Rachelle from TinkerLab on museum education

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Rachelle Doorley is a museum educator, TinkerLab blogger, and the mother of two. Join me in learning more about museum education and how she encourages her daughters' creativity at home. Rachelle shares some excellent tips and games for enjoying a museum visit with children!

***Note: Readers will have a chance to win a Toddler and Preschool Art Kit at the end of this interview.***

JEAN:  What a background! Will you tell us a bit about how you went from theater design, designing film costumes, and teaching art in public school to working as a museum educator?

RACHELLE:  I know, it sounds like roundabout way to find a career! I grew up in a Hollywood family surrounded by filmmakers, and costume design was a natural place to put my creativity. Working on films is an all or nothing world, full of long hours for months on end. During a quiet time between jobs I decided to volunteer as a tour guide at a fabulous art gallery where I took classes in my youth. I enjoyed the energy I got from the children and the challenges inherent in fostering an understanding of art, but I had no idea that it would become such a seminal experience for me. Floating on the high I got from gallery teaching, I applied on a whim to teach middle school art at an inner-city arts magnet school. I suddenly found myself responsible for 250 students, had no budget for materials, and felt like I spent more time managing my classroom than teaching art. With very little guidance, this became a time full of soul-searching.

I left the school to work in art galleries and museums, where I enjoyed a certain freedom that I couldn’t find amidst classroom curriculum, grading, and discipline problems. As a gallery teacher, I was intrigued by visitors’ interpretations of artworks, and loved posing questions and activities that would get them to think critically and creatively about what they were viewing. I was lucky to find my way to the Arts in Education program at Harvard, where I was able to hone my point of view as an art educator and ultimately, parent. What keeps me engaged in museum education is helping others tap into their own interpretations of works of art. What fascinates me is developing and testing tools that enable both children and adults to interact with art on their own terms…without searching for a “right answer,” an answer that isn’t really there to begin with.

Docent Training

JEAN:  I’d love to hear more about your museum education work. What exactly do you do?

RACHELLE:  Before having my own children, I managed school programs, wrote gallery activity sheets, worked closely with teachers to plan field trip visits, and trained gallery teachers and docents to facilitate engaging and memorable art experiences for school groups at the San Jose Museum of Art.  Children love coming to our museum because we make the visits fun. They spend about an hour discussing and interpreting art in the galleries, followed by an hour of art making. Now that I’m a mom to two small children, I’ve downsized my role to training the museum’s dedicated team of volunteer docents to lead interactive tours to our adult and family visitors. 

Children are natural creative thinkers, and if you ask them what they see in an artwork they’ll come up with all sorts of well-grounded interpretations.  My biggest challenge in this role has been getting adults to be fearless interpreters of art. Did you know that most adults look at the descriptive labels longer than they look at the art itself? We live in a culture that values correct answers, so it’s natural for adults to ask questions like, “what is the point?” or “what does the artist want me to think about this?” before taking a careful look at what they’re seeing. The truth is that art is inherently full of mysteries, and curators and artists don’t always have the answers that visitors are searching for. In traditional museum tours, visitors follow a knowledgeable guide who shares information about the artist and artwork. A big trend in museum education is to move away from this, toward a more active form of touring that includes things like dialogue, speculation, and questions. Our docent program is unique in that we train our guides to facilitate conversations with our visitors, rather than give a lecture tour. While this approach isn’t for everyone, the tours are engaging, and our hope is that the visitors come away with better skills for looking at art. I feel really lucky that I have a job that I love, and one that’s also flexible enough to allow me to feel like a full-time parent.

Mom and noli

JEAN:  Will you share your top tips for enjoying a museum visit with children?

RACHELLE:  I’m so glad you asked! Visiting a museum with small children can be a daunting task, especially if it’s to an exhibition or museum you haven’t seen before. If I had to limit it to three things, they would be: Get oriented, don’t overdo it, and plan engaging activities.

1.      Get orientated. We like to suggest that teachers pre-visit the galleries before their school tours, but this is rarely possible for parents. Instead, spend some time scooting around the museum’s website. Check out the current exhibitions to see what looks relevant to your child’s interests. A lot of museums assemble downloadable activity sheets for families, so it’s worth looking for this (usually found under “education” or “learning”). If they don’t offer information specifically for families, worksheets assembled for teachers are often relevant to parents as well. If they post their map online, take a minute to print it out, since it’s nice to know where the restrooms and café are in advance!

2.      Don’t overdo it. Children’s attention spans can be painfully short, so plan to keep the visit short too. A maximum of forty-five minutes is a good benchmark for art-viewing before taking a snack or lunch break. This, of course, depends on your child’s age, so take your cues from them and don’t feel guilty if you have to leave a gallery after 3 minutes. Kids know what they like, but as they get older they can be encouraged to linger a little longer. If you can, have some activities prepared to keep the energy level high, and to fend off art fatigue.

3.      Plan engaging activities. Many museums have age-appropriate gallery games and art kits that you can check out and carry around the galleries. If you’d like to strike it out on your own, here are a couple of my favorites that I like to recommend to families:

o   Scavenger Hunt. Go to the museum’s website and look for images that are currently on view under “exhibitions.” Print out some of these images and give them to your child to hunt for. To make this more challenging, print close-ups of these artworks. Alternatively, make the museum gift shop your first stop and purchase a handful of postcards. Once an artwork is found, have a short discussion about it before hunting for the next one. Once you’re done hunting, talk about which pieces were the favorites and why.

o   Ask 3 simple questions. This activity is based on VTS (Visual Thinking Strategies), a tested strategy for facilitating meaningful discussions about art with children. Open the discussion by asking, “What’s going on in this picture?” Be open to all interpretations and have an open dialogue with your child. Paraphrase his or her responses without interjecting your own opinion or putting words in the child’s mouth. Follow up by asking, “What more can we find?” and then continue the discussion until it’s run it’s course. If your child offers an answer that’s open to interpretation, such as “The woman looks happy,” ask “What do you see that makes you say that?” This last question is important because it encourages the child to provide evidence for his or her ideas and keeps the adult from guessing at or making assumptions about the reason behind the child’s interpretation.

Flour and water

JEAN:  Your blog, TinkerLab, is full of the creative ideas and explorations you share with your toddler. What is it like having your own small child to test your ideas on?

RACHELLE:  It’s as fun as I thought it would be! I enjoyed my daughter as a baby, but a little piece of me was desperate for a little art-making companion. As such, I probably introduced art materials to her much earlier than a lot of parents do. It started simple, with crayons and a huge amounts of paper, and as she grows our practice has emerged into experiments with whatever we can get our hands on. I’m a natural collector, and have to curb my enthusiasm lest my home is flooded with vintage purses and piles of art books. Because I can defend spending inordinate amounts of money and space on my child’s future and creative intelligence, my current collecting obsession is potential art materials for toddler art experiments.  Makeup sponges, liquid watercolors, delicate wrapping paper, glitter, salt, beans…my radar is attuned to anything that could pass as a mark-making tool, sculpting, or collage material. Because I'm a sponge for creative and crafty idea, there are projects brewing in all corners of my house. And now that I have children, this "problem" has grown exponentially. It can be exhausting, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Play dough

JEAN:  What are your favorite creative activities to do at home with your daughter?

RACHELLE:  Because my older daughter is at this great age where everything is shifting and emerging (she’s 28 months), I’m sure my answer will change by next week, but I’ll take a stab at this.

We’ve been addicted to play dough since she was about 15 months old, and it’s still a staple in our house. I love MaryAnn Kohl’s play dough recipe, and even posted it on my blog. We make cookies, pasta dinners, bunnies, and snowmen. It’s a great medium because it’s moderately ephemeral…whatever you make can be squashed and then transformed into something new. My daughter recently came home from school talking about glittery play dough, and then spent the next week adding and mixing great amounts of glitter into all of our play dough. Sparkly!  I love how open children are to new ideas, and how inspired they are by the world around them. It probably would have taken me a good year to come up with that glitter idea on my own.

Marble art

We also love, love, love marble painting. I’d be surprised if this ever goes out of fashion. It’s kind of new to us, so for now I’ll chalk it up to the novelty of it, but it’s very fun in all of its forms. Once the weather gets nice again, I look forward to trying out your super-size ball painting activity.

Paint in general is fabulous for process-based art making. It’s fun to smear, move around, and layer. It can be watery or thick, and of course mixed. We have tons of paint in the house: tempera, watercolors, gitter glue, homemade paint, BioColors.

Watercolor painting

Beyond specific activities, my daughter has ready access to art materials should an idea strike. So, we have a host of tools at the ready for self-service art making: paper, markers, pencils, crayons, stickers, glue, play dough, stamps, etc. We’ve practiced using each of them so many times that I trust her to use them appropriately without my supervision (famous last words, right?). And although she’s still quite young, I can already see this approach paying off. When she has an idea, she can problem-solve and try to figure out how to execute it. For example, she’s been decorating lunch bags for my husband, which is entirely her idea, and makes thank you cards when the mood strikes. I adore her current age and want to bottle it up, but I also look forward to watching her unfold and grow into a more complex creative thinker.

Finger painting,jpg

JEAN:  Anything else you’d like to add?

RACHELLE:  I love what you’re doing at The Artful Parent. I found your site back in my new-mommy days when I was longing for a little art buddy. So you and Maia filled the void until my daughter was old enough to hold a crayon. We eventually started a toddler art group like yours, and I have to say how impressed I am with your organization skills because I couldn’t keep our group going for longer that a few months! Thankfully the other moms and I are all friends and still see each other weekly, but I find that it’s been a lot easier to make art with my daughter when the mood strikes.

JEAN:  Thanks, Rachelle! I love all that you are doing on TinkerLab. And what great tips for visiting a museum with children! I can't wait to try that scavenger hunt with Maia!  

Art kit bag Art kit materials

Giveaway: Toddler and Preschool Art Kit

Leave a comment to this interview by Thursday, November 18th at 12 midnight, EST to be entered into a random drawing for this Toddler and Preschool Art Kit that Rachelle put together. Included in the kit are Twistables, stickers, sequins, glue sticks, glue bottle, construction paper, three kinds of markers, sidewalk chalk, and creative activity cards.

The random number generator picked #52 so Mary Bruno is the winner of the Toddler and Preschool Art Kit. Congrats Mary! I'll send you an e-mail…

These are great ideas- I am always looking for new things to do with my 2 year old. Thanks!

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  1. nadine says

    looks like we could create lots ofopen-ended activities with this package! I’d love to win it for my 4yr old son.

  2. says

    What a great interview! Really makes me miss working in education. Loved the bit about art activities at home as my son is now just old enough to do art activities. That kit would be great for him!

  3. QUinn says

    A wonderful way to combine passions for children and art! On our Christmas list for Santa this year is definitely art supplies, art supplies, and MORE art supplies.

  4. Jenny says

    Great tips on taking kids to museums! I’ve been wondering when the appropriate age would be and how to make it “kid friendly” – just have to give it a whirl I guess!
    My little guy is just reaching an age where I’m starting to feel more comfortable with him using some art supplies without me standing over his shoulder – this would be a great kit to get him going.

  5. Shannon says

    Great interview! We do lots of art with my 3.5 yr old, but sadly have never taken her to a museum. To be honest, I’d never really thought of it before now. It’s on my to-do list now, for sure!

  6. Chandra says

    We’ve only been to the art museum once with my 3 year old. He enjoyed it- maybe we should go back… Of course, with new art supplies he may not want to leave the house!

  7. says

    Wonderful ideas! I love the freedom to explore arts with my kids whenever the mood strikes, but you both have helped me think of ways to be a little more thoughtful in planning activities. And since our stash of available materials is running low (I have a toddler and a preschooler) this would be a great resource for us!

  8. Tamrah T. says

    I love her explanation about art interpretation…there isn’t any ‘right answer’! That’s exactly what I’ve been explaining to bith my 6 YO and 4 YO :) Also, she’s in tune with kid’s needs! Yes unfortunately children do have short attention spans and make for shorter museum visits. BUT,I like that she offers the idea to make a ‘scavenger hunt’ printable(s) PRIOR to going…
    Really enjoyed the interview. I’ll be excited to look over her blog soon.

  9. Ann says

    Great interview. I love art museums but have been hesitant to take my high energy boys. But with these tips, I think we will tackle the DIA soon.

  10. Michaela says

    Thanks for a great interview (and an awesome giveaway!) This brings back fond memories of when I was fortunate enough to intern at the Art Institute of Chicago…. Now I take my girls there occasionally, and I totally agree with your strategies for a successful museum visit. I can’t set too high of expectations, and we hardly see anything while we’re there, but when we go at my kids’ pace, they come away totally inspired and awestruck :)

  11. says

    Love the scavenger hunt idea and museum visit questions! As a mom who also used to be a classroom teacher and has a 2 yo and a 4 yo, this blog fills an important space for me, too. I am now excited about visiting the museum since I have an idea of what we can do to really enjoy the experience:)

  12. Carla says

    Great tips and really nice interview!!! My litlle girl would love to put her hands on those lovely materials!!!

  13. Celeste says

    Loved this interview–great tips and lots of inspiration. And what a great Christmas grab bag this would make for my littles!

  14. Allison says

    We love all of our museums and the modern art museum in our area does an art scavenger hunt as Rachelle suggested…so much fun to look at art from the eyes of a child. Thanks for the interview Jean…always a fan of what you do at The Artful Parent.

  15. says

    Well I feel like I’m pretty good with art at home BUT I have never taken the kids to a real museum :( Its tough, we are a little over 3 hours from NYC but its an intimidating trip with 4 young kids! Maybe when our youngest is 3 or 4!

  16. Stacey says

    Great interview! My 19 month old son is just getting into art, and I love finding new ideas on blogs! If it weren’t for blogs like these, the poor guy would still just be stealing my pens and sneaking away to write on walls.

  17. AnnasBananas says

    Fantastic interview! I loved reading that her daughter began playing with playdough around 15 months- I, like Rachelle am desperate for a little art buddy and my girl just isn’t quite there yet- I hope she’s ready for playdough in another month or two, we’ll def be giving it a try! Lovin’ the give away- good luck everyone!!!

  18. says

    Thanks for inviting me to your blog, Jean! And thanks to all of your readers for the nice comments thus far. You’ve done a great job developing a virtual community that cares about children, art, and creativity, and I’m honored to be a part of it.

  19. says

    I am sooo excited to have stumbled across your blog! The interview gave me some great ideas for my toddler and 4 year old. I look forward to checking out Rachelle’s blog as well. Would be great to put some of these ideas to use.

  20. Laura says

    Great interview. I like to participate in my area museums’ free family days when they have fun, planned activities for children.

  21. Erin says

    That’s such a great assortment of items! I’ve got another little one on the way, so we’ll be switching back to all washable crayons/markers, soon enough I suppose! :)
    Love the idea of a scavenger hunt to extend the interest in art museum visits!

  22. Joy Weiss says

    I can just imagine my son’s face if he saw all those goodies. He’d be creating for hours straight. Hmm, time for me to read, maybe I should just purchase all those goodies myself…

  23. Ana says

    I wish I was a bit more organized and less scared of the messes… but nonetheless my 3 and 2 year old love art and are fearless:-)

  24. says

    Hi Jenny,
    For obvious reasons I’ve been taking my daughter to the art museum since birth, so I’d say just go when YOU feel like it. When my daughter started crawling, this got a little trickier, and I found that she was most engaged with interactive digital art…on a big scale. A good thing to keep in mind is that kids may be more captivated by the museum spaces and galleries than the art itself, and that’s okay! Museum architecture is really interesting. Think of it as an introduction, and over time your child will understand the art museum in the same way he’ll eventually understand libraries. And if you can, try to go right when the museum opens to avoid the crowds.
    Good luck!

  25. says

    Your child is at a great age for a museum introduction! Look for organized family days at your local museum, which are usually packed with fun art-making stations and kid-friendly activities.

  26. says

    Your kids are lucky to have you guiding them! As a former teacher I’ve met children who are already of the mindset that there is only one right answer. How valuable it is to guide children toward multiple possibilities while they’re still young! Thanks for the comment.

  27. says

    With high energy kids, it helps to talk about expectations before the visit such as what you’re planning to see, that most art cannot be touched, it’s important to stay close to mom, etc. Oh, and take lots of snacks. Good luck, Ann!!

  28. says

    I love the Art Institute! How lucky you were to intern there. Children and adults experience art and museums in completely different ways, and you make a great point that you don’t have to see a lot of art to have a worthwhile visit.

  29. marci m says

    those were great tips about taking the kiddos to museums. my one year old would be so delighted to have those art supplies! thanks for the chance to win!

  30. says

    Thanks for the comment MaryAnn! You’re an inspiration to so many of us. I look forward to reading your B&N article…please send me a link once it’s up!

  31. says

    I hear you, Heather! Visiting an art museum with four kids would be a lot of work, especially with six hours of driving! Is there a smaller art gallery or museum in your town? A visit to the art museum doesn’t have to be of epic proportions. Galleries and museums often host family-friendly days on weekends, when you could leave the planning to someone else and also have an extra set of hands help you with the kids. Good luck!

  32. says

    Thanks :) Your daughter will be making art with you before you know it! You could make up a batch of play dough now, and see what she thinks of it…the recipe I use keeps for a LONG time!

  33. [email protected] says

    Can’t wait to visit the HIGH with those pieces of museum advice! My 3 creatives will LOVE the hunt. Thanks!!

  34. says

    Thanks SO much for this interview. I’m a museum educator as well, and I found myself smiling and nodding as I read what Rachelle said. I too have a young child (2 1/2) whom I was eager to introduce to art since birth. :) We began using play dough at an early age and it’s still a big hit. I’m hoping that he’ll just grow up know that art is part of every day play, whether it’s painting, drawing, cooking or arranging blocks on the floor. I’m excited to see his artistic development unfold as the years go on.
    I’m off to become Rachelle’s newest follower!

  35. [email protected] says

    Thanks for the tips on bringing children to the museum. Those are exactly I needed as I plan our winter (indoors) field trips. My sister got me onto this site and you have inspired many fun craft projects here. One tip I have shared with my friends is to go ahead and aquire quality materials (like decent paint brushes instead of ones with plastic, rigid bristlesand good scissors) Kids often give up on art because they couldn’t get good results and they thought is was their own inability. Great work, keep it up. Eleasha

  36. Jill says

    We live in Baltimore and are so fortunate to have two art museums and one Creative Alliance that have free drop in art projects on both days of the weekend! Yay for museum education!! Yesterday I was completely shocked and delighted to have my daughter painting cats with black ink on huge blotter paper, it was magic!

  37. Annette Standrod says

  38. andrea says

    this blog is inspirational!!!! and yay to the chance to win a booty of free art supplies! thanks!

  39. says

    Thank you for that Harvard link! I don’t think I could ever justify paying for another degree for myself when we have three tuitions to save for, but maybe we’ll hit the lottery or something. ;) I was talking about my latest purchase of art supplies at our parent-child group last week, and a mother of a 3 1/2 yo said, “We’re not ready for art supplies yet.” I was more or less dumbfounded. He has developmental delays, so maybe that’s where her hesitation comes from, and I’m trying to figure out how to gently suggest some ways in which art-making would be a good thing, not an overwhelming thing for her. At any rate, we have art supplies all over this house, too. It’s sort of a weakness of mine. :)

  40. Cris says

    I, too, was excited to have an “art buddy” when my daughter got a little older. But it takes everything in me to fight the urge to guide her to the “right” way to color rather than let her just do as she pleases. Any help there?

  41. Roopa says

    Great interview!! Loved the tips on museum visit and thanks for introducing yet another great blog:) Putti would love if we win the kit…

  42. yaya says

    great interview and perspective on making art with your daughter. I’ll be heading out to our museum this week to feed my childrens creativity. thank you :)

  43. says

    The interview reminds to get ourselves to our local art museum. We’ve attended some preschool programs there, but have been away for too long. Thank you! And…what a nice giveaway. My kids would love every bit of it.

  44. Aleksandra says

    I really enjoyed the interview, and I thought the suggestions for visiting a museum with a small child (or children) were invaluable and fun! Thanks, Rachelle, for always giving me wonderful food for thought.

  45. Mary says

    Thanks for the great interview. I am trying, but struggling some to do art with my 17 month old and three and 1/2 year old. The 17 month old still eats playdough, although I’ve tried letting her use it! We would love the art kit to keep working on it. We put glitter in the playdough today (before the toddler began eating it!).

  46. Chelsea says

    oops! Please remove that last comment that displays my email! Thanks :)
    Thanks for this interview! I’ve been following Tinkerlab for a few months now, and only wish that my twins’ attention spans were a little longer for the projects that we’ve been inspired to try.

  47. MaryAnn F. Kohl, art author says

    First, thank you for mentioning my books in your interview, and for reminding folks of that classic old recipe for my favorite playdough that is on your website. And how interesting to read your ideas about visiting a museum with kids! I just wrote an article that will be up soon on the Barnes&Noble Kids’ Expert Circle on this very topic. As soon as they post it, I’ll let you know. I’m happy to read that we think the same way. And – I love the photos! Thank you…
    ~ MaryAnn

  48. Kimberly says

    Very creative and inspiring to read this. I’ve been wanting to do something more w/ my 3 kids – age 6, 3 and 1. Instead of watching tv, i need to get them to see, feel and explore more!
    Thanks for the great suggestions!

  49. Melanie says

    Thank you for sharing all your ideas and tips. As a mom and a not-very-artsy one, your site allows me to be able to present opportunities for my two 2-year-olds to express their creativity and learn about the world through art! Without your tips, i wouldn’t know where on earth to begin!!!

  50. Sheila says

    I’ve been fortunate to watch Rachelle in action with her school kids, and find that engagement learning in art museums can also be used in my history teaching at El Pueblo (Olvera St). It’s so much more fun to see and hear how kids interpret history from the visual clues. For example, when touring the Avila Adobe, I would ask the typical 10 year old “How do you think the Avila’s could shop for all these furnishings and goodies when they had no gold, or dollars or pesos”. Eventually they would discover the pile of cowhides, “California Bank Note” used to barter, and we could have a great discussion on trade. Or I ask, “What do you think this room was used for?” If it’s marked “kitchen” they would start out saying “cooking” but eventually pick out the visual clues and see it was really used for taking baths and washing dishes. Watching and learning from Rachelle has definitely enriched my own teaching experiences. Thank you.

  51. Emma says

    Ooh – never mind my kids, I want to play with all those art supplies!!!!! Please let me win! Anyway, great interview. As someone who’s considering homeschooling, you’ve given me plenty of ideas on how to teach the more formal side of art, art history and the like.

  52. Mary Corbett says

    I love taking my twin 3-year olds to art museums. They do really well with nautical art, egyptian art, and, surprisingly medieval religious art (look its baby Jesus!), but not so well with modern and abstract art. I took them to the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum in Boston even though there are signs up everywhere informing you that this is not a child-friendly museum. I prepped them ahead of time by telling them about how it was one of my favorite places and very beautiful, but it was a place for looking and not touching. They were very reverent. It was amazing.

  53. [email protected] says

    My three year old daughter love to do crafts while I sew. She would really enjoy some new products to explore. Happy Crafting!
    Kristine H.

  54. Tracy says

    Great Interview. Such wonderful tips.Thanks so much for sharing it with us.
    We have a great art museum we take in close to our home. The kids reactions while we are there are great.
    Thank you for a most generous giveaway.

  55. Kate says

    We live in the greater Washington DC area and made a lot of museum visits this summer with my 6-, 5-, and 3-year-olds. We generally followed Rachelle’s suggestions, and the National Gallery of Art was our favorite!! My daughters would LOVE the art kit — our supplies are a bit thin right now… Thanks for the giveaway!!

  56. Michele M says

    We are surrounded by a number of art museums here in Pinellas County, Florida, but I have too been afraid to take my four- and two- year olds with me to view art! It was very inspiring to read this interview. Her tips sound right on. And it would be great to win the give-a-way! Thanks!

  57. says

    If you’re ever on the east coast, the Erin Carle Museum would be right up your alley. Thanks for the new creative mama blog. Helps my two boys and I get working with fun materials.

  58. says

    Love this interview! I was a teacher until I became a mom, currently teach a toddler / mommy and me art class and have never taken my daughter to an art museum! It never even occurred to me. Thank you for the great ideas.
    (Where is the Eric Carle Museum?)

  59. Susan ULrich says

    This is a wonderful field, Museum Education. ( I wish they would have had it as a major when i was in school.) It completely fills in the gap where schools that lack funding for art classes or teachers are missing. I think Museums are such an important asset to our communities and schools, and experts in this field help everyone understand the full extent of the information and the richness that it can add to our lives. Love the part about best ways to help young visitors. So grateful to The Artful Parent for posting this and Rachelle for sharing such valuable information and experience :)

  60. annlaura says

    Thank you for the great tips in your interview! I think my boys would love doing projects with the art package, especially the markers since I haven’t gotten them any yet.

  61. Meg says

    We just made a new batch of playdough yesterday! My kids love working with it just after it’s made, when it’s still warm.

  62. says

    Love the scavenger hunt! And glitter playdough! And I keep forgetting to try the marble painting!
    Can’t wait to try these new ideas.

  63. Sheau says

    This is so wonderful. My girl is 16 months and we had started some art drawing and playdough. She really enjoy the activities. Always looking for more ideas to do with her especially in the Winter rainy season.

  64. molly says

    Love the interview! I am new to your blog and can’t stop thinking about all the projects you have inspired!

  65. says

    I’m so happy to hear that this resonated with you, especially given your own experience in museum education! I have no doubt your son will grow to naturally incorporate his art experiences into his everyday life.

  66. says

    Hi Amy,
    I loved my experience at Harvard. Are you in the Boston area? If so, they offer a part time program, which is a more economical because it allows you to work pt (or be with your children). And there are always scholarships. Feel free to contact me if you want to chat about it more. As for the mother’s comment about art supplies — wow! One thought for a gentle suggestion is to send her a link to this blog or mine :)

  67. says

    With all of my training, there are times when I struggle with this too. Try to remember that young children rarely care about the final product, and it’s all about process. If you were to get in their heads you’d hear things like, “I wonder what will happen if I push this crayon into the paper really, really hard,” or “oh, so if I move this brush lightly on the paper it will make a thin line.” It may help to think of art making as a series of science experiments — each one building on those that preceded it. And over time, your child will develop an aesthetic sensibility where the product is more important. Just my thoughts :)

  68. says

    The good news, if you make your own play dough (sans glitter!), is that it’s not going to hurt your child. keep at it, and before you know it your younger child will come to understand other uses for play dough. Another fun tactile material for toddlers is to make cornstarch Goo: mix a box of cornstarch in a big tub with a small amount of water. The texture is soooo strange…and much harder to eat!

  69. says

    Hi Chelsea!! The attention span is pretty short over here too. Maybe I need to be more transparent about that in my posts, which probably give the illusion that my daughter spends hours thoughtfully executing her doodles. Not usually the case, and many of my projects morph into gymnastics flips off the couch, with me scrambling to clean up paint spills before they make their way onto my furniture!

  70. says

    So glad you enjoyed this! Kids are natural sponges for information, and I’m sure they’ll gain a lot from whatever art materials to choose to put in front of them. Good luck!

  71. says

    And you’ve inspired me to share and give back to my community! Thanks for the kind words, and I’m glad that these tools have helped you as a historical educator. Socratic teaching strategies really are universal — for parents, teachers, museum educators, etc.

  72. says

    I love the Gardner Museum! How wonderful that you took your children there. And you were spot on to prep them for it ahead of time. Young children are natural story tellers, and the lack of identifiable imagery in abstract art can make it difficult for them to access. With these pieces, I’ve had success playing color and shape identification games. It’s also interesting to ask “what’s going on in this picture?” to see what kind of wild interpretations they’ll come up with.

  73. says

    That museum is on my list! Thanks. Not too far from there is Mass Moca, which has a phenomenal children space called Kidspace. It’s an art museum, within the museum, that’s just for kids…and you don’t have to worry about not touching.

  74. says

    What a nice comment! And you’re completely right — museums have been filling the gap left by cut art classes and art teachers. Interestingly, the great educational philosopher, John Dewey, envisioned the ideal school with a museum at its center. Wouldn’t that be amazing?

  75. Maris says

    Great interview!
    Thanks for reminding me the scavenger hunt idea! I’ve done it for an aquarium visit and my son loved it. I’ll try it for a museum since I’ve been postponing a visit afraid he would be bored after a few minutes. Museums for us are not near and usually expensive.

  76. Prerna Sood says

    Awesome interview- thanks for all the tips and ideas…
    Can’t wait to try them out with my three year old.

  77. Lynne says

    I care for 6 toddlers during the week and enjoy introducing them to art, their favourite activity is also the messiest – fingerpainting. I get so inspired when i read interviews like this and will definitely check out Tinkerlab.

  78. Karla says

    Very interesting and inspiring interview. All 3 of my children would get some great use out of all of those wonderful supplies. Thank you.

  79. says

    Love this interview! Having worked at a museum myself, it is so nice to see encouraging words to get the little ones out there. Can’t wait to explore Tinkerlab as well — love the name.

  80. Autumn says

    Great ideas on making the most of museum visits-but I think I’ll still wait a few years before I try.

  81. joy says

    Great interview and I loved the info on museum education. I have yet to take my 17 mo. old to the museum and now I feel more confident doing so. I have been incredibly inspired by this blog and look forward to following the tinkerlab as well. Thank you for all the effort you all put into sharing your passion with others.

  82. Nicole S says

    Yay! I love finding more like-minded individuals. I am a former ECE teacher and was always shocked at people’s misconceptions about art and creativity with young children. I find it is my go to, especially with trying children and/or trying times. Thanks for the inspiration!

  83. Katrina B. says

    Thanks for the great tips on visiting a museum. My son and I are going for the first time this month. My biggest issue is keeping my expectations for the visit reasonable, and to be open for what HE sees and not get stuck in what I want him to see or think he should see. Also, hope to win those art supplies. Woowee! Can we ever have too much of this stuff?

  84. Dawn says

    Inspiring post! Art with the young ones makes the heart fuller. Love to see what children can create and thanks for sharing these ideas.

  85. Julie says

    I just did marble painting this week in pairs with a long box to encourage my special education students to interact with their mainstream general education peers. I had not done it in a while and I remember thinking–I could do this every week and they wouldn’t tire of it!!! I took photos of them working together and put it to music in a slide show and they had just as much fun watching themselves on my computer as they did when they were painting :-)
    Julie A.

  86. says

    Wonderful interview! I’ve already taken my son (now 16 months) to a few museums including the NC Museum of Art. Of course, at this age, I keep him firmly strapped into his stroller but it is clear he enjoys the visual stimulation. Appreciate the suggestions so I will have more ideas of how we can enjoy these outings as he gets older. And thanks for the opportunity to win the art supplies! I know our playgroup would have a blast with them.

  87. Sara R. says

    Thanks for sharing! I have a feeling more art in my child’s life might make all the difference in surviving winter!

  88. Julie L. says

    Oh the thought of my kids in an art museum is scary! Maybe when they are a little older. Great tips for when I do become brave enough. Love all the supplies in the kit too. We have a blast making messes at home so we would love to add this stuff to our collection.

  89. says

    Oh my goodness what a great interview! It is so great to learn about Rachelle – I too am a former theatrical designer turned art educator. Museum education sounds fascinating, and something I’d love to learn more about! I am also looking for ways to introduce my 14-month old to making art, so I will have to visit her blog for ideas.

  90. Candace says

    Great Interview and great art tips. I have never thought to bring my two kids to an art gallery, but now I will. Thanks for the tips.

  91. Ann says

    Great information. One day I will have an art area in my basement. It’s a dream and I know it’s very important for my little ones too explore life through art. Thanks.

  92. Francine says

    What a great give away!! It would be well used here by my 2 and a half little one :)
    Thanks for the opportunity!

  93. shaivite says

    Thanks for the good information.
    My toddler would enjoy the goodies in the art bag. Thanks for the chance to win!

  94. Aimee says

    Wonderful ideas, and very inspiring. I’m trying to build a little studio for my son to enjoy this winter in Maine. This article, and the blog, have really made me excited to start. Thanks!

  95. says

    This is an awesome article. During my working years as a recreation therapist, Ispent many hours working with many individuals who were artistically very expressive naturally. Rachell makes some excellent points and her eldest daughter is her current model. I love TinkerLab
    and have shared the blog with many friends with grandchildren. Keep it up cousin!

  96. Bridget says

    Thanks for the great ideas. I’ve always loved museums and my kids do too. The give away looks like a lot of fun!

  97. ericka says

    My daughter saw the picture and as she’s on the crazy “add it to my Christmas list” mode, she said “let’s get that stuff”.

  98. says

    I love the suggestions for attending art museaums with children. I am happy to report that we’ve taken our kids a few times already, but now I’m armed with a few more great ideas to keep the interest of our 4 yr old. Thank you! And I’m sure my soon to be 2 yr old would love some new art supplies!

  99. Melody says

    Just stumbled on your blog, and my three-year-old would DIE for that art kit. Great interview, with tons of wonderful ideas. Thanks for sharing!

  100. says

    We love this blog! And another great article! I keep trying to encourage my toddler son into arts & crafts at least once a day. It is nice to take a break from the banging and throwing of things. This blog helps….and that giveaway would help even more! -Allison

  101. Heather says

    Ooh… This sounds like so much fun! My kiddos would love this set. Thank you for the chance to win!

  102. says

    I love to see what others are doing with their little ones. I must try marble painting SOON! Today, perhaps? Our go-to supply right now for my 2 1/2 yr old is Do-A-Dots. He loves them and they easily clean up off all surfaces. Whew!

  103. says

    This is my first visit to your site and I will be back! I have a 19 month old, 3 year old, and a five year old. These activities (and this giveaway) look great for us! Thanks

  104. Christie says

    Great interview. My kids would love to get their art on with these fun supplies. Pick me! Pick me!

  105. says

    Thanks for the interview! I love the mess-making art for todders…but the older ages offer lots of new stuff too. I too am torn.

  106. says

    Thanks Jean for another great interview, I will be looking at TinkerLab blog!
    That art kit looks so inspiring, we would love to win!!!

  107. says

    Thank you for the wonderful interview! I have been thinking about taking my daughter to our museum (she is almost 3), but had been wavering on if it was appropriate for her. You gave me hope!!
    And the art kit that you are giving away looks great!

  108. kate says

    I liked the ideas about talking with children about art. Very helpful.
    Please enter me into the awesome drawing as well. Thanks!

  109. kate says

    The ideas about how to talk with children about art was very helpful.
    Please enter me into the awesome drawing also. Thanks!

  110. Susan S. says

    Thanks for the great interview with Rachelle. I’m lucky enough to know her and her daughters personally, and I’ve been so inspired by her site. It was great to learn more about what she does as an Art Educator. Thank you!

  111. [email protected] says

    Great tips! I’m learning so much about teaching art to my girls. And thank you for the giveaway!

  112. [email protected] says

    Oooh I’d love to win this for my daughters.
    Thank you.

  113. says

    I loved this interview. Thanks for it. I’m re-inspired to get myself and our 14 month old to out to the local art museum and galleries, and to resist the urge to “tell her all about the art.” Can’t wait til we can do a scavenger hunt with postcards– what a great idea.

  114. Laura says

    What a great post! I work in museum education at science centers, and it was great to get a art museum educator’s take on museum visits. I’ll admit that my 2.5 year old generally expects to be able to touch exhibits, and it’s been a fun challenge to introduce her to the different ways you interact with art exhibitions too. Thank you!

  115. Emily says

    I really need to stop being lazy and start painting with my toddler. She loves markers, crayons, play-doh….I’m just scared of the mess!

  116. Halley's Mommy says

    I feel totally inspired! My the interview and even the photos. My daughter woke the other night @ 4am saying she wanted to “daw” (draw). Needless to say, art materials will soon be at her fingertips as you’ve suggested. Why hold her back?

  117. Julie says

    I really enjoyed the perspective of both museum employee and mother. I am eagerly awaiting the renovation of our local art museum to be finished as they will have a new childrens center for art and we can see great art and make great art!

  118. Emily S. says

    I loved the idea of the Art Museum Scavenger hunt, I think my boys would love that. Great interview!

  119. SaraE says

    Perfect – a play dough recipe & marbling idea in one fell swoop! Thanks for yet another dose of inspiration… and a great giveaway!

  120. says

    Thank you for this lovely interview with such gorgeous photos of her daughter making art! I’d love a chance at this give-away, thanks!