A Philadelphia museum is turning toddlers into art lovers by encouraging their artistic expression

Philly toddlers are looking at art, hearing stories about artworks and then creating their own unique art projects at Woodmere Art Museum.

A person reads a picture book to children in front of a painting of a tree

Children in the Family Art & Storytelling program listen to a storybook about trees. (Courtesy of the Woodmere Art Museum)

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A Philadelphia museum is capturing the imagination of young children and encouraging them to be artists and connoisseurs.

The Woodmere Art Museum offers a free Family Art & Storytelling program catering to their youngest audience.

“We read a story to start with and we look at a work of art and we really talk about, maybe their similarities in the story that also relate to the artwork,” said instructor Ginger Mimmo Rohlfing.

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She said the kids are encouraged to create an art project with their adult companions and siblings to help connect everything together.

“You are exposed to different artists, maybe different styles, different mediums, sculptures, and as you take in that information, you’re also finding things about art that relate to you,” she said.

Children drawing on pieces of paper
Children in the Woodmere Art Museum’s Family Art & Storytelling program working on their art projects. (Courtesy of Woodmere Art Museum)

Hildy Tow, the museum’s curator of education who oversees the Family Art & Storytelling program, said to nurture a love of art the museum needs to present an interactive experience where children can use their natural ability to explore and create relationships with the artworks.

“They learn how to explore materials and to respond to their own images and know what they want to add next,” she said. “It is about them exploring their imagination and having the opportunity and the freedom to do that, and to know that their thoughts and ideas are important.”

Tow said children are natural observers.

“We want to nurture a love of art through exploring an artwork, and it’s designed to teach children about the world by looking at art and about art by looking at the world through artists’ eyes,” she said.

Dr. Maurice Elias, a professor of psychology at Rutgers University who works with the Center for Arts Education and Social and Emotional Learning, said there’s a lot of research focusing on children, which concludes that many important skills are built just by engaging in drawing and talking about art.

“It helps build perspective-taking, it helps build sensitivity to emotions,” he said. “It helps create better problem-solving skills, and it builds kids’ ability to communicate. It’s just like exercise for the mind.”

Mimmo Rohlfing, a former grade school teacher who now teaches a variety of classes for children and adults at the museum, agreed.

As a teacher she noticed that the confidence and creativity that kids get from participation in art class would carry over and  help them in classes that they struggled to thrive in.

“It develops a lot of critical thinking skills,” she said. “The way that we develop scientific process, with a hypothesis and then collecting data, is really the same way that we approach art making.”

Kids get help from parents for their artworks
Kids get help from parents for their artworks. (Courtesy of the Woodmere Art Museum)

Family Art & Storytelling is one of several programs offered by the museum for the past twenty-five years. It is presented from January through June, and September to December on the first Sunday of every month.

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To register your child for the free class visit the Woodmere Art Museum website.

Woodmere Art Museum is located at 9201 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, Pa., 19118.

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