forms is to be encouraged. With more and more art galleries opening their doors to children, this is a welcome trend that shows no sign of stopping.