Art museums, once bastions of hushed voices, are no longer shushing kids. In fact, they're finding clever ways to draw them in -- mini tours for toddlers, touch-me installations to foster interest in classic masterpieces, and treasure hunts that promote exploration. "Exposure to the visual arts, especially in these creative ways, expands a child's awareness of the world and is a tool that can be used for learning in science, history, math, and more," says Robert Frankel, director of museums and visual arts at the National Endowment for the Arts in Washington, DC.
To explore this new landscape, Child conducted the first-ever data-driven survey to assess the family-friendliness of U.S. art museums. We began with the members of the Association of Art Museum Directors, eliminating facilities that were closed for renovations, were revamping their children's program, or offered no family activities. We sent the remaining 100-plus museums 42-question surveys, which we developed with the advisory board noted at the end of this article. Rather than judge the depth of the collection, we examined family tours, kids' and family classes, educational programs for school groups, staffing, the accessibility of the exhibits to kids, and other features key to a memorable family experience.
What we found out: Many art museums covet, clamor for, and cater to kids. Read on to learn about their cool exhibits and classes. Be sure to call ahead for dates and times.