Outward Bound

The 5280 field guide to taking your child’s learning outside of the classroom—and into the world. 

August 2015

—Jan Von Holleben / Trunk Archive


Talking about art can be daunting, even for the pros. We asked three local experts for advice on musing about the creative process with children.

"Find shapes in the clouds." – Damon McLeese, executive director of Access Gallery

Engage children in abstract art by asking what they see in these nonrepresentational forms in the sky. At home, ask your kids to draw three or four shapes (blobs, triangles, rectangles) and transform them into something else, such as monsters or buildings.

"Ignore prices." – Jennifer Doran, co-owner of Robischon Gallery

Nothing distracts a penny-stockpiling, lemonade-stand tycoon on a gallery tour more than a comma and a few zeros. Don’t let your little ones gauge worth only by price; help them assess value based on personal preference and observation.

"Emphasize process, not product." – Lares Feliciano, art studio coordinator at the Children’s Museum of Denver

Instead of telling kids exactly what to create, encourage them to start drawing or painting and see where it takes them. Later, discuss how they got there. — Camilla Sterne

—Courtesy of Robischon Gallery

A Painting—By Numbers

Tour the sixth floor of the Denver Art Museum’s North Building, and you can’t miss Thomas Hudson’s “The Radcliffe Family,” a massive oil painting from 1742. The 10-by-14-foot work is ideal for initiating art appreciation lessons. Try these conversation starters. 

Ages: 3 to — Pose
Pick out one of the Radcliffe children and mimic his or her position.

Ages: 6 to 12 — Dress Up
The Radcliffe children’s clothes look, well, uncomfortable. What would happen if you wore those duds today? To soccer practice? School? 

Ages: 13 to 18  — Moment In Time
This family waited much longer for the painting to be finished than it takes for a digital camera’s shutter to click. If you only had one chance—like the Radcliffes—to get a family portrait right, what would you want in the photo? 

—Courtesy of the Berger Collection, iStock