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!

Food, The Great Outdoors

Ode to the Donut Picnic

What do you do when the kids wake you up at 5:45 on a Saturday morning and you can’t get back to sleep? You have a donut picnic!

To avoid the Houston heat and humidity (a normal thing after 9 a.m. most of the year), take advantage of those early morning kid wake ups and get outdoors. A few great reasons to do this in Houston:

  1. You beat all the traffic and the long lines at the donut shop
  2. The weather is pretty darn nice in the early morning, even in August
  3. You get first choice of all the best donuts
  4. Your kids get the sugar they crave AND get to run it off before they crash for nap time
  5. You make some great memories with your kids!

To make this happen, you need 2 things – donuts and a really good, kid-friendly park. If you’re not the biggest fan of donuts, any breakfast item will do! Here are some combos that have worked well for us (you can tell we do this a lot):

  • River Oaks Donuts and River Oaks Park – these two establishments are right across the street from each other. River Oaks Donuts gives you kids a cool crown (pictured above), and you can get some delicious coffee. They also have FILLED donut holes and really creative donut options! River Oaks Park is great for kids ages 5 and under – they have a Cinderella carriage and plenty of great age-appropriate play structures. It’s tucked away on a quiet street and there usually is plenty of street parking, especially early.
  • Shipley Do-nuts and Jaycee Park (or ANY park for that matter!) – you just can’t beat Shipley for warm glazed donuts…especially the one at 3410 Ella. Go through the drive through and make sure to order at least half a dozen of the glazed donuts, because they are always perfectly fresh and warm at that location. Don’t forget kolaches too, another Houston tradition! Jaycee Park is tucked away just outside of the Heights, not too far from the Shipley mentioned above, and it’s got everything you need for the perfect donut picnic for kids of any age: picnic tables, a playground for younger and older kids, and a big field for running after eating.
  • Kolache Shoppe and Levy Park – you’re right, these aren’t donuts, but these kolaches are pretty much the best thing ever and worth calling out. If you’re not from Houston and you don’t know what a kolache is, race over to the Kolache Shoppe immediately and grab at least a dozen! If you’re going to Levy Park, hit up the Greenway Plaza location (note: this Kolache Shoppe location is closed on Sundays). Levy Park is by far the most awesome park in Houston for so many reasons. You can spend hours here, and everyone in the family can enjoy it.
  • Hugs and Donuts and Donovan Park – The donuts at Hugs and Donuts are special and a lot of fun to both eat and pick out. Bring ’em over to the “train park” as Donovan Park is affectionately called, and you’ve got a home run!

Don’t forget to grab some juice and coffee as well to enjoy with your breakfast. We usually eat the donuts so fast we don’t need paper plates, but a few napkins will do in case you need to lay them down. Find a picnic table or nice spot on the grass at the park, and you’re in business!

A small note about cleanup – part of the fun is to let the kids get icing all over themselves, so make sure you’re armed with every parent’s secret weapon: WIPES.

As you can tell, we eat a lot of carbs and spend a lot of time outdoors. I guess it balances out…

About Us

And So It Begins!

Today is the day that Houston Explorers is born! It’s one of those remarkable Houston days that we all live for – not too hot, not too cold, just cloudy enough. Lots of potential for sun; less potential for sunburn.

Houston Explorers is a blog for Houston families to plan remarkable adventures, big and small. We will search high and low for the absolute best ways for you to spend your limited, precious time with the people you love. We’ll give you a chance to explore Houston in a way you never expected, and we’ll challenge you to try things with your kids you never thought you could.

There are lots of other Houston-focused blogs and websites out there (many of which are wonderful and that I read regularly) that have inspired me for many years, but I haven’t yet found the “one” that merges my love for the outdoors, culture, food, trying new things, and travel (even if within the city!). I guess maybe there are a few places that cover most of those bases, but they don’t mix in the thing that matters the most – creating unique, memorable, special experiences for and with the people I love the most (two of which are pint-sized).

So who the heck am I and why should you listen to me?

My name’s Katie, and I’m a native Houstonian. I grew up in the ‘burbs telling myself there’s no way I’d ever come back. After leaving for college and grad school, I realized that actually Houston’s pretty great, so back I came. And now y’all couldn’t get rid of me if you TRIED!

Chad and I met at Christian’s Tailgate over a burger, and we pretty much new immediately that lifetime commitment was going to happen within a date or two. We have been married for 7 years, and we have 2 kids – Jacob (5) and Ben (almost 3). Everyone always asks us “do you ever slow down?” And states “you are always so busy!” We think it’s normal and we have a lot of fun.

My love language is information, so when we meet, you will either be amazed or annoyed by any answers I give you to questions about what you should do or where you should eat. This blog is an attempt to channel some of that knowledge so hopefully y’all can benefit from years of research and family adventures. Plus, everyone keeps saying “you should write a blog” – so here it is!

I hope you enjoy Houston Explorers and find these posts useful. Please let me know if you try some of our suggestions – we’d love to hear about your adventures too!

-Katie