As a photographer, I feel a strong urge to develop my son’s appreciation for art. Yet every opportunity to bond with my son over the arts has been thwarted by toddler wonder. I have readjusted my expectations for my toddler’s “art readiness” and have learned the following valuable lessons:
1. My son has no patience for my artistic endeavors.
While exercising my creative photographic expression the other morning, my son bull-rushed my camera. He was so excited to view the glowing image (of him) on my LCD screen that he rammed his forehead against my lens. I first gauged the severity of his wound, then I put down my camera and picked up my son. I quickly realized that toddler supervision and conducting photography shoots are separate activities in our household for the time being.
2. I think like an art historian, not a toddler.
When I crave a dose of fine art, I imagine “old masters'” paintings at the MFA. When I want a dose of contemporary art, I envision looking at charred wood pieces hanging from the ceiling of the ICA. I want my son to gaze at these artworks and marvel at the talented minds that created them. Instead, the last time we visited the MFA, I had to sweep his running legs off the floor and into our “emergency backup stroller” before he tripped over a barrier and into a Murakami mural. We haven’t been to an art museum together since. Incorporating high art into my toddler’s life is a dangerous proposition not only to him but also to the cultural institutions that welcome him.
3. Art is dead to my toddler, and so I adjust.
I’ve distanced myself from my arts-inspired, pre-motherhood life, and I’ve readjusted my mindset about how my son can enjoy art. I would love for my son to appreciate the finer qualities of a Rembrandt drawing, but I will accept his appreciation for drawing with crayons. I’d rather my son pound his fists on his plastic keyboard than our friend’s grand piano. He is still learning to be creative by exploring the possibilities of three-dimensional space with Play-Doh; he doesn’t have to contemplate a Rodin sculpture.
4. But don’t let this prevent you from exploring cultural institutions with your kids.
There are many benefits to exposing kids to art early in life, including the development of critical thinking and self-esteem. Many museums in the Boston area have developed programs specifically for kids because of these merits. Notably, the MFA playdates and the ICA ‘s kids and families programs incorporate kids’ activities within the context of current exhibits at the museum. For music lovers, the Boston Symphony Orchestra also hosts family-friendly events and concerts for very young people. I hear rave reviews about these events, but for the moment, our family’s musical enjoyment centers on dancing around to hip-hop together and snapping together Lego Duplo pieces.
5. Also, you can find — and teach — art to your kids in everyday life.
In my mind, I want to drag my son to every gallery opening across the city. Many artistically inclined folks do just this and manage to have very young museum-minded children. I envy them, but I’ll take at-home arts and crafts activities with my son over a trip with him to the Fuller Craft Museum (despite the fact that their current photography exhibit looks amazing). You’re more likely to find us at the local park with some sidewalk chalk or at home discussing the elements that comprise the works illustrated in “Art for Baby.” We spend the afternoons reading, but I do see “open studio” days in our near future. All is not lost on this artist mother and her toddler.