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Your Guide to Visiting Colorado with the Kids
Visiting the Denver Art Museum with Kids
The Denver Art Museum makes a fantastic outing for families.

Interactive kid-friendly activities open up the  world of art and keep kids coming back for more.



Photo: Kids interact with light patterns that flow like falling cloth in "Rock Formation".

The piece was created 2006 by Jennifer Steinkamp and acquired by the Denver Art Museum through the generosity of the Gates Frontiers Fund.








Photo: Kids and their parents enjoy the Kids Corner at the Denver Art Museum, where they can spend time making their own art.

Subject matter and activities at the Kids Corner change from time to time, keeping it interesting for return visitors.



Photo: Kids inspect "Big Sweep" outside the
Frederic C. Hamilton building at the
Denver Art Museum.


Artists Klaes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen
created the piece from 1999 to 2006.


The North Building of the
Denver Art Museum rises in the background.
Snooty art connoisseurs sniffed and glared as I bounced my fussy one year old on my hip and scolded my three year old, “Honey, take your tongue off that fifteenth-century oil painting!” This was a horrible fantasy of mine and the main reason that the Denver Art Museum was one of the last places we field-tested.


Ten minutes into our visit, my mind changed like my mood does after a good night’s sleep. The Denver Art Museum is now one of my favorite places to go with young kids.


Almost immediately, young visitors are swimming in art, not even knowing that they are laying a solid foundation for later appreciation and achievement.


You enter the museum from a plaza between the art museum and the Denver Public Library. The cement paving stones are laid out in geometric patterns and a huge red sculpture invites kids to climb, slide, and bang on it.


Inside, you can pick up the “Free Things for Kids to do Today” booklet with a picture of Seymour, the monkey mascot. He appears at various locations throughout the museum to mark fun kids’ activities.


Near the elevators kids will encounter the Egyptian Collar Making exhibit, where they use markers, tape, and string to make their own Egyptian neck-ware. They can plunge into an appreciation for the artists that made the real collars thousands of years ago. While they are working, parents and teachers can read interesting points from the reference books available and the exhibit itself.


Another option is to check out a family backpack. Available every day during the summer and on weekends during the school year, each backpack has a theme that corresponds to an exhibit within the museum. The most popular backpack is the Jaguar, Snakes, and Birds backpack for the Mayan exhibit on the 4th floor. It is full of colorful items for children to manipulate including a stuffed snake and cardboard templates to make a big bird-beak mask. These tools, which encourage youngsters to use their hands, help instill a deeper understanding of the art displayed around them.


According to Lindsey Evans, Family Backpack Coordinator at the museum, “Education is a focus here, and we encourage kids to pull things out of the backpack and have fun on the floor, right in the exhibit!”


The Denver Art Museum hints in other ways that preschoolers are very welcome. You’ll find a stepstool tucked under the water fountain, a family restroom with a diaper deck and nursing area, free strollers for checking out (including strollers with infant carriers attached) and a kids menu with Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches at the Palettes snack bar.


But the most family-friendly space is the Just for Fun Center. Located on the C-level, it is full of hands-on activities to draw kids into the world of art. At a magnet board covered in beautiful pictures of the Pacific Northwest, children can manipulate photographs and native interpretations of local animals. They can put a picture of an eagle in the magnetic trees and an eagle totem right next to it, to appreciate how people artistically interpret their environment. Or they might play with a giant foam 3-D puzzle of a Maya stone slab, or dress up in Egyptian animal costumes.


At the Denver Art Museum, there is always more to do than time will allow. Plan to visit often and explore one small section at a time. Art has never been less snooty or more fun.



Update

Editor's Note:

I wrote the above in 2001 for my first book,
The Preschooler's Guide to Denver - Best Outings for Kids Under 6 Years Old.


Growing Up

Since then, the Denver Art Museum has grown and changed almost as much as my children. And like my children the core of the museum, its personality is much the same. The additions have only made it better.

In 2006, the museum added the Frederic C. Hamilton Building, increasing the size of the museum complex to 356,000 square feet. The spiky, angular architecture of the addition grabs the attention and appreciation of even the youngest visitors.


Respecting the Art

While my kids never have licked a painting, we did visit with friends whose littlest girl became so excited that she ran up and touched a painting. The guard quietly and firmly reminded us about respecting the art and not touching any of it. It was an appropriately delivered lesson, and the museum handled the situation well.


Stuff for Kids to Do

With the new addition, now, more than ever, the Denver Art Museum has added interactive features for kids. From ephemeral bubbles made out of light that kids pop with their feet, to talking heads in suitcases, to building blocks and searching games, the Art Museum keeps kids engaged in art.

Repeatedly our kids pronounce the Denver Art Museum as "awesome!" and "great!" I agree completely.



When You Go:

Phone Number: 720/ 865-5000 (main number) 720/ 913-0048 (family and kids programs)

Website: www.denverartmuseum.org and www.wackykids.org (a page produced by the Education Department of the Denver Art Museum)

Address: 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, Denver.

Directions: From I-25, take the Colfax Avenue exit and go east on Colfax about 1½ miles to Bannock Street. Turn right (south) on Bannock and go one block to 14th Avenue. The Denver Art Museum is the tall silver building with lots of odd windows across from Civic Center Park.

Season: Year round, closed on major holidays, including Thanksgiving, and Christmas, but it will be open on New Year's Day.

Hours: Closed Monday. Tuesday open 10am to 5pm. Wednesday 10am to 9pm. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday 10am to 5pm.  Sunday noon to 5pm.

Cost: Colorado residents can visit the museum free on Saturdays. Admission for adults is $10, $8 for seniors and college students, and $3 for kids 6 to 18 years old. If you are 5 and under, you're free.

Facilities:  Stroller and wheelchair accessible, family bathroom with diaper deck, cafeteria, gift shop.



Related Links at FamilyTravelColorado.com:

Visiting the Denver Art Museum, by Young Correspondent, Ella D.