Preschool and Kindergarten Tours

Nancy Rowett, Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art, Providence, RI, Facilitator

Laura Berlik, Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, NJ

Kate Greene, Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati, OH

Mary Sue Hoban, Springfield Art Museum, Springfield, MO

Anne Shaughnessy, Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, NE

Pat Sayre, Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati, OH

Nikki Tomkinson, Denver Art Museum, Denver, CO, Recorder

Cindy Warren, Evansville Museum Arts, History and Science, Evansville, IN


I. Challenge:

  • Participants discussed the challenges of touring young children and raised the point that, not long ago, some museums did not encourage visits by pre-school and kindergarten children.
  • Today, small children are welcome, and require tours that hold their attention and give them opportunities to be active in the gallery.
  • It’s important to limit such tours to no more than 8 children, and adults.
  • Aim to include no more than five works.
  • Attention spans are short; consider no more than five minutes to sit and focus on an object.


II. Methods for success:

  • Use props in gallery to help children translate from historic object to today.
  • May include hats/costumes for children to use.
  • Consider hygienic concerns about wearing wigs and other items that may spread lice/germs.
  • Loose fitting clothing works; always make optional.
  • Does museum have props for docents to use in the gallery?
  • Adapt “Where’s Waldo” idea (scavenger hunt), looking for objects in art, based on paper visuals and props.
  • Docents can wear aprons or have pockets to carry props.
  • No props? Children may create sounds they perceive in art, by slapping hands on legs to sound like horses; drum the floor, etc.
  • Kids can also imitate action that they see in paintings; examples: marching, and imitating animal behaviors and features.
  • Engage children in discussions: Are you wearing something round (other shapes)?
  • Where do you see red (other colors)?
  • What do you see, hear, smell when you look at this painting?Engage children with art books/stories in front of art work. Example, The Cats Gallery of Western Art, shows famous paintings with cat faces, and can lead to talks about real versus pretend.
  • Kids can recreate what they see in artwork, by posing.
  • Every child has opportunity to participate and create.
  • Kindergarten students can choose among poster reproductions of artwork offered to them, then find the original in the gallery and stand in front of it, to talk about it.
  • Using outdoor sculpture in fair weather can allow children more freedom.
  • Some museums have items that can travel to classrooms.


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