Most people would not think of taking children to an art museum. However, The National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa offers Artissimo, one of the best children’s programs I have come across – and at an amazingly reasonable price of only $24 for 2 adults and 3 children. They try to teach kids about the art through different senses.
– First up was the creation of Art Buddies, toys (like dolls or animals) which can be found in paintings. These exact reproductions are given to the kids to hold, and then they are pointed to galleries where they can try to find them in a painting. Our Marguerite Charlotte doll had golden curls intertwined with green ribbon, and was holding a little blue bird in her hand.
– Second fun activity was the touch box which the child wears around his neck. They can put their hands in the sides (like a muff) and feel textures inside. Each box relates to a painting which has these textures in it; they have to guess what they are feeling and what in the painting represents it: a feather, lace, fur, picture frame, etc.
– Thirdly, was a real hit for ages 4-10. In Sounds Like Art, they are given headphones which play sounds. In each gallery, they have to find a painting which would relate to that sound: water, a crying baby, horses’ hooves, crackling fire.
For completing these games, the kids are rewarded with collectors’ cards of the paintings.
– Lastly there is an arts and crafts area set up in the most beautiful setting possible – the Great Hall with its soaring windows. While they are creating their works of art, you (and they) can oogle the magnificent panoramic view of Parliament Hill, the Gatineau Hills and the Ottawa River.
The children also enjoyed finding the surprise garden (from above and at ground level), the ceiling water window in the lobby, the “sound sculpture” in the chapel and, of course, Maman, the giant spider outside. And yes, there is also the fabulous collection of art. We spent 4 hours there easily.