Children -- those masters of snowmen and fairy houses -- are potential aficionados of 3-D art from the time they can stack blocks. And it's not such a big leap, really, from those childhood creations to modern, grown-up sculptures. A bright orange tunnel of steel, a giant tower of boom boxes, a 12-foot-tall eyeball, a king-size bed in a Plexiglas box -- these are just a few of the playful, surprising works of art kids can see in sculpture gardens around the country. These open-air museums display their collections along trails, in meadows, and in landscaped gardens, which makes the experience ideally suited to small, curious beings with wandering feet and attention spans. Families are free to walk around (and often under and through) the art, picnic in its shade at most sites, and sometimes even touch it. The seven sculpture parks listed here make a particular bid for kids' imaginations with interesting collections, good family programming, or both. Ranging from a compact city garden to an expansive 132-acre park, they offer a dynamic, exciting introduction to sculpture for art lovers of all ages.
OMI International Arts Center
A bustling hub for musicians, dancers, writers, and artists in residence, OMI also is home to The Fields Sculpture Park and Architecture OMI. Together they feature more than 80 cutting-edge artworks displayed on some 120 acres of meadows and woods. Kids will dig Paula Hayes's planters with native trees and dive right into Alice Aycock's "Simple Network of Underground Wells and Tunnels," which is as cool as it sounds. For refueling, Café Omi has locavore fare. At Halloween, kids can trick-or-treat among the sculptures and listen to spooky stories. Free. omiartscenter.org
Getting into the art at New York's OMI (at right)