How to get kids (and parents) through the Prado…and learn something.

I would not consider our family as a truly “artsy” family, as in I have zero drawing talent.  I still use stick people.  But, art is important, and can be interesting to look at.  Sometimes.  But we have three boys that would rather start fires and collect rocks than look at art.  So, knowing that, I decided to try something different for The Prado Museum,  (El Museo National del Prado), I channeled my inner teacher.  I sought out some supplies.  Then, I made my kids listen to me.  Sort of….

Here’s what I bought at the Prado, before we visited:

  1. The Prado Guide
  2. These bookmarks
  3. Mateo at the Museum
  4. Little Story of the Prado Museum
  5. Goya for Children
  6. The Great Art Treasure Hunt
  7. A map that I picked up from the info desk

This was in the bag of stuff I picked up from the Prado gift shop.  Yep….I went to the Museum WITHOUT kids to get some very Prado Museum specific items.

  • I could not find all the items in Amazon, but hopefully you get the idea.  Also, the bookmarks I purchased are the 2018 version but I could only link to 2016.
  • I went back to look through the online gift shop for the Prado and could not find ANY of these items.
  • If you want to repeat what I did, unfortunately you’ll actually have to go to the gift shop and purchase some of these things in person.
  • On the up side, the Museum is free Monday-Saturday 6-8pm and Sundays and holiday 5-7pm.  So, one night I headed in to pick up my supplies.  Then the fun began.  Sorta.

I read through Mateo at the Museum and Little Story of the Prado over the course of a week or so with the boys.  Little Story of the Prado has quite a bit of information, so I broke it up over several days and just read a page or two at a time.  Then I talked about it with the boys, at dinner as we were in the car…  And talked.  And talked.

  • And about once a day I asked them why was the Prado named the Prado?  (Hint:  Prado means meadow in Spanish)
  • Who was a major driving force in helping the Prado come to fruition?
  • What was stolen from the Prado a long time ago?
  • Why were the paintings moved and where to?

The boys had lots of opportunities to tell and retell this information so they knew at least some stuff before the big day.

  • Every time we came across a reference in any of the books about a piece at the Prado, we looked it up in the Guide so they could see exactly what the piece was going to look like.

Another book that we spent time looking at was The Great Art Treasure Hunt.  Our 4 year old loved it and while not all the pieces in it are at the Prado, it really helped him look at different art with detail while paying attention to other elements and “finding” other items in a painting.   I would highly recommend it for any younger kids.  These books gave our kids quite a bit of exposure to several pieces that we planned to see at the Prado.

After all this, it was time for me to get MY ducks in a row.

The night before:

  • I marked on my museum map where several pieces were that we talked about and wanted to see.  The Prado is just so big and overwhelming and I didn’t want the boys to get burned out looking at art that they didn’t know anything about.  So, knowing that I would have limited attention from the boys, we just planned to see certain pieces.

And the day of?!  How did it go?!  And why did you buy bookmarks?

So glad you asked!  We went to the Prado in the morning because the boys are much better off first thing in the morning.  Once we got there Joe dropped us off because there was a protest of sorts going on (true story).  He went to find parking which was an entirely different story, but the boys and I headed inside.  I handed out 2 or 3 bookmarks to each kid.  These bookmarks had a piece of a painting on them so the boys needed to be really looking around to find their paintings!


Fransico de Goya, Pero semibundid (Half Submerged Dog)

I was sure to give the youngest one the more recognizable one and the hardest ones went to our 14 year old.  Poor guy!  So, the boys played a bit of a treasure hunt type game and then we referred to our map and hit the rest of the paintings that we had in mind (we focused on Spanish painters, and the Dauphin’s Treasure (that were stolen years ago and then partially recovered!).  The most memorable piece for the boys was the Queen standing with one hand on a set of blueprints (for the future Prado) and her other hand pointing out the window at what would be, the finished Prado Museum (she died before it all came to fruition, but this painting is a tribute to her).


Bernardo Lopez Piquer, Maria Isabel de Braganza

At the end of it all….I think the boys learned something.  I don’t know if they loved it, but there are some paintings they should recognize.  We tried our best to keep it fun.

For anyone wanting to try sometime similar in a museum of their choosing, here’s what I recommend:

  1.  Pick where you want to go
  2. Buy/borrow/rent some material specific to the themes at that location
  3. put the time in and teach it to your kids, well in advance
  4. review and talk about it often, just 2 or 3 minutes a day helps
  5. prepare and map our what you’re doing so there’s limited “down time”
  6. incorporate some type of game
  7. keep it short and to the point, don’t try and do EVERYTHING
  8. a good attitude will go far in having some fun!

2 thoughts on “How to get kids (and parents) through the Prado…and learn something.

  1. Pingback: 7 engaging activities with Kids in Spain - Around the Riley

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