People who love art want to share that passion with their children. But they often face a problem: most art museums are boring for kids.
Think about it. You have to stand around, looking at old paintings. It usually takes a long time, meaning your children get more and more tired. Put that all together and you have a cranky kid who has to be dragged kicking and screaming into an art museum.
It’s a big issue, as there are so many benefits to giving your child an arts education, but if you do end up dragging them along for hours to look at paintings, they can come to resent the whole thing.
So what do you do?
Luckily, there are many ways that your child can enjoy art museums. It’s all about keeping things fun and engaging for a young audience — like our specially designed Louvre Treasure Hunt!
We’ve put a lot of work into designing tours that can accommodate every member of your family, no matter their age. And a lot of the strategies we use are originally inspired by places we visit around Paris.
By far, the museum that’s done this the best for the longest is the Musée en Herbe.
Many parents taking their children on a trip to Paris are curious about this museum. That’s why we’ve put together this guide. We go into its history, what it is like to go there, and we even have a report from the last time we made a visit.
What is the Musée en Herbe?
Started by Sylvie Girardet (Author), Claire Merleau-Ponty (a Museology expert) and Anne Tardy (Author and Journalist) — the Musée en Herbe began life as a special exhibit at the Jardin d'Acclimatation theme park in 1975. In between visits to the zoo or rides, they could enjoy artworks specially focused on child viewers.
1 - Why the name Musée en Herbe?
It essentially means “museum on the ground.” In other words, it's an art museum that’s on a child’s level. And that perspective has always guided them.
2 - The History of making a Ground Museum adapted solely for Kids
Early on, the focus was to provide arts and culture experiences to children that they actually enjoyed. They did this through games, workshops, and art displays.
By the 1980s, it was clear they needed a more permanent home. That’s when they broke off into their own space, creating a more traditional art museum that would appeal to kids. But after 20 years, they outgrew this space, and so in 2008 they moved their current location in the 1st Arrondissement.
Since it’s in the center of the city, you can easily walk to the museum from the Louvre-Rivoli Metro station. That also puts you near a lot of other Paris highlights. Plus, it’s a very family friendly neighborhood, with plenty of other things to do with your children.
Once the Musée en Herbe moved to their new home, they went bigger and better. For inspiration, they’ve used everyone from Andy Warhol to Salvador Dali. There is typically a focus on colorful and exciting genres — like pop and surrealism and op art. And there are always activities for the children, getting them to engage directly with what they see.
When you visit today, you can find a variety of experiences geared for children from two and a half to twelve years old. The experiences are easy to walk through, and you don’t need a tour guide.
There are also plenty of workshops. For the youngest children, there is hand painting, and for older kids there are building blocks for making sculpture and lessons in drawing. These hands-on activities are great to let kids express themselves after seeing all the wonderful art on display. That connection between what they see and what they do reminds them that making art is really a form of play.
When you tour through the exhibits, each child is given a booklet. While you make your way through the rooms, they’re asked to fill in the questions and prompts in the booklet with a pen that uses magic ink! That’s right, what they write is invisible unless held under a blue light. This is a fun little detail, and the booklets really do help. It gives children plenty of things to think about, prompting them to pay attention — but always in the service of fun!
The museum breaks the experiences down into two different age groups. The first goes from two and a half to five years old, and the second goes from five to twelve years old. This allows children to have more age-appropriate material and better timing. The younger group typically only takes about half an hour to complete, while the older group runs about an hour.
For only €7 per kid, it’s a great place to take the family. Even better, its hours are incredibly convenient. They are open every single day from 10 am to 7 pm. If that sounds perfect for you, you’ll want to book your tickets ahead of time. It’s a popular spot!
Being a museum, there is a gift shop. But this place is entirely focused on arts education for kids. You can find children’s books about Monet, Cezanne, Leonardo, and more. Whatever your child’s age, there is a book here that can teach them about the great artists.
There are also plenty of coloring books. These are still all themed around art — like one where children color in Picasso paintings.
While there is a lot to recommend this place, there are a few drawbacks. For some reason, the bathrooms aren’t really adapted for kids under five. That makes it a bit of a hassle for everybody! And while the museum has amazing exhibits, it isn’t all that large. And since it is popular, you’ll often face crowds.
Despite those problems, the Musée en Herbe is a stellar place to enjoy art with your family.
Our Most Recent Visit in 2022
We’ve gone to the Musée en Herbe many times, and our most recent was yet another great time spent at this quirky place. The programming we saw is no longer up, but it shows the care and attention they give their exhibits.
1 - Artist : Speedy Graphito - 2022 - Exhibited in Musée en Herbe
When we went, they were showing an exciting collection of work by Speedy Graphito. This is a wonderful street artist whose main focus has been to reimagine children’s cartoon characters in the context of graffiti and later fine art. As you could guess, these characters are a great way to immediately catch your kid’s attention.
Since the 80s, Speedy Graphito has been a major name in the French street art movement. But his fine art output has really put his name on the map. But for this exhibit, he took over an entire small museum — quite the feat, and really unlike anything else.
In the first room, you can see many prints that are typical of his work, including a new version of his popular 2011 effort Temptation. In this image, the Disney version of Snow White is seen staring into an apple, which has been replaced by the Apple logo. Kids can pick up on both of these references, and older ones might begin to put together what this image is saying.
Other works continue the use of cartoon favorites like Mickey Mouse, Betty Boop, Donald Duck, and Dumbo. By seeing how Speedy Graphito uses these characters in his own way, kids feel like their world is appreciated. After all, the parts of culture they are familiar with are just as much part of the art world as any other. It also helps them relate to the images, as they don’t have to hear a lecture to understand what’s going on in a painting!
The journey continues into new rooms, all still designed by Speedy Graphito, but each opening up to new ideas and styles.
2 - His Pixel Art: City of Enigma
The next room on our trip featured a focus on pixels, those little dots of color that make up an image on a screen.
This is an appropriate subject for kids who are often all-too enamored with video games and computers. This is illustrated in one work where the pixels are made out of pill-shaped ovals, a nod to the addictiveness of screen use.
By showing how images can be made up out of pixels, there is also a connection to art history. Paul Signac and Georges Seurat experimented with this to create the pointillist school in the late 19th century, leading to famous masterpieces like Seurat’s The Circus (1891), which you can see at the Musée d’Orsay not too far away from this museum.
There are various sculptures and paintings that take the ideal of pixels and video game imagery further. And if your kid is anxious to see these ideas in action, they can play a Pacman game installed in the room.
4 - Le Musée Dans les Nuages: The Museum in the Clouds
The next stop brought together elements from all kinds of paintings, delivered in a cartoon style. These were tremendously well done, uniting things like Hokusai’s famous Great Wave with Donald Duck, Dali’s floating pipe with the Jetsons.
This is where children can see, often for the first time, some of the most iconic images from art. There’s Roy Lichtenstein, Rene Magritte, Keith Haring, and many more. It’s all here in delightful paintings that express the wonders waiting for you in art museums around the world.
This is probably the area that gets the closest to a direct “art history education” — but it never bores kids. The paintings are lively, at times funny. It’s the best possible introduction to these images your child can get.
Once they catch on, kids will start pointing to their favorite parts of paintings and ask, “Where is this from?”
5 - The Advertising Room
The next room was multicolored, lit in purples and reds and blues. The walls were covered in different logos built up to look like a cityscape. Children are encouraged to question logos and the things they stand for.
But at the same time, it is also a really fun space to be in. There is something about the candy-colored images and lighting that reminds you how much advertisements steal our attention away.
6 - Karmagoni: The Jungle
The fifth and final stop in the museum was a whimsical jungle. The walls were papered over with green and black leaf patterns, and some of the paintings showed intricate, maze-like tropical forests. There were also paintings that harkened back to Mayan hieroglyphs and others that illustrated classic images from art history using plants.
This was a powerful note to end on, giving a nature-based look and feel that helped calm us down from the excitement of other rooms.
The benefits of visiting the Musée en Herbe in Paris with Kids
Art is important for children, and yet there are so few fine art institutions that are devoted to their experience. When you can find those, it’s always worth checking out.
But these museums are not created equal. And perhaps the best in the world is right here in Paris, France: the Musée en Herbe.
This museum helps show children how fun and interesting art can be, and it builds good memories and associations with going to museums. These kinds of experiences can go on to encourage a lifetime enriched by all the arts have to offer.
The booklet proves especially helpful. It gets any kid to start looking for things in the paintings themselves, and pretty soon, they are navigating the museum on their own — with you just following behind! That in itself builds confidence, and makes them feel more at home in a museum setting.