Picasso IS for Preschoolers!

The Cleveland Museum of Art

I’ll admit it! About half way to the Cleveland Museum of Art, I wondered if I should turn the car around and abort the adventure. With a one-year-old and three-year-old, wasn’t I asking for a day of repeating the following: ‘Be quiet!’ ‘Don’t touch!’ ‘Please don’t put your mouth on the sculpture!’ “Do I have to ask the museum where their time out chair is?’

C and the KnightBut the fact is, I am lucky to be the daughter of a talented artist. And when he said, “take the kids to see the Cleveland Museum of Art. It has one of the best collections in the country…” Well, we were on the road the next day.

And he was right about the museum. And about taking the kids.

And in the most fabulous way, I learned that Picasso is for Preschoolers! Yours are going to love it to.

Here’s why.

First of all, the only person making loud noises in every room of the place was… me. There was a major masterpiece on every wall from the likes of Van Gogh, Renoir, Monet, Picasso, Matisse, Degas, Cassatt, Caravaggio, Bronzino, Chuck Close, and on and on. And so as I entered each room, it went something like this: Loud Gasp! “Oh MY LORD! Crowley, that’s a Matisse! Look at that!”

Seriously it was like I was channeling “When Harry Met Sally” and with my children present! And…in Cleveland!

Now, if you happen to have flunked your art history class, don’t be intimidated. If I think Picasso is for Preschoolers, then I’m pretty sure you flunkies will feel at home, too! : ) This collection is pithy. Not a dud in the bunch.

Don't hate my photography! I cracked under the pressure of two security guards and multiple cameras!

One of the major intellectual endeavors of the 2-3 year-old-set is figuring out which shapes are which. And so when we found ourselves in front of Picasso’s Harlequin with Violin,” my little man totally related to what he saw: A person made out of shapes. The artist didn’t even bother using a circle for the head. Fantastic. Truly. It made art accessible to a 3-year-old. And he got it. The brilliance of it. The courage involved. And the fun.

This was a great time for C to put his notebook and color pencils to use! We added cubism to his vocabulary.

In the European Room, we took our lead from this great book, Can You Find It? from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The book basically transforms gallery gazing into a scavenger hunt.

So I applied that concept to most of the paintings we observed.

EXAMPLE: In Van Gogh’s The Large Plane Trees, we hunted for:

  1. a lamppost
  2. three women
  3. one basket
  4. a bucket
  5. red curtains

When surrounded by Monet’s Water Lillies and Low Tide at Pourville near Dieppe, I asked my munchkin, “Does this painting look like a photograph or an impression of something?”

He got it! An impression!

Caravaggio at the Cleveland Museum of ArtThat led to a discussion about feelings and using art to express your feelings about a place, a person, an event, etc.

You know it occurred to me when I blurted out, “Holy Cow! That has to be a Caravaggio! It just has to be. Hurry, let’s go find out.” I would never have been able to recognize a Caravaggio from across the room if my dad hadn’t begun teaching me about art since I was Crowley’s age.

Caravaggio offers such a great opportunity to talk about storytelling. How he used light to tell the most important part of his story, darkening the rest of the stage.

And an important note here about Baby Q.  If you have to toddler around who falls 50 times a day. Might as well do it in an environment this interesting and stimulating. It’s another step in building an intellectual foundation wired for exploration and curiosity.

Turns out, we had the most fun with the Old Masters. We were standing in front of a portrait by Bronzino and another by Rubens when I whispered to C under my breath, “Hey, I think these people are staring at us.” He looked up at the paintings and his eyes grew huge!

“They are looking at us!”

We even walked across the room. The eyes followed. We left the room and entered again. The eyes were still on us.

Today. Was. Magic.

A kids only art room, helps little ones explore big concepts with hands on activities!

A kids only art room, helps little ones explore big concepts with hands on activities!


  1. Admission is free. Parking is not.
  2. Food- They offer a full service restaurant and sophisticated self-serve cafe. Opt for the latter if you are bringing your babes. The food was awesome. Pricey but delicious.
  3. Bathrooms- the cleanest I’ve seen.
  4. Noise – no one seemed bothered by my outburst of theirs. The security guards were helpful and amused to see children enjoying the collection.


  1. Art concepts and appreciation
  2. Art History
  3. Vocabulary Expansion
  4. Exploration of the world around us
  5. Creative inspiration
  6. Cognitive Skills



Chuck Close's work shows how things can appear to be one thing up close and something else entirely from a distance.

Chuck Close’s work shows how things can appear to be one thing up close and something else entirely from a distance.

4 Responses to “Picasso IS for Preschoolers!”

  1. what a wonderful story off pure love...thank you for sharing..I really needed it today...jl

    HE IS JUST SO SMART……………………..and so cute…

  2. sachensucherin

    Oh, I think it’s great that you took them to an art museum – and even greater that they enjoyed it! I’ve always been a huge fan of showing art to children, especially because they are sometimes much more open to it than grown-ups and see things totally different and because it is just such a big enrichment of having art in your life from the very beginning 🙂

  3. Barb

    I was planning about blogging on our trip there as well! I call it my Happy Place, and I couldn’t wait until my children were old enough to really appreciate it. I’m now sorry I waited until my youngest were 8. They would have loved it so much sooner… We’re already planning our next trip up. They can’t wait to go…