As Kate Middleton Reveals Her Art Trip With Prince George, 6 Reasons To Take Your Kids To A Gallery

Go for the paintings, the peace and the fun – it's free.

The Duchess of Cambridge made another visit to the National Portrait Gallery in London this week for a fancy gala (she’s a patron there), and told a fellow party guest about her plans to bring Prince George back for a special treat.

I say: lucky boy. If you’ve not had a chance to go, the NPG is an awesome mash-up of your primary school topic book – that term you did Henry VIII and all the Tudors – and a copy of Heat Magazine.

Only instead of dog-eared pages and blurry paparazzi pics, all these kings and queens, actors, authors and sports stars are right there in front of you, captured by some of the best artists in history. There’s even a 107-minute long video of David Beckham fast asleep – thanks for that, Sam Taylor-Johnson.

Basically, it’s brilliant and I’m very envious that Kate gets to go all the time for work. Only here’s the thing, we can all go too. Whenever we want. For free.

A gallery might not be the first place you think of taking a baby, toddler – or even an antsy five-year-old like George, who’ll get to see lots of pics of his great-grandma and their relatives when he visits the NPG with Kate. Weird!

But here are five reasons to swap soft play for a gallery once in a while.


1) Art Feeds Young Minds.

A lot of adults still feel awkward when they walk into an art gallery. How do you look at a painting or sculpture and work out if you like it, let alone what the hell it all means? But take a kid with you and they’ll get straight to asking the questions you feel too silly to ask. And probably start answering them, too.

Art boosts children’s imaginations, learning outcomes and ability to connect to society and their community – recent research backs this up. It’s also a great leveller. Disadvantaged kids who take part in arts activities show positive academic and social outcomes. So it’s sad that by the time they’re teenagers, plenty of young people say they don’t feel arts galleries are “for them”.

Start them early and we might begin changing this.

2) Did We Mention It’s Free?

Free admission to national museums in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland was introduced in 2001 – meaning a baby born that year and lugged off to see some Picassos in a papoose is now all grown up. A whole life lived with access to all that free art, how amazing is that!

There are more than 50 free public galleries and museums around the UK, and even more that charge a minimal price for entry. This is our right because a lot of the art actually belongs to us, the nation – and we also pay towards its upkeep through taxes, national and local, not to mention any lottery tickets you buy.

While temporary exhibitions can be ticketed and pricey, the big museums all have permanent free collections that will keep your brood busy for hours.

3) The Extras Are Great.

Galleries actively want more families and young people through their doors, which means they lay on all sorts of maps, treasure trails, baby-buggy hours and kids workshops just for you. Not to mention gallery assistants to answer questions and protect the artworks (because yes, every parent panics it’s their kid who is going to break that priceless Chinese urn).

These extras rarely cost extra in a gallery because it isn’t about milking you for cash. Except in the gift shop, perhaps – did I mention how good they’ve got lately? – where anything you spend tends to go back to funding art and artists.

If you don’t want to haemorrhage your wallet at the exit, why not limit kids to picking a postcard of their favourite painting they’ve seen that day to take home and stick on their bedroom wall for ongoing inspiration.

4) Paintings Make You Pause.

The idea of the art gallery as a place of silent contemplation is a bit old-fashioned. Head to any Tate, for example – in Liverpool, St Ives or London – and you’ll encounter kids running around, interacting excitedly with installations.

But galleries are still peaceful, for the most part, a rare place where you’re encouraged to stop and look. It’s mindfulness without the apps. There’s a painting in London’s National Gallery I sometimes pop in to see on my way home, especially in the depths of winter, just because it has a gorgeous sun and it makes me feel warm and happy to stand in front of it for a while.

And don’t forget that, like our libraries, galleries are a haven for the most vulnerable in society, from the elderly to the homeless, and it’s good for your kids to know there are places in our communities that welcome everyone.

5) Galleries Need You.

After a decade of austerity and ongoing cuts to local services – as documented in HuffPost’s What It’s Like To Lose series – arts and culture are quick for the chop when cash-strapped councils have to slash budgets, sadly evidenced by news this week that Leicester is making all its museum curators redundant.

Art galleries are often compared to that deli on the corner. Nice to have, but there for treat day, not every day... and certainly not for the kids’ tea. So you don’t go, until suddenly it’s gone.

Except that you’re not paying over the odds for a slice of parma ham, here. The door is open and you can go back as many times as you like, until the artists become like old friends.

6) The Café.

It’s often the prettiest spot in the building – just visit the V&A. And every knackered parent deserves a cuppa and a scone at the end of the day.

Check out the excellent Kids In Museums site for more helpful information.