As was the case in September, this month’s Object of the Month is actually an entire gallery. This gallery is dedicated to the artist, Alexander Calder, and is located in the newly re-opened East Wing of the National Gallery of Art. The latest iteration of this gallery is bright, airy, colorful, and full of shadows. It is in many ways the perfect art space for a young child can while away their time looking and getting lost in their imaginations.
The objects within the gallery can be used in conjunction to several age-appropriate themes.
- Shadows – The sundial just outside the Smithsonian Castle in the Haupt Garden + Moonbear’s Shadow by Frank Asch would round out the experience.
- Color – Calder’s bold color palette is a great way to introduce your child to colors.
- Shape – Circles, triangles, even a quadrilateral (the elephant’s ears)!
- Ocean – Finny Fish offers an imaginative take on our ocean friends- combine it with a trip to the Natural History’s Sant Ocean Hall.
- Balance – His mobiles are a great way to introduce children to the concept of balance.
- Movement/Wind – Take notice, Calder’s mobiles move and come alive!
- Space – Many of his pieces reminiscent of the solar system, especially Vertical Constellation with Bomb.
Infants, Toddlers, and Twos
The animals in the center of the gallery are a perfect height for your infant and toddler, especially those who are in the stroller and struggling to see what is around them. I like the idea of pairing these objects with Sandra Boyton’s Are You a Cow or Doreen Cronin’s Click Clack Moo. I am also very fond of the Crinkly Worm and pairing it with one of my all-time favs- Inch by Inch by Leo Lionni. Whichever literary direction you go, you can also choose to bring photos, stuffed animals, or even watch a short video featuring one of the animals. Head out to the nearby terrace and see if you can imagine moving like a bull or a worm. If worms, cows, and bulls aren’t your thing, then focus on the elephant. This sculpture is a playful interpretation of the animal and is certain to capture your child’s attention. Enjoy an elephant hunt though the Smithsonian and stop by the Sackler Gallery to see the Seated Ganesha, the rotunda of the Natural History Museum to see Henry the Elephant and of course, the Zoo. Take a photo of each visit and display it somewhere at home where your child can see it (you could make a mobile if you want to stay true to the Calder theme). By documenting their experience, it will help them connect events and see their own learning.
Threes and Four
I was recently in this gallery with a group of adults as part of a workshop and I was asked to work with a partner to create something Calder–inspired with paper and some scotch tape. We don’t often think about it, but museums, with the right materials, can also be art studios. I love these types of activities not just because they support creativity, but because they encourage young children to look carefully. Here are a few gallery-safe ideas:
- Sketch the shadows on the walls
- Use pipe cleaners to make shapes and forms.
- Add pieces to a mobile that you have started
- Have them tear a piece of paper into one of the shapes they see (just remember a trash bag).
Enjoy, have fun, and don’t forget to share your ideas with us too!