A painting, a piece of music, a stirring dance, a display of ancient pottery — art doesn’t necessarily need much explanation to appreciate its meaning — it’s a language all its own. For children, it’s a language they can often relate to since it involves expressing an idea through creating something.
“[Art] gives children the opportunity to understand and express themselves in ways that help provide the basic tools to be a successful and functional member of society,” explains James Mango, director of Performing Arts at the Fine Arts Association in Willoughby. Northeast Ohio offers a variety of different museums, theatrical centers and other places where your child can have a chance to enjoy art in all its forms.
If you’ve been wondering about how to get your kids more involved in the arts, here are just a few of the reasons it’s worth the effort and how to help your children get more out of their experiences.
From upping kids’ critical thinking skills to improving their language aptitude, an exposure to art appears to drive kids’ abilities in multiple areas. Several studies have noted arts importance to children’s overall development.
“Creativity is such an important skill across the board these days and one that’s often ignored in schools because there’s so much focus on testing and standards,” notes Alison Caplan, director of education at the Akron Museum of Art. “Looking at art and talking about it at a museum helps to encourage creative thinking, visual literacy and reflection in ways that other learning experiences can’t.”
For your next visit to an art venue with your child there are a few hints to keep in mind to make the experience positive — for both of you.
Caplan recommends you check the museum’s website or talk to someone at the front desk to learn about what type of resources and programs might be available for children and families. For example, there may be an audio tour designed just for kids or guides and backpacks for families to use.
“Don’t expect to see a whole museum or exhibition in one visit with a child,” says Caplan. “Find out what appeals to your child and spend some time looking and talking about it.”
You may be surprised to discover your child has a fascination with landscape paintings or ancient Egyptian artifacts. Instead of moving away from that part of the museum to continue your exploration, ask them questions and what they think about what they’re seeing.
“There’s no need to read the museum labels to small children or try to education them about art history,” Caplan says.
She suggests instead that you try to make connections for children between the work and their own life. Questions like: “Which artwork would you take home and hang in your bedroom? Which artwork looks like a messy hairstyle? What colors, shapes and lines do you see?” You could ask similar questions of other types of art like music, dance and cultural displays.
Experiencing art has become even more important as art education has been diminished or in some cases cut altogether in school districts around the U.S. Parents can help this gap for children by making art a bigger part of their child’s life. Communities, too, seem to recognize art’s importance for children by making arts and cultural experiences readily available.
“As the role of the arts lessens and lessens within our educational system, it is of the utmost importance that we as a community continue to provide opportunity and exposure to the arts,” Mango says. “The best thing that can ever be gained through the arts is a deeper understanding of yourself and the world around you.”
Akron Art Museum
1 S. High St., Akron
Admission: $7 adults; free for children age 17 and under; free admission on Thursdays
An Akron institution since 1899, the Akron Art Museum has regular events for families like Creative Playdates, the Kid’s Studio, Art Babes and other activities. The Akron Art Museum strives to make artwork accessible even for the youngest visitors.
Beck Center for the Arts
17801 Detroit Ave., Lakewood
Admission: Ticket prices range from free to $30 depending on the production; classes available
With an emphasis on professional productions and classes for youngsters, the Beck Center for the Arts seeks to give kids the chance to take part in arts education whether it’s by watching or being a part of the show.
Cleveland Museum of Art
11150 East Blvd., Cleveland. 216-421-7350
The newly redesigned CMA includes plenty of features kids will appreciate like the interactive Gallery One where kids (and adults) literally become a work of art. To make the most of your visit, however, go on the second Sunday of the month from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. to enjoy free activities and programs offered especially for families.
Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland (MOCA)
11400 Euclid Ave., Cleveland
Admission: $8 general admission; $5 for students with valid ID; free for those ages 5 and under
Jutting into the skyline with simmering panels that make it look like something out of “Big Hero 6,” MOCA inspires creativity from the outside — and the galleries within. The museum has extensive family programming in various age groups from preschool play dates to family art studios.
The BOX Gallery
104 E. Market St., 3rd Floor, Akron
Open on the weekends, this Akron gallery includes rotating exhibits of local and regional artists. Expect to see paintings, sculptures and more unique displays, too, like bookbinding. Located in the Summit Art Space building.
Dive Into History
Cleveland Museum of Natural History
1 Wade Oval Drive, Cleveland
Admission: $14 adults; $10 ages 3-18, free for kids 2 and under; $7 flat rate after 5 p.m. on Wednesdays (planetarium tickets $5)
Do your kids want to know more about dinosaurs? Stars? Maybe mammoths and mastodons? This is the place for your kids. Don’t forget to visit these kid havens in the museum: the Smead Discovery Center on the lower level, which has a Please Touch Wall and hands-on activities. And outside there’s a heated path through the Perkins Wildlife Center that features live animals native to the state like owls, coyote and bobcats.
Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage
2929 Richmond Road, Beachwood
Admission: $12 adults, $10 students ages 12 and older, $5 children ages 5-11, Free for age 5 and younger
This museum emphasizes connections and diversity. Inside tip: Don’t miss the display honoring one Cleveland creation — Superman — conceived by two Jewish boys from the Collinwood neighborhood.
Kent State University Museum
515 Hilltop Drive (corner of East Main and South Lincoln streets), Kent
Admission: $5 general admission; $3 students and children ages 7-18; free for those 7 and younger; Sundays are free
If you have a budding fashionista or an aspiring designer at your house then plan a visit to the Kent State University Museum. Along with rotating exhibits, you can stroll through their collection of historic, contemporary and world fashions.
Magical Theatre Company
565 W. Tuscarawas Ave., Barberton
At Magical Theatre Company children not only watch the educational and entertaining shows, but get involved in them as well. Have your child can learn from the pros at the camps and workshops where professional actors share their talent, skill and training with your students. These programs serve to introduce young drama enthusiasts to the theatre, providing positive messages, developing creativity, building teamwork and more.
University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital Children’s Theater Series at PlayhouseSquare
1511 Euclid Ave., Cleveland
Admission: $40 for a four-show season ticket (see website for individual ticket pricing)
There’s something magical about live theater — stories come alive on stage. For youngsters and families the Children’s Theater Series offers opportunities for shows to enjoy together at affordable prices. Season ticket holders have access to added perks.
Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland – Money Museum
1455 E. Sixth St., Cleveland
Yes, a Money Museum. If your kids like to count each penny (or if you’d like to encourage them to!) check out this gem located across the street from the Cleveland Public Library. The interactive exhibits invite kids to learn more about how the money system works in the U.S. Don’t leave without getting your souvenir shredded money and a picture of yourself on the one dollar bill (both free, too.).
11011 Euclid Ave., Cleveland
Admission: Ticket prices vary
Introduce your children to the orchestra at Severance Hall. The orchestra offers special “Family Concerts” for ages 7 and older. Also, “PNC Musical Rainbows” for kids ages 3-6. With concerts like Playful Percussion, Vivacious Viola and others, your kids will learn to appreciate the sounds of a live orchestra.
Cleveland Botanical Gardens
11030 East Blvd., Cleveland
Admission: $11 adults; $6 children ages 3-12; free for those ages 3 and younger
Even in the cold months, it’s still warm at the Cleveland Botanical Gardens. On Thursdays, bring youngsters to listen to Nature Tales Stories at 11 a.m. Don’t forget to stop in at the Glasshouse Explorations where it’s always balmy and butterflies will become your child’s new best friends.
1301 Weathervane Lane, Akron
Come see a play or be in one with the youth and adult theatre programs. Classes for youth such as some beginning in February like “Imagine That, Neverland Pirates and Fairies” for ages 3-5 specialize in storytelling through creative movement, dramatic play and music. Students will have fun traveling wherever their imaginations are willing to take them.
Community Arts Centers
These centers offer theater, dance and other arts training for youth along with performances for families to attend. Look for arts and cultural venues in your neighborhood — ask at your local library for suggestions or call the nearest center listed here.
Brecksville Center for the Arts
8997 Highland Drive, Brecksville
Cudell Fine Arts Center
10013 Detroit Ave., Cleveland
Fairmount Performing Arts Conservatory
8400 Fairmont Road, Novelty
Fine Arts Association
38660 Mentor Ave., Willoughby
Solon Center for the Arts
6315 SOM Center Road, Solon
solonohio.org (click on “Solon Center for the Arts”)
Valley Art Center
155 Bell St., Chagrin Falls
Kristen J. Gough is an award-winning family travel writer and a member of the Midwest Travel Writers Association (MTWA) and the North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA) whose known to pack up her 3 kids for trips whether it’s a daycation in Cleveland or a getaway across the globe.