My sister gifted me with the best kind of gift for my birthday this year – a usable, non-cluttering, consumable family membership to the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO)! I love spending time at the AGO, usually alone, but fortunately there are plenty of ways kids can get excited about the space as well.
Now an art gallery might not be the first thing that comes to mind when considering family excursions, but the AGO has done such a great job of welcoming and engaging children. And even if your kids are not interested in either the art or crafting like my boys, they can still have a great, semi-educational time in all the wide open spaces and exploring the various levels and rooms in the gallery.
Creative spaces for kids
Upon entering the AGO, children are given an activity bag filled with modelling clay, pencil crayons, some blank paper and other little bits. From there, the idea is to explore different areas in the gallery to find certain pieces of art and create your own art and sculptures with your child. My sister had a great time doing this with her daughter, however my son wasn’t having it! Aside from lack of interest and focus, he was actually kind of afraid of the vast, “spooky” atmosphere – even in the most colorful galleries – so we pretty much had to stay in the bright and lively family areas.
Fortunately, there is an entire family section downstairs – the Weston Family Learning Centre – that includes a a toy/craft/dress–up centre for little kids and a youth centre where older kids can create and connect (free after 3 from Tues-Fri). The hands-on centre is fabulous and completely child-friendly with all its costumes and bins of toys. Little crafters will love the big round tables filled with colorful materials for making art. Gallery staff usually chooses a theme, depending on what is going on in the gallery, and guides families on how to create their own masterpieces.
The day we went, I mostly ended up making an under-the-sea concoction as my busy three-year-old was too busy with the toys, however it’s a great introduction to art for him so I’m looking forward to future visits.
Every Sunday from November – May (current year 2014/15), families are welcome to come craft, play and explore the gallery. Again, there is a theme that is related to what is going on in the main gallery. The great thing about Family Sundays is that although there are tons of people in the gallery, it doesn’t feel crowded at all! Hallways are wide, spaces vast and there is more than enough tables and crafting supplies for everyone.
Art Gallery of Ontario
Location: 317 Dundas Street West (at McCaul)
Parking: Look for street parking around the gallery
Extras: Coat check and cafe
Admission: $19.50 adults / Kids 5 & under free
Free Wednesdays 6-8:30pm