Seattle Art Museum with a Toddler

“Hammer-man-hammer-man-hammer-man!” My friend’s almost-three-year-old shouted, running towards the Seattle Art Museum’s  outdoor fixture. He was going full speed, while also pounding one fist exuberantly into his other open hand, mimicking the moving statue. Luckily he’s a coordinated kid so the effort didn’t land him in a face plant.

“It’s his favorite exhibit,” Shawn explained to me.

“And the toys,” Berend (that would be the exuberant two-year-old) helpfully added. At this point Berend’s mom Rachel had caught up with her son. I ran cross country with Rachel in high school, so I’m assuming that Berend’s tendency to always be running comes from her. 

Unlike me, Shawn and Rachel are total art museum-type-people (this is why we parted ways in Italy when we all happened to be in Europe that one winter). When they visit art museums as a family, Shawn and Rach switch places so each of them can spend time individually staring at paintings and keeping their son entertained. However, these two activities mesh pretty well at Seattle Art Museum (SAM). There are several things to do here that keep an active toddler busy.

Listening stations: I’m not saying this will keep kids occupied for hours, but a few exhibit rooms have computer stations. These stations offer patrons the opportunity to scrutinize art on-screen by zooming in on certain parts of the piece and listening to information about it. Touch screen computers + headphones = a quiet and occupied child…for a few minutes.

Toy/Reading Rooms: These were my and Berend’s main hangout areas. SAM has GREAT toy rooms. In addition to the usual blocks, plastic tools, chalk easels, and child-sized cars to “drive,” the art rooms has spaces on the wall that kids can Velcro shapes to create their own modern art masterpieces. In my opinion, some of these children’s creations are more worthy of museum space than million dollar paintings featuring a red square with a blue line through it. There are also some great books in the reading room, which Shawn and I poured through while Berend organized a one-man drum line and then proceeded to gather up all the tools in the toy room and show off his carpentry skills.    

Open Spaces Downstairs: Berend would have been totally cool with running through every exhibit in the museum and shouting for us all to keep up. However, his parents nixed such activity. Luckily for Berend, the bottom floor of the museum is a great place to run around. There aren’t really any exhibits and it is not crowded at all. Huge windows look out to the Hammer Man statue outside, cars hang suspended from the ceiling, and this really creepy painting can provoke conversation in even the youngest art aficionados. 

Family Programs: Family workshops this winter include portrait and puppet workshops. The Seattle Asian Art Museum has workshops on their Free First Saturdays. They also show Kid Flicks in their auditorium on a monthly basis. Both the Seattle Asian Art Museum and the Olympic Sculpture Park have summer art camps available. To register for or learn more about these events, check out their calendar here.

After a couple museum hours, food (and beer) may be necessary. Seattle Art Museum is about one block from Pike Place Market, so dining options are plentiful. Rachel, Shawn, Berend and I decided on The Pike Brewery because it is loud and provided space nearby for Berend to walk around. Berend and I did a couple of laps through part of the market. Then we returned to our booth so Berend could steal everyone’s French fries and I could enjoy my bleu cheese burger (not on the menu, but they’ll add the cheese for you). The Pike is open from 11am to midnight daily.

If you go, Seattle Art Museum is open Wednesday – Sunday from 10am – 5pm. Thursdays and Fridays it is open until 9pm, and is closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Free days include First Thursdays (free to all), First Fridays (free to seniors 62+) and Second Fridays (free to teens 13-19 with ID from 5-9pm).

SAM is located in downtown Seattle at 1300 First Avenue. There is expensive street parking available (usually with a two hour limit) and even more expensive parking under the museum in the Russell Investment Center Garage on Union Street between 1st and 2nd. Suggested admission for the museum is $15 for adults. You can get a SAM membership for $65 ($80 for two people). Luckily Shawn and Rachel have a membership and I was able to utilize one of their guest passes.

Museums with kids, Seattle Art Musuem, The Pike Brewery

Jenna Vandenberg

Teacher, writer, runner, mom and wife.


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