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Why babies should go to the museum too

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Ines Rütten

Published

13.01.2022

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Many parents tend not to include museums on their list of family activities. Yet, as art educator Cynthia Gavranic knows, children perceive art even before they are able to talk.

Children perceive their surroundings and thus art from an early age. «As long as you explain it in a fun way,» says Cynthia Gavranic, art educator at the Migros Museum of Modern Art in Zurich. She takes small groups of children from a Zurich daycare on regular tours of the exhibition. The visits are part of the Bonbon project by the Lapurla which is aimed at enabling children aged zero to four years to share in cultural life. But do small children register art at all? Gavranic is convinced of it. «We notice how even babies respond to the artworks and sense atmospheres even before they can talk. «Whether they are aware that they are looking at an artwork is immaterial in the art educator’s eyes». As she explains: «We can use art to show children other aspects of the world, ones that you do not find in playgrounds or at the zoo.» And these aspects are precious, for parents and children alike.

We can use art to show children other aspects of the world, ones that you do not find in playgrounds or at the zoo

Cynthia Gavranic

Art makes children strong

Scientific studies prove that engaging with art has a beneficial effect on a child’s development. As Cynthia Gavranic reiterates: «It makhildren strong, resilient and creative.» She works on three levels to enable children of all ages to engage with art:

1. Look: «We just look at what the children see and talk about it,» she explains. This exercise produces the most amazing stories. 

2. Move: «We involve our bodies and explore what art inspires in us.»

3. Create: «We take the subject of the work to create something of our own.»
The aim is not to teach the children as much as possible about art, but to experience the works. Children gain a sense of self-effectiveness.» And these aspects are precious, for parents and children alike.

Inspirational space

Obviously, every museum has its rules. The works are valuable, so touching them and running around are not allowed. Nevertheless, Cynthia Gavranic encourages parents to visit art museums with their children. As she remarks: «Although not designed with children in mind, the rooms form a space that unlocks important realms of experience.» Instead of touching everything, the children focus on looking or listening. «In our temporary exhibitions, we encounter thrilling things such as interactive light installations, living plants and special sound rooms.» Everything is different to familiar media such as picture books and children’s films. This alone elicits a response and makes the place and the atmosphere special. «It is a space that you can fill with your own inspiration,» says Gavranic. And rules, after all, are everywhere.

Families enter into a creative flow and art thus becomes a shared experience

Cynthia Gavranic

Relevance to our own lives

Cynthia Gavranic wants to encourage parents to visit the art museum with their children, even if they think that they know little about the subject themselves. Modern art in particular focuses on what is going on in the world. «Everyone can therefore make a connection to their own lives and talk about it with their children,» comments the art educator.
 

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Visiting museums with children

A visit to an art museum therefore has all the makings of a thrilling outing for families. As they tour the museum, parents can use the three steps as a guide: look – move – create. The children should be given enough time for these activities. Many museums offer special programmes for children and families. The Migros Museum of Modern Art, for instance, has «Art detectives» with fun riddles for children. «And besides that, there are also the art educators,» adds Gavranic with a laugh. They help parents and children to discover the museum. It is important for parents to join in as well: «Families enter into a creative flow and art thus becomes a shared experience.»

Foto/stage: © GettyImages

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