Whole Parenting Family

Taking in Fine Art with Children Present, or How to Survive a Trip to the Museum

Please, please get tickets to see the Rembrandt in America exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Art (affectionately known as the MIA). It is awe inspiriting, breath taking, and lovely. It’s the largest exhibition of Rembrandts in America. Ever! Get tickets in advance (we failed to–thank goodness for our friends who we went with). And hop up to the second floor, and you’re there! All 5 glorious rooms of it.

We are big on exposing our children to the arts early. See posts here {Get More Piano and Cello in Your Life} and here {Art and Beauty in Your Life} and here {How to Choose Music for Your Child}.

My mom’s been a docent at the MIA for over 25 years so I grew up thinking it was normal to spend your weekend at the MIA. We try to go as often as we can, and did frequent it when we lived on the Other Side of the River (aka Minneapolis).

Last year we took SuperBoy a few times, but this trip to see the exhibit was SweetPea’s inaugural visit. They both enjoyed it immensely, in their own special ways–her by sleeping through most of it, and him by asking Dada “who’s that guy?” to every portrait. (And wanting to “touch the sun” in the entrance as seen above.)

Here’s a quick & dirty guide to taking your children to a museum exhibit, and I’m not talking about the children’s museum:

1) Be aware.

The throngs of people with us, including our dear friends, a couple, with whom we went, are all taking in the art. In a silent way. In an adult way. Be aware that they are unaware that you are simultaneously concerned about Mount Vesuvius erupting (baby girl spitting up) and the Grand Canyon flooding (toddler boy diaper).

When baby girl in the sling decides she needs to suck on something NOW (and she refuses pacifiers), and you can’t wrangle your sling into the nursing position, be aware of how dirty your pinky is before you shove it gently into her mouth, massaging her gums, and touching that sweet spot on the roof of her mouth that she likes.

When toddler boy who is being held in Dada’s arms because we neglected to bring the Ergo (never, ever again), is pretty sleepy and tired and snoozy, be aware that he doesn’t snore loudly such that patrons can’t hear their audio guides.

2) Move quickly.

While you might want to read the entire placard that describes how Rembrandt suffered bankruptcy and heartache, you’d better keep moving or the baby girl asleep in your sling will awaken, rouse herself, rouse others, and promptly demand food. As you’re studying the differences between the one portrait of St. Bartholomew and the other, keep moving because the toddler boy dangling from his Dada’s shoulders is apt to block other people’s views, and make inquiries in a stage whisper like “what’s that knife?!” and “but I want it.”

3) Be grateful.

At the end of it, when nothing erupted and no one cried. When nothing got spilled on the paintings, and no one made a puddle on the floor. When no one shouted “look at his penis,” and no one demanded you maneuver your shirt to the nursing position. When your legs didn’t cave because of carrying 12 pounds in a sling for an hour and a half, and your husband’s back didn’t snap because of carrying a 30 pound boy. Be grateful that the MIA allows small children to be a part of this beautiful thing called art. Be grateful that it makes it possible for parents with little ones to still partake in the joy of art!

And then come home and eat sweet potato chips, kale chips, and a little Brasa shredded beef!



  1. mothering spirit on July 22, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    Loved this post! I am embarassed to admit (and realize) that we have not been to the MIA since our first son was born. YIKES. I’ve been curious about the billboards around town, so your report is giving me courage to get tickets and bring the kiddos! I too want my kids to grow up with a love for and curiosity about art, so it’s important to get this into our routine early.

    • Natural Mama Nell on July 23, 2012 at 4:43 am

      It’s impossible to do it all with kids in tow! But I definitely recommend this one because the paintings are so incredible, and toddlers & young children get the whole portrait thing, I think.

  2. Elizabeth on July 27, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    I am woefully behind in my reading of the blog these days, but this post really resonated with me. Living in Las Vegas, there’s not a (whole) lot of cultural things to take Mr. C too. We do Springs Preserve and the Children’s Museum, but beyond that, there’s not a ton. So when we’re out of town, it’s MUSEUM TIME. And the biscuit LOVES it. He’s learning to behave properly (no yelling), listen to mama and dada (walk, please; touch with your eyes, not your hands, please), etc. I’ve found when all else fails, the Ergo carrier is my savior. It instantly soothes my boy, and he’s quite content to look about. In Paris, for example, he spent hours in the Louvre, the Orsay, and Versaille, happily glancing about at all the finery. I’m hopeful that, exposing him to things like this at an early age will foster an appreciation for the arts and history, and it will teach him appropriate behavior and respect.


    Also, as an aside, your family is just lovely.

    • Natural Mama Nell on July 31, 2012 at 4:58 pm

      Love that you’re sharing culture with your sweet boy. It’s worth the extra efforts as a parent because who knows how those seeds you plant will come to fruition. The next Van Gogh? Or at least someone who appreciates beauty, effort, and hard work 🙂

      You’re so sweet. We’re loving every moment of duos kiddos!