Arts & Culture

How to Enjoy Art with Young Kids in Houston

Street art can be found in the most unusual places!

Even though my kids aren’t really into coloring, crafts, or art of any kind that they make themselves, we have tried really hard since they were born to make sure they at least appreciate and get to see different kinds of art. Lucky for us, Houston some fantastic opportunities to see and interact with art that kids can really enjoy.

Some of the principles we try and stick with when exposing our kids to art may be helpful in planning your adventure:

  1. Infants and older babies love to look at bright colors and patterns. Modern art is perfect for helping these little ones soak in the world! Get them out of the stroller and hold them up so they can see and you can engage with them.
  2. Toddlers are learning their colors, names of items in their world (food, transportation, nature, etc), and discovering emotions – a scavenger hunt to find these things in painting and sculpture is super fun. A well-rested toddler can have a blast at a museum when engaged to look at and talk about the art. Be sure to corral them so they don’t damage anything, but let them walk around and move toward art and objects they are fascinated by.
  3. Elementary aged kids have plenty of opinions! Make sure to ask them to find their favorite piece of art and tell you why they love it. If your kid likes to draw, bring along some pencils and paper so they can capture the essence of something they love.
  4. Art doesn’t have to be in a museum, especially with the emergence of so much great street art in this city! It’s worth making an effort to seek out works by Houston’s local and extremely talented muralists like Anat Ronen, Mr. D, and Nicky Davis, not to mention sculptures from the legendary David Adickes.
  5. Ask your kids developmentally appropriate questions about art. Talk to your kids about what art is and isn’t, and get their thoughts on it. Ask them what they like and what they are inspired by. If they can’t talk yet, follow their lead as they point.
  6. Let kids of any age linger as long as they like when they find art they love. Come back again and again to enjoy it. If it’s in a place like the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, get a membership so you can make quick trips.
  7. Don’t worry about feeling like a fish out of water if art is new or unfamiliar to you. Some art is actually meant to evoke these feelings. Experiencing art with your kids will help you both learn and grow, whether you’re new at this or a seasoned gallery owner!
Our favorite, the Matisse at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston!

Here are a few ideas to get your Houston art journey started with your kids, no matter how small or big they are:

  • Visit the Museum of Fine Arts, especially in the summer when the interactive exhibits come to town. Really, it’s amazing all year round. Don’t miss the tunnel by James Turrell connecting the two main buildings that changes colors. Ride the super long escalators. Spend extra time looking at the modern and contemporary art for some great engagement and conversation. Explore the historical artifacts from ancient Greece and Rome, and trace your fingers in the carved letters of the giant stone indoor donor wall while you see if the little kids can recognize any of the alphabet. When you’re hungry, the MFA Cafe is newly redone and has delicious food for kids and grownups. When you need to stretch your legs, go run around the Cullen Sculpture Garden or walk up to the roof of the Glassell school to see Montrose from a whole new angle.
  • Go on a scavenger hunt for street art! Here’s a guide to a ton of sites, but remember – they are always changing, so try to find something new, special, and unexpected by taking a drive around town. East Downtown and Westheimer are two places to start your adventure. Take advantage of the car nap while you’re at it!
  • The Menil Collection is a perennial favorite because it’s free, really easy to do in small doses, and there’s a nice big park with oak trees outside (perfect for a picnic). If you didn’t bring food, check out Bistro Menil across the street for fancy dining or head down the road to West Alabama Ice House to get a beer along with taco or five from Tacos Tierra Caliente. Don’t miss the Surrealists, Pacific American Art, and art from Africa, all in the Menil’s permanent collection. Also remember that the Menil is a campus with several different buildings that you can visit and enjoy. Ask the person at the desk for a map and go explore!
  • The Contemporary Art Museum of Houston is small with only 2 galleries, but it’s worth a visit. Check before you go to make sure the exhibitions are kid appropriate, because sometimes they can be scary to young kids or contain adult themes. When it’s good, it’s really good! It also has the BEST museum gift shop around with lots of fun things for kids to play with and for your to purchase.
  • Other free and awesome art museums in Houston for kids include the Museum of Contemporary Craft and Lawndale Art Center, which are right next to each other and generally good for kids. Be sure to check their calendars and go when they have a kid-friendly activity, because they are really creative and happy to have kids explore. At the Museum of Contemporary Craft there are artist spaces where kids can sometimes see artists in residence at work!
  • Galleries like those at Silver Street Studios or Art League Houston are fun and unexpected opportunities to interact with the art community and see something innovative and really different.
  • In a class all its own, the Orange Show and all its wonderful tentacles like the Art Car Museum, Smither Park, and Beer Can House deserves and will get its very own post. Kids of all ages will be fascinated by all of it!
  • Annual art events that happen in Houston include Via Colori street painting festival in November and Bayou City Art Festival in April/March (Memorial Park) and October (Downtown). They are both very kid friendly and worth attending!
Via Colori street painting festival

This is not even close to scratching the surface of all the wonderful opportunities for art in Houston, but hopefully it provides some inspiration to explore something you didn’t know about and make a memory with your kids. Let us know what art in Houston inspires you and your kids!

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