Visiting the Hirshhorn is an experience that will activate all your senses. There’s something for kids of every age: artworks that spark conversations and inspire new ways of thinking. The Museum’s unique shape is perfect to explore as a family—no art history required.
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Why modern and contemporary art IS for kids:
Modern and contemporary art is extremely accessible, even for very young children. Before reading letters and words, kids differentiate between colors, lines and forms. And while some art concepts are complex, kids like to experiment, which means they can often make instant connections to the unusual materials used in contemporary artworks.
Before You Arrive
Set expectations. In preparation for your visit, discuss what you might see at a modern and contemporary art museum.
Tailor your experience. Read about the exhibitions on view and our schedule of kid-friendly programs and identify anything that might be of particular interest to each family member (make sure the adults have some fun too!).
Go over the rules. The Hirshhorn is brimming with art made from a variety of materials, ranging from paint and bronze to more untraditional media like chocolate and soap. To protect the art, there are two simple rules everyone needs to follow: One, walk inside the building (no running), and two, use your eyes and ears to experience the art, but please do not touch.
Pack your bag. While wet art supplies (paint, watercolors) are not allowed in the museum, you might consider bringing simple materials to enhance your family’s time (and give them something they can actually touch). Our suggestions include a small sketchbook and pencil for in-gallery sketching, a children’s art book (see our list below), or a piece of string to have your child mimic the lines in an artwork they find interesting.
At the Hirshhorn
Get situated. For families visiting for the first time, we suggest taking a few minutes upon arrival to locate bathrooms, water fountains, elevators, and places to sit and take a break.
Stop at the Welcome Desk in the lobby to pick-up printed guides for kids.
Pace yourself. Instead of trying to see the entire museum in one visit, choose one area to focus on. Most children will have a better experience looking at only three or four artworks maximum per visit.
Take breaks. Pause between artworks to talk, draw, or even move your body in response to the artwork.
A stroller-accessible entrance to the building is located on the plaza, next to the fountain. Stroller parking is available in the museum’s lower level, near the elevator.
Bathrooms and changing tables are located only on the museum’s lower level. We recommend stopping there before exploring our upstairs exhibitions.
Grab a snack at Dolcezza, the museum’s lobby cafe or bring your own. For the safety of the art, food and drinks are only allowed in the lobby.
Nursing parents are welcome anywhere in the museum. For your comfort, benches are located throughout the building, typically near the escalator on each floor.
Learning in an Art Museum
Look, talk, think, move. Follow your child’s lead and keep it bite-sized and fun. Invite your child to find a favorite artwork and interact using these simple routines:
Look: For 2D works (paintings, photographs), sit in front of the artwork and look up and down and side to side. For 3D works (sculpture, installations), have your child walk around the work, pausing to see different angles.
Talk: Identify colors, shapes, lines, and materials used. Discuss what you think the painting might be about.
Think: Ask simple questions to consider personal preferences and feelings. Do you like this artwork? Why or why not? How does it make you feel? Why?
Move: Kids use their bodies to learn and remember new ideas! Try posing like the artworks you see, tracing shapes and lines in the air with your finger, or imagine you are painting or sculpting the works you see (remember to keep the art safe when moving in the Museum!)
WHEN YOU LEAVE
Sign up for the Hirshhorn Kids email newsletter to take the Museum home with you, with projects, tips, and mini art lessons delivered to your inbox every other Friday.
Get creative anywhere. You can experience the joy of Hirshhorn Kids even when you’re not actually at the Museum. Keep kids of all ages engaged and interested in exploring art and making unique hands-on projects inspired by your favorite Hirshhorn artworks. Make it!
KIDS ART BOOKS WE LOVE
- Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg
- I Have an Idea by Herve Tullet
- Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beatty, illustrated by David Roberts
- Matthew’s Dream by Leo Lionni
- Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh
- Not a Box by Antoinette Portis
- Square by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen
- The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds
- Yayoi Kusama Covered Everything in Dots and Wasn’t Sorry by Fausto Gilberti