As a professional museum educator and art historian, I love participating in art programs for children. Utah has a handful of top notch museums, not least of which is the Brigham Young University’s Museum of Art (MOA). My toddler, Ezra, and I attended one of the MOA’s most popular family programs this summer called Van Gogh to Play Dough. Van Gogh to Play Dough is an art program for little ones ages 2-4 years and their caregivers. It includes an interactive tour of one of the museum’s exhibitions followed by hands-on art making in the museum’s art studio.
To begin, we sat on a big, colorful rug while one of the museum educators read a picture book about southern Utah. After the story, we had a fun conversation about the book’s themes, and the educators then handed each child an adventure backpack to wear during the tour. The backpack contained a number of objects the littles would use during the museum tour. This was one of my favorite aspects of the program. I couldn’t get over those little people walking through the galleries with their adventure packs on!
After going over some simple museums rules (like keeping little hands from touching the paintings!), we walked downstairs to the exhibition Capturing the Canyons: Artists in the National Parks. Our first stop was a painting of a man riding his horse into the canyon. The educator asked questions about what animals we saw in the painting and what other animals might live in the Utah wilderness. Someone said “bears!” and we all stood up and played the movement game “Going on a Bear Hunt.” This was great for getting the wiggles out as it’s not always easy for little ones to sit still in front of a painting.
Our next stop was a gorgeous painting of slate gray canyons with small gulls dotting the landscape. The educator passed around real bird feathers for the children to feel and then asked us to take out the mini binoculars from our adventure packs so that the children could better see the birds in the painting. The binoculars were such a fun touch and were helpful for viewing the details in other paintings in the exhibition as well.
Our last stop was a giant, fiery orange painting of Utah’s red rocks. This was my favorite painting and Ezra’s favorite, too! The educator talked about the many different rock formations that make up Utah’s landscape and had the little ones pull out magnifying glasses and Utah native rocks from their adventure packs. Ezra and I used our magnifying glass to look closely at our rocks’ interesting colors and patterns. I loved using this opportunity to talk with him about different colors and textures.
At the end of tour, we walked upstairs to the museum’s art studio where three tables were set for art projects related to the paintings we saw on the tour. We were invited to take our time and explore the offerings at each table. I loved how relaxed the art making experience was. At table one we were invited to build our own bird feeder using plastic bottles, yarn, and colorful tape, at table two we were invited to design our own adventure pack using markers, glue, and confetti, and at table three we were invited to decorate rocks with blobs of bright paint. The art making portion of the program was the perfect way to solidify everything we learned in the exhibition while also giving the littles a chance to get messy with art! I also loved how the educators offered three different types of media for the littles to explore: paint, sculpture, and collage.
We had a wonderful experience at Van Gogh to Play Dough and plan on going back this fall! The program is free, but pre-registration is required. Mark your calendars for registration on August 15 at 10.00 am. You can register here.The classes fill up fast, so you’ll want to get online as soon as registration opens. Have fun!
Thanks to Krisanne for contributing this article! She's an art historian with two littles. You can follow her IG account @makingtable
Van Gogh to Play Dough: Art for Toddlers is free and open to the public, but registration is required.
- The museum offers the same tour and art making program for two months straight, so when you register you will only be registering for one session out of those two months.
- Monday, August 15: Register for a single September/October class
- Monday, October 17: Register for a single November/December class
- Entrance to the museum is free to the public.
- Bathroom’s available
- Handicap and stroller accessible
- The Museum Cafe is open during museum hours