London Galleries with Kids


4 London Art Galleries with Kids

I have been meaning to write about our Gallery visits for AGES now and keep procrastinating about other things, especially since, I just want to write about “the experience” and how you can have “good gallery days” and “bad gallery days” when out and about with children. I think it is really important to not let the “bad days” put you off and that you just need to go again on another day.

Quick tips for visiting a gallery with kids

When we go to Art Galleries, I encourage the children to find paintings that they like and tell me about them. We do little “art hunts”, e.g. by looking for animals in paintings or looking for shapes and colours. I ask the children general questions such as “what can you see?”, “what are your favourite colours?”, “how does it make you feel?” etc. Of course, often, they just whizz by the art and don’t want to look, but you only need 1 painting to grab their attention for the visit to have been worth while! And usually we DO find something and then we talk about it extensively. Once home you can look it up online and see what else you can learn about the artwork!

Also, if you are going to Galleries with kids, it is worthwhile informing yourself a little about the layout of the gallery before you go – so you know where to start etc. As we know, kids can easily get bored, so don’t make them bored, by trying to find your way around the gallery at the beginning. Having said that, sometimes you do stumble about the most amazing things if you “don’t have a plan”. 

Make sure you include breaks at the coffee shop to keep them refreshed and interested!

Tate Modern & Tate Britain with Kids

  • Tate Modern – South Bank – walk from Waterloo, London Bridge or St Paul’s Tube Stations
  • Tate Britain – walk from Pimlico, Victori or Vauxhall Stations

A few months ago (gosh it is quite some time, Pip Squeak is in full Winter gear), I went to Tate Modern with Pip Squeak. The most impressive item we saw that day, was Matisse’s Snail – it was sooo much bigger than we expected! The colours are bold and inviting and I think Pip Squeak enjoyed looking at it. Also we found the little “pink snail in the top left hand corner of the pink rectangle” – great to see on the real artwork and often not visible in reproductions. We also so some Mondrian (Composition B No. II with Red) and some Calder. Sadly, Red Ted couldn’t join (he was at school). We will DEFINITELY go back, as Tate Modern is a wonderful and welcoming place to visit with children. There is lots to see for them, it is a great place to learn about abstract art and there is space for a snack and drink and a break.

Matisse The Snail

I can highly recommend both The Tate (read about our Turner inspired visit) and Tate Modern with kids. They are friendly and welcoming and The Tate often has an “art trolley” for kids to get art supplies from and be inspired!  Check out their website for what’s on for kids. At Tate Modern, we always head straight for the fourth floor, where the permanent exhibition is. Though don’t forget the “newer” turbine exhibitions next to the great turbine hall.

The Royal Academy with Kids

Walk from Green Park or Piccadilly Tube

Then we went to a Landscape exhibition at the Royal Academy. It was a complete disaster. The kids were bored bored bored from the word go. Well, I am hardly surprised – landscapes, and many of them in pencil. Well, to  be honest, I thought they were a bit boring too! Normally, the Royal Academy is a positive experience for us and I find the both the gallery and the other visitors welcoming to kids. But this was a bit stuffy and we got some funny long glances too. Ha. But you have to try these things out, don’t you?! Lucky part of the trip included a stop at the Mariko Mori: Rebirth exhibition (no longer on) – which was wonderful for the children and certainly saved the day. But the kids were not on form, so we left not too inspired.

mariko moriPhoto Source: The Times (we had one of these, but I can’t find our photo! Argh)

The Royal Academy has fantastic exhibitions and generally is very child friendly. Though it DOES get very busy which can be intimidating for your children. Their Summer Exhibition usually has a number of exhibits that are interesting to kids. Else pick your exhibition carefully! Our David Hockney trip was wonderful!

The National Gallery with Kids

Walk from Leicester Square, Charring Cross or Embankment Tube Stations

A couple of weeks later we went to the National Gallery. Which was a great day (save for a very frosty atmosphere). There are not just one or two amazing paintings but 10s of them. After discovering one, we discovered the next. Literally one great artists after another from Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, to Seurat’s Bathers at Asnières, from George Stubbe’s Whistlejacket to  Rousseau’s Tiger in a Tropical Storm. All paintings the children recognised from our “Katie Books”. We were enthralled.

National Gallery

But what really made the day memorable was the paintings from 1250 – 1600. A large propotion of these paintings are of a religious nature (including a whole section on triptychs) and many depicted the Christ – be it as a baby with Mary, or during his cruxifiction and resurrection.

Red Ted was fascinated and confused and concerned. It was time to tell him about the story of Easter – our art appreciation trip turned into a religious education session. As Easter was then just around the corner, I was actually pleased to be able to use the gallery to explain, discuss and explore.

National Gallery with kids

I was hoping to come home and create a triptych of sorts with him – I thought it would be a good opportunity to help him process what we had seen, as well as use some of wonderful gold paint I have. But no. He REALLY didn’t want to. I think he found it all too disturbing. We talk about the visit regularly, as I do want him to process it all. But it is interesting that he didn’t want to discuss it through his own artwork.

The National Gallery is a fantastic gallery to go and visit with kids – as it has so much on offer for them to see. Do read the “Katie Books” as part of your trip. Though Note: staff are not very child friendly at all and neither are other gallery visitors. Just ignore them and enjoy your visit! We will be going again soon!

Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) for Kids

Walk from High Street Kensington Tube – opposite the Natural History and Science Museum and close to Hyde Park

V&A with kids

Awww look how little Pip Squeak looks! Totally adorable!

We haven’t been to the Victoria & Albert Museum in aaages. However, I do know that they regularly have a kids program and sometimes have activity packs for kids. When we went about 2 years ago, we found the main part of the museum a little stern and intimidating. It was difficult to find our way around and we were wary/ nervous of the kids touching anything (not that we let them touch anything anywhere else, but somehow everything loomed more ominously for us here!). Eventually, we found the kids art room, tucked away in the basement, as FAR AWAY from anything as possible. Or so it felt. The art room was great though. The staff lovely. At the time the kids I think were 3.5yrs and 18months and they were welcomed 100%. There were loos nearby and a sofa-ed break out area that we had our picnic on. They came away having made fun “shields” from paper and bits to stick on and where very happy. I just felt we hadn’t really gotten anything out of the museum itself. I think we need to plan our V&A visit better next time, as we just didn’t know where to start with them.

I know of friends who LOVE the V&A, so I think we definitely need to give it another go!

We found that the V&A had a slightly frosty atmosphere (not as bad a The National Gallery though!), with a fantastic and friendly Kids Art room in the basement. I guess our experience has not has us rush back, which says a lot! But as it is next to the Science Museum and the National History Museum, it is worth a visit and if you are not enjoying it, there are plenty of other places to go. We DO want to go again, but I will try and be better prepared!!

As our next Kids Get Arty challenge is looming, I am looking at what project we could do next! I have learnt that I can’t just pick a project FOR the kids, but I have to find something that they can get enthusiastic about – maybe I can get them to marvel at mosaic art colors, some Gaudi would be great for that – but would love them to experience Gaudi in the flesh!! Or maybe Red Ted will be inspired by Mondrian? We went to Tate Modern again recently and he did get to see one – though it was at the end of a long day in London and a quick dash to the Tate wasn’t quite his thing… we shall see!

This article was written in collaboration with and behalf of Saatchi Online