-posted by Meghan
We love museums of all types – dinosaur, sciences, history, kid, fire, police, cultural, music and more. In fact, when my kids (Molly & Jacob, the twins who are now 6) were born, and I went from working in the office 70 hours a week to being home with babies all week, I craved outside stimulation. I also missed my spreadsheets. So I made a new one, of all the museums in the city, and decided to visit a new one with the kids every week for their first year. And I did! (Luckily, LA is a huge city with hundreds of museums!) And I discovered that while I love them all, art museums have a special place in my heart. So, here are board books about art and artists to share with the babies in your life to introduce them to the world of art and art museums.
Mini Masters Series by Julie Merberg
This series includes Dancing with Degas, A Picnic with Monet, A Magical Day with Matisse, In the Garden with Van Gogh, On an Island with Gaugin, Quiet Time with Cassatt, and by the time you read this, about 17 other titles. We kid! Actually, it’s wonderful that this series is so well rounded, because there is something for everyone – whether it’s exposing your kids to your own favorite artists (that’s why we got into the series – to show the kids Degas from the moment they could focus their eyes!) or to activities they are drawn to – pictures of kids at the beach, of the garden, or flowers or a tropical island… the sweet rhymes and the order of the pictures tells a story and a little blurb in the back grows with the kids and teaches them a little bit about the artist. It’s a great series for introducing kids to great works of art.
Andy Warhol’s Colors by Susan Goldman Rubin
This is one of our favorite first color books. Warhol is perfect for kids, right? Big, bright images that simple words can easily capture. Each color has a picture of a different animal and a few simple words describing it. And now that my kids (at age 6) are past the stage where they eat books and board books are a necessity, this book has actually become a great inspiration. They can relate to Warhol, and their bright colors and stark art often is reminiscent of his. While they don’t ever drag out pictures by Rembrandt to try and imitate, they do look to this book to inspire their drawings. That’s a board book with legs.
Touch the Art: Julie Apel’s Series
Did I just throw out the word favorite? That may have been a favorite color book, but these were hands down our favorite art/artist books(and the series has grown and gotten even cooler since the Molly and Jacob were at the eat book stage). With titles like Pop Warhol’s Top, Brush Mona Lisa’s Hair, Make Van Gogh’s Bed, Find King Henry’s Treasure and Tickle Tut’s Toes, the books really do invite kids to touch the art and make it seem real – Mona Lisa’s hair is brushable, Raphael’s angels have real wings, Warhol’s Marilyn has fluffy eye lashes and mummy Tut has gauzy bandages. Making the art 3D gives it the appearance of coming to life for kids, and bridges the notion of representation vs reality. Plus it’s super fun. It’s not often adults learn things from a board book, but you will from these.
NY Metropolitan Museum of Art Series by the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Show me the 30 something (or their parent who read the book aloud to them) without a soft spot for the Met because of From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and I’ll show you someone who is not a reader. Or doesn’t have a heart. (Or are those the same people?) So putting the institutes name on the books guarantees that many of us will gravitate to these as first art books for our babies, no matter what. Luckily, Museum ABC, Museum 123and Museum Shapes live up to the Met name. You won’t mind looking over and over at these books as each explores a notion (letter, shape, number) and then shows four works of art from the Museum collection that illustrate it. Gorgeous, interesting and wonderful talking points, from babies pointing to bigger kids exploring the notions and seeking inspiration for their own works.
Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg
This book isn’t about celebrated artists or museums. It’s about becoming an artist yourself, and the most important lesson any artist (any person!) can learn, which is that every mistake is simply an opportunity to make something different, new and beautiful. How lovely is that, to impress on even the youngest baby? A tear may be an alligators mouth. A spill may make you rethink your art, and end up making it more. Not only does it help you think more creatively, it gives you a fantastic mantra for those kiddos who get frustrated (livid, stymied) when they can’t make what’s in their heads, or who want to shred a paper once they’ve made a mistake. Can that mistake be made into something beautiful? I’m glad to have written this post today, because it reminded me of this book, and how I should re-read it myself often (and we should find the kids’ copy and read it together again).
The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds
This one isn’t a board book, but we love it and think it’s a great baby book, so on the list it goes. It’s about writers block, or rather drawers block, if you will – what do you do when you don’t think you can draw, can’t create art, or aren’t any good? Just make a mark. See where it takes you. It’s another book that’s wonderful for itself, and also for it’s message. Kids can get so frustrated with art, and being artists themselves , in thinking they don’t know what to do, or how to do it. By making a mark, they may make their mark — on another person, on the world. Every painting started with one simple dot.