Visiting MoMA with Kids - Making the most of your trip to the Museum of Modern Art | Kids Out and About Philadelphia <

Visiting MoMA with Kids - Making the most of your trip to the Museum of Modern Art

by June Santini

You like museums. You want your kids to like museums. You are terrified of taking your kids to museums not specifically aimed at children.

Don't panic. MoMA may just be the perfect place for you. And your kids.

The Museum of Modern Art in New York City might just possibly be one of the best art museums to visit with your kids; modern art can spark a young child's enthusiasm and excitement like no other kind.

Talking about Art

A parent is a tour guide to the whole word for a child, and that goes double in an art museum. Helping interpret the experience is our job as parents, and the way we do that is by giving definitions and asking questions.

At the MoMA, the questions come naturally, because much of the art displayed there is non-representational, which means that it isn't necessarily trying to reproduce an image of an object in the real world. Here are some questions to discuss with kids at MoMA:

  • What do you think about when you look at modern art?
  • Do you think anyone can make it?
  • Do you think art that is non-representational isn't art?

And watch for your own responses to these questions: They may surprise you! MoMA can change your mind about art even while igniting your children's imaginations.

I myself am no art expert; I often struggle to find "meaning" in modern art. "What is the artist trying to say?" I think. "There must be a deeper meaning to this." The funny thing is, if you let go of all of your preconceived expectations and just try to appreciate what the artist has created, much as you do with representational art, you'll find that you and your kids will both have a great experience.

Whether they’re looking at a painting of some sylph-like girls playing violins or one of a big black square, kids typically approach a piece at an art museum with only one question in mind: Do I like it? And typically, they have only two possible answers: Yes, or no. Our job as parent-tour-guides is to help give kids ways of thinking about art that gives them more than just that binary question. Fortunately, talking with kids about art and pointing out various other dimensions on which to think about it both makes the visit to the museum more interesting, and (gradually) helps them grow into people who can think about art on their own.

The same rules apply to taking kids to a modern art museum as to taking young kids to any museum:

  • Go when your kids are rested and fed
  • Stay only about an hour or two
  • Try to look at only one or two pieces in each gallery before moving on, unless kids become completely absorbed and want to stay longer
  • Talk about what you see in each piece

Focusing on the Famous

In addition to contemporary and non-representational art, MoMA has plenty of 19th- and 20th-century pieces. Most notably, it is the home to van Gogh's "Starry Night," one of the world's most famous paintings. People crowd around it to get a good view. Make sure you go early or very late in order to avoid being jostled.

The exhibits are as varied as you can possibly imagine. MOMA encompasses about any artform you can imagine: painting, sculpture, photography, performance, film, architecture, and modern design. There is often some type of performance, dance, music, lectures, etc. that you might just happen upon by chance.

Additional Resources

MOMA has tons of resources for helping families enjoy their visits: artcards with activities, questions, and ideas for looking at works of art, printed guides just for kids, and even special kid-friendly audio tours. Their ArtLabs allow kids to have an interactive, hands-on experience in which the whole family can create, experience, and explore art and engage in making art.The ArtLab is located on the first floor. The newest lab, Movement, opens on Ocotber 10, 2013.

Café 2

And the one thing you should not miss: Café 2! On our first visit, we went up to grab a bite because it was convenient; it is now a must for us on return trips. The food was inventive and beautifully presented; there were offerings that were simple enough to please children (plain pasta with butter!) and inventive and creative enough to entice adventurous eaters, too. Everything was fresh and delicious. Small plates could be had for a few dollars each, and it was fun to order a few different things and share a bite or two each. We loved the various bruschettas, antipastos, and soups. The desserts are too tempting--you won’t escape without one!

The Details

MOMA is located at11 West Fifty-third Street, between Fifth and Sixth avenues. It is open 10:30am to 5:30pm everyday and until 8:00pm on Fridays. Directions for getting there are here.

Admission is:

Adults $25
(65 and over with ID)
(full-time with current ID)
(16 and under)


Every Friday from 4pm to 8pm, admission is free!

For more ideas about how to get kids interested in art, check out our terrific article Tips for Getting Kids Excited About Visiting An Art Museum.

© 2013,

June Santini serves as Vice President of Operations of and provides kid-friendly travel tips for venues around the country.

*Painting images reproduced by permission of MoMA.

Henri Rousseau. The Dream. 1910. Oil on canvas, 6′ 8 1/2″ x 9′ 9 1/2″ (204.5 x 298.5 cm). The  Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller.

Vincent van Gogh. The Starry Night. Saint Rémy, June 1889. Oil on canvas, 29 x 36 1/4″ (73.7 x 92.1 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest.