Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

Seattle's Art Museums: Not Just for Grown-Ups

Give your kids a culturally rich experience at one of the city's local art hotspots

When you think about taking your kids to an art museum you may think about the culturally rich experience you’d be giving them and all the things they’d be learning, but more than likely, you’ll be thinking about what if they scream and yell in a quiet gallery or try to touch a priceless sculpture from the Renaissance.


Believe it or not, many art museums have special pamphlets, classes and workshops aimed at children and they want to encourage kids to visit and learn. Seattle’s art museums have some great options for getting the whole family involved in art appreciation.


Seattle Art Museum

SAM has a myriad of options for introducing your little ones to the world of art.


Hidden away among the galleries on the third floor is the Knudsen Room. When the kids need a break or a place to get the wiggles out, they can visit this room stocked with books, instruments and blocks. Head back to the galleries feeling refreshed and ready for more.


The Chase Open Studio is located on the Grand Staircase along 1st Avenue and University Street and has everything you need to create your own art inspired by the current special exhibit at the museum. This is a great way cap off your visit and talk about what you just saw.


Family Fun Workshops happen on Saturdays and begin with a sketching tour of the galleries. Designed for parents and kids to learn and create together for a couple of hours, its the perfect way to dive into galleries in more depth. Workshops run for different age groups ranging from 3-12 years old.


Winter in the Park is held at SAM’s outdoorsy little sister, the Olympic Sculpture Park. Once a month on Saturdays through March, families can enjoy arts, storytimes, yoga and outdoor adventures together.


Henry Art Gallery

This gallery and museum on the University of Washington campus hosts a regular family art time called ArtVentures. Striving to get families to think about art in new and different ways, this monthly workshop takes an idea and explores it through playful and experiments activities. All ages are welcome, but it is recommended for kids 5 and up.


The Frye Art Museum

On the first Friday of every month, The Frye hosts SmallFrye: Storytelling and Art for kids ages 3-5 and their caretakers. The Seattle Children’s Theatre performs a dramatic story in the galleries and then kids have the opportunity to work on an art project inspired by the story. Stories for the year ahead include favorites like Not Quite Narwhal, Harry the Dirty Dog and Flora and the Penguin.


A Few Tips for Success…


Don’t be afraid of taking your little hooligans out for a good dose of culture and art—just do your homework beforehand and follow a few of these simple suggestions to make sure its a successful visit.


First Thursdays

If you’re experimenting with how your kids will do in a museum setting, consider taking them on the first Thursday of the month when many museums are free to visitors. If it’s a bust, you won’t be out any cash!


Do Your Homework

Read up on the museum’s website before you go. Will a stroller be allowed inside? Can you carry a backpack? Is there a cafe where you can get something to snack on or a cafeteria for eating homemade lunches? It’s also a good way to get your kids excited – let them take a look and see if there is anything that sparks their interest that they want to see. Identify a few paintings or sculptures you think they would enjoy and plan on focusing on those when you get there.


Limit What You See

Kids usually don’t have the attention span for checking out a whole museum’s collection, so picking out a few pieces or galleries to focus on is good way to introduce them to museum-going and keep them excited to come back again.


Make it a Game

Keep things light and fun by playing games that involve the artwork. I Spy is great for smaller kids. You can also stop into the giftshop ahead of time and pick a few postcards with current pieces shown on them and then have a scavenger hunt to find those pieces in the galleries.


Encourage their Creativity

Bring crayons and paper and let them sit in front of the works of art and draw what they see. Check with the museum beforehand to see if this is allowed. Some museums only allow pencils.

Above all, have fun and enjoy showing them something new.


Plus, don't miss our guide to 19 family-friendly museums around town: Museums Are For Kids!