We took the kids to see a street art installation today. It’s an oversize mural of books that was painted on the side of the bookstore that employed me in college. Not exactly highbrow art but pretty damn cool when you really think about it. People making beautiful things in little tucked-away corners of the city.
The kids looked at it, but were quickly more engaged in a game of tag than they were in the color choices made by the artist. Introducing kids to arts and culture can feel like pushing on the ocean sometimes, but my hope is that the steady stream of beautiful things will start to sink in and take hold in some tiny corner of their minds (even if I can’t see it). Of course, the tough thing about cultural experiences is that they tend to cost money and that can add up quickly. So, outside of season tickets to the ballet and NYC vacations to the Met, what can you do to introduce arts and culture to little kids for free?
Here are 10 ideas:
1 – Street art. Like I mentioned, our outing today was to see the side of an old building downtown. If you’re in the Salt Lake City area, Sara from Plum Stitch has put together an amazing walking tour of SLC street art installations.
2 – Stream Pandora stations to play in the background while you’re home. My favorite for everyday time with the kids is called “Classical Music for Studying” but don’t forget to introduce them to other genres of music every now and then. The Buddy Holly playlist and the Elizabeth Mitchell playlist are two of the kids’ favorites.
3 – Call local museums to find out about free community or family days. The more highbrow the museum, the more likely it is that they’ll have a day where they won’t charge admission. We’ve even been let in for free to the local modern museum of art because they never have little kids visit and thought it was funny that we wanted to go in.
4 – Talk about the art you see in shopping malls. It’s crazy how much art we pass by all the time without thinking about it, so keep your eyes peeled the next time you go into a department store. Nordstrom in particular tends to have really interesting art pieces mixed in with the store displays.
5 – Spot letters in signage around town to talk about typography. It didn’t take long at all for Eva to figure out the difference between print/cursive and serif/sans-serif fonts.
6 – Look for student concerts that don’t charge admission, both at the high school and at the university level. If you call the colleges of music, theater, and dance, they can often put you in touch with the right people to get access to dress rehearsals, etc. Just be sure to check that the material is age-appropriate!
7 – Grab a clipboard, paper, and some crayons and challenge your kid to draw a building in your neighborhood. Introduce different architectural ideas by focusing on all the different shapes that make up the building. (From experience – start with a nice boring apartment building or elementary school. Some of those old houses are really detailed!)
8 – Your library, city arts council, and local independent paper are all great resources for finding free events and exhibits around the city. Set time aside every couple of weeks to look for new listings and add them to the family calendar so you don’t miss them.
9 – YouTube is a great resource, especially if you’re stuck waiting somewhere. Lately, we’ve been watching kids play different instruments. There’s a young pianist named Emily Bear that Eva really likes.
10 – Take a church tour. Houses of worship tend to have some of the most beautiful art around and they often provide space for concerts, exhibits, and other activities. We have never felt unwelcome visiting an unfamiliar church and usually you can find someone who is happy to share really special stories or secrets about the art inside.