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Out & about - Event
Visiting the art gallery  Like this activity  
45 mins - 1 hour activity Suitable for 3 - 5 years

Location Indoor

Are you wondering what your family can do this weekend or during the holidays? You could visit an art gallery.

Before you go to the art gallery talk to your child about the different things you will see.

Explain that there are lots of different paintings, sculptures, statues and artworks from many different cultures. The art is grouped in different rooms or galleries and you can work out where to go and what to see by following a map.

Once you get there what will you do? Will you follow the map around the gallery? Is there a special theme you want to search for in the paintings?

Let’s see if we can find all the paintings that have a mother and child.

I really like paintings that have shapes in them. I want to search for paintings with shapes and patterns.

Sometimes it can be fun to wander around the gallery and make up your own stories for each painting. You can talk about what the people are doing in the painting. How are the people feeling? Where were the people when it was painted?

Some paintings have lots of detail, colour and shading. Talk to your child about what they can see in the painting and how it makes them feel.

This painting is very dark and the paint is very thick. It makes me feel heavy and sad.

Talk about the different ways the artwork is displayed. Some walls have lots of small paintings clustered together. Other walls have one very large painting placed in the middle of the wall. The cultural galleries have display cases with lots of different objects.

Materials you will need

  • An art gallery

Alternative tools

  • A locart art exhibit
  • A shop that sells pictures and paintings

Why does this matter?

Talking together about what you see at an art gallery helps your child to ask questions and develop positional and comparative language, like ‘this painting is not as yellow as the one on the other wall’. As you talk and describe what is in the picture your child will begin to compare one painting to another. This is the beginning of sorting, grouping and classification.

As you talk about the different artwork and how it is displayed or where details are placed on the canvas your child is hearing the language of measurement and exploring the different ways we can describe measurement.

When you talk about the painting, picture or sculpture and try and work out what its story is, you are showing your child that pictures contain meaning and tell a story. As you create your own story you are showing that a story can be told and shared in many different ways. A story can be told from a book, a piece of fabric, a photo or a wonderful piece of art.

What does this lead to?

As your child talks about what they see in the painting they are developing language to describe what they know and have seen. Talking together about what you have noticed in the painting helps your child to ask questions. As they notice objects they can group them and compare the differences. As they talk about what they notice they are developing language to describe their thinking and observations

Talking about the paintings and what the story might be for each picture helps your child to understand that we can tell a story in many different ways. As they use language with the pictures or experiment with colour, shape and symbols they are developing an understanding that pictures can tell a story and that the story can be changed by using different images, colours or placements on the canvas. By seeing the different designs children are learning about adding or changing the emotion of a story.

As your child grows older, understanding the different ways language can be presented will help them to make decisions on how to organise or record their thinking. Exploring the stories recorded in a painting helps them to develop rich oral language and to use this in their general conversations with others.

Language and Questions to use

  • Painting, statue, sculpture, vase, material
  • Clay, paint, porcelain, paper, canvas, wood, silk, wool, cotton
  • Canvas, frame
  • Middle, edge, outside, front, back, around, against
  • Colour, light, shade, dark, texture, layer
  • Narrative, story, theme
  • Cluster, group, placement
  • Freestanding, hanging, leaning
  • Display, cabinet
  • Do all pictures have frames?
  • Do all pictures have people in them?
  • What story does this picture tell?
  • Do all pictures use the same colours?
  • Why are some pieces of art in the middle of the room and others against the wall?

Useful Tips

  1. Before you go, get a map and other information from the Art Gallery of South Australia’s website.
  2. The Art Gallery of South Australia often has special events for children and families on the weekend.
  3. If the Art Gallery of South Australia is a little far to travel you could visit a local gallery instead.
  4. You might also like to take a look at the Out and about on North Terrace activity.
  5. Remember to talk to your child in your home language.

Variation by age

Three to five year olds

  • Make your own storybook using your child’s drawings and paintings. Ask them to tell you the story and work together to write it down.
  • Borrow art books from the local library. Talk about the different paintings and techniques shown.
  • Make a lotto card of different objects before you visit the Art Gallery of South Australia. Mark off the objects as you find them in the paintings.
  • Set up your own painting area at home. Try experimenting with different types of painting and colour.
  • Collect paint charts from your local hardware store. Go on a colour search and see if you can find all of the different shades.

Questions to ask

  • Are there different shades of green?
  • Do you feel different looking at a light colour compared to a dark colour?
  • Do all pictures have colour?

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Visiting the art gallery

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