1. Let your child be the guide.
Don't make your kids spend 5 minutes staring at a picture just because it's a Picasso. My daughter zipped through galleries in record time, then spent 20 minutes staring at the Chihuly sculpture in the atrium. I thought she'd be fascinated by the Egyptian exhibit, but it turned out that she'd seen a few too many Scooby-Do movies about mummies and wouldn't go in.
2. Look for kid friendly options.
The MFA offers homeschool classes every Friday with a 45 minute art tour followed by a creative project. It costs $8 and the child and parent both get free museum admission! Personally, I thought a 45 minute tour was a little too long for 6 year-olds, but at least check out the options. Museums also usually have special handouts or guides geared towards families.
3. Don't ignore modern art.
You'd probably like your child to appreciate Renoir and Michelangelo, but young kids aren't interested in subtlety. Instead, try the bright, bold modern art exhibits!
4. Be prepared.
Bring a sketch book and colored pencils and let your child draw what he sees. Or make a simple scavenger hunt to help your child have fun AND learn about art. See below for an example.
5. Ask questions.
This is the most important thing you can do to help your child slow down and really look at the art. What do you like about that painting? How is this picture different from the last one? What animals do you see? Did the artist use big lines or little lines? Straight or curvy? What do you think that man is thinking? What do you think that sculpture is made out of?
6. Take a break.
Go to the cafeteria or courtyard and eat a snack. Hungry kids are fussy kids, as we all know! Little legs get tired easily too.
7. Collect stuff.
Collect brochures, exhibit guides, and any other hand out you can find. You can bring them home and use them for a scrapbook of your trip. My daughter loved finding pictures of the artwork she'd seen and pasting them onto a "My Trip" page. Which was then glitter-glued half to death.
Simple Art Museum Scavenger Hunt
Take a few jumbo index cards, hole punch the corners, and put them on a binder ring so they don't get lost.
Write the following on the cards:
Card 1 Card 3
Can you find a ... Can you find...
Portrait Straight lines
Landscape Curvy lines
Still Life Dots or dabs
Card 2 Card 4
Can you find an example of... Can you find a sculpture of a...
Pottery Real animal
When your child finds an item, write the title of the piece on the card. Over ambitious parent bonus idea: Take a picture of the artwork or find an image online and add it to the cards or type up a little book.