The pandemic is turning every household with kids into an art studio, home-schooling lab or playground.
With schools closed, we put together this list of art-at-home activities for families, whether you’re just trying to stave off boredom or stay playful during stressful times.
The Minneapolis Institute of Art has a downloadable coloring book featuring eight objects from the museum’s permanent collection that kids and parents alike can explore, color and discuss, ranging from an eighth-century horse sculpture from China’s Tang Dynasty to an early-20th-century painting of St. Paul’s Cathedral as seen from the Thames River in London.
Mia also offers hands-on art activities like Laura Wennstrom’s easy homemade “activity dough” inspired by Yoshimoto Nara’s giant white fiberglass dog, or springtime flower painting a la Andy Warhol. If kids are jonesing to get to the museum, stay tuned for Mia’s first Virtual Family Day April 12.
The Minnesota Historical Society released its “Northern Lights” Interactive eBook free of charge through the end of the school year. It takes middle-school-aged kids through the history of Minnesota, from Dakota and Ojibwe days to industrialization and both world wars, all the way to the present.
Younger children can take a more animated journey with the superhero History Hound’s downloadable activity book. Or get creative with a coloring book focusing on state history, from an 1891 stained glass window design at the James H. Hill House to the spunky pup depicted in artist Jonathan Thunder’s “Bowwow Powwow.”
The Weisman Art Museum offers a series of artwork prompts and activities for grades four-12, seven-12 and nine-12. Created for educators, the kit guides kids through ways to think more deeply about what they see in works of art. What do certain details reveal about meaning? How can reflecting on a character in an artwork lead to deeper understanding?
The exercises are writing-based, guiding kids through the stages of perception, consideration, creation and reflection. You can try it yourself: Pick an artwork from one of 2,500 museums’ virtual collections via Google Arts and Culture, then have fun interpreting it using the prompts.
The Minnesota Children’s Museum has a ton of kid-geared arts activities and programs. Children’s book authors and illustrators host live doodles on YouTube every day at noon and 1 p.m., and artist/educator Deborah Putnoi broadcasts a free, live art class every day at 1 p.m. on Facebook. Local illustrator Kelsey King worked on original coloring pages for kids and adults to do together. For future ceramists who are getting restless at home, the museum offers an easy way to make playdough from simple baking items.
Art and science meet kid-friendly activities at the Science Museum of Minnesota. Kids can learn about the chemistry behind color pigments by making chromatograms at home. All you need is a couple of coffee filters, paper towels, water-soluble markers, an eyedropper, and several white plastic container lids. The chromatograms look like dreamy bursts of color.
Walker Art Center’s education team offers lessons on sculpture and scale, contemporary art investigations and art stories for grades K-two and three-five. For now, they are only available via clickable links in this article, but will be on the website within two weeks.
Some activities focus on understanding the size of sculptures in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden in relation to animals (Katharina Fritsch’s giant blue rooster is the size of an elephant!) while playful art investigations lead kids to think more deeply about what a work of art is communicating.
Kids in grades six-12 can learn more about contemporary artists at the Walker through short videos, available via the museum’s YouTube channel.
Or why stick to the Twin Cities, when you can take the kids to L.A. or New York?
The Getty Museum in Los Angeles has gone viral with an art challenge, prompting people to re-create a famous work of art using objects and people in their houses. Find an artwork that includes kids, then improvise as needed and post your photo to Twitter, tagged with #gettymuseumchallenge and @GettyMuseum. Frida Kahlo’s 1943 “Self-Portrait With Monkeys” could be a metaphor for the energetic kids at home. Or ask the kids to hold a pitchfork and stare somberly into the camera as the new #quarantined “American Gothic”?
The digital feature #MetKids at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art lets cooped-up children explore the museum virtually through a cartoonlike map of the entire Met. Hop over to the museum’s “Time Machine” option to explore art featuring different time periods, parts of the world or big ideas.