My younger daughter isn't shy. But on a big day, after a long morning, it's not unusual for my four-year-old to want to curl up in my lap regardless of what we have planned next.
So I wasn't exactly sure how she'd respond during a recent trip last month to the N.C. Museum of Art's What's in the Box series for preschoolers. This particular day, we'd already been to a puppet show with a friend and run a bunch of pre-holiday errands.
I had no reason to worry. Under the gentle guidance of the very talented and engaging Jody Cassell, who also teaches movement classes for kids and their adults through the American Dance Festival school, my little one soared like a butterfly, planted pretend flowers and tip toed through part of the museum to take in a piece of art.
What's in the Box, now in its third year, is designed for kids ages 2 to 5 and their caregivers. The art museum offers it twice a month on Thursday mornings in three sessions - 10:30 a.m., 11 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. The cost is $3.
The program's goal is to introduce children (and, by extension, their adults) to the museum in a fun and engaging way, said Laura McManus, the museum's coordinator of youth and family programs. Destination: What's in the Box at the N.C. Museum of Art
The programs are focused on the museum's artwork. There are six themes - animals, movement, nature, people, places and parts of art. During the 30-minute interactive programs, kids make their own artwork or take part in creative movement based on a piece of art in the collection.
At one What's in the Box that I did with my younger daughter about a year ago, she painted with pastel colors using a clothespin and cotton ball in a lesson about a painting by Monet. Last month, Cassell teased out those inner butterflies before she took the kids to see "Rabble," the kinetic suspended sculpture that hangs above the main staircase in the museum's East Building. It features butterflies and flowers.
McManus said those interactive activities are designed to stretch the imagination; reinforce age-appropriate concepts and skill development; and encourage kids and parents to explore materials. After the program, you'll get a card printed in English and Spanish that describes the work that was the focus of the morning's program so that participants can learn more or search for it in the museum.
You also can print out the cards online if you're going to the museum on other days when the program isn't offered. They're a great way to spark some conversations about the work with your kids, including older ones.
What's in the Box is scheduled this month for Jan. 16 and Jan. 30. The 10:30 a.m. session usually is filled up by 10 a.m. Because of that session's popularity, the museum also offers a free, drop-in craft on What's in the Box mornings for waiting kids. If you want to avoid waiting, try the 11 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. sessions.
Click here for the latest schedule and to see the What's in the Box cards that you can print out online.
Each time we've been to this program, I've been so impressed with the quality of the activities and the knowledge of the instructors. Highly recommend! For more, watch my video interview with McManus.