Though the excitement of the holidays has come and gone, winter break is still in session. That means your kids still need to be entertained — and not by sitting in front of their new tech toys all day.
Boston Public Schools don’t begin classes again until Jan. 4, but your kids can still engage in some educational activities thanks to museums around Boston which have amped up their programming for children and families during the December break.
The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum may not be the first place that comes to mind to bring your little ones, with its 15th-century style and antique artworks set up as if inside a house. However, Rhea Vedro, director of community engagement at the museum, said that kind of chaos fits the museum perfectly.
“When [Gardner] was alive, this was not a quiet palace,” Vedro said. “It was full of music and painters in residence working on pieces of art in real time. It was very much an alive space, and we want to bring that feeling to the visitor experience.”
The original museum building, opened in 1903, was constructed to resemble a 15th-century Venetian Palace. The museum has since expanded with a modern new wing, completed in 2012, which houses a gallery space, music hall and living room.
The Gardner Museum is focusing on music-related activities because this vacation week’s theme is “Winter Song,” based on a current exhibit called “Beyond Words” which features intricately painted Renaissance books. One book in the collection is a choir book believed to be rescued from a shipwreck off Naples in the 1600s.
Many of the interactive events planned for winter break take place in these modern spaces, including a music-inspired greeting card workshop, a class to make your own scroll to play through a music box and an activity that lets you be the music notes in an arrangement a musician will actually read and play.
“The audience is invited to come into middle of the floor [of the Calderwood music hall] where there will be a musical staff on the floor and big oversized notes,” Vedro explained. “So you grab a note — you can be a quarter note, a half note — and you place yourself on the musical staff.”
An electric violinist sitting on a higher level in the music hall will bring the human-made composition to life by playing based on those notes.
“I think that it’s through the experience of either making something or a multisensory experience that the rest of the collection comes alive,” Vedro said.
All events at the Gardner museum are at no extra cost and everyone 17 and younger (as well as those named “Isabella”) are always admitted for free. See hours online here.
The Museum of Fine Arts Boston also has interactive experiences planned, with a focus on travel and art, through Dec. 31.
“Activities include painting winter scenes based on Claude Monet's "Grainstack (Snow Effect)," designing maps influenced by navigation charts from the Marshall Islands and crafting clay vases modeled after Greek alabastron vases,” said Ashley Bleimes, a spokesperson for the museum.
Kid-specific tours are also offered to guide 6- to 10-year olds through the Art of the Americas exhibit, featuring a high school reporter and an art detective. The "Make Way for Ducklings: The Art of Robert McCloskey,” collection is also currently on view, celebrating one of the most cherished children’s picture books.
The Boston Children’s Museum, a clear go-to for you and your kids, has a whole roster of activities this week, from “Make a Mini Manga” workshops to a “Pop-Up Recycle Shop” that lets you create artwork from recycled and surplus materials.
The Museum of Science Boston is expanding their hours this week to stay open until 7 p.m. through Dec. 29 (the museum will be open until 9 p.m. on Dec. 30 as it is every Friday). The museum’s regular programming, including current exhibits, the planetarium and drop-in activities like the hands-on laboratory and the Charles River Field Station will be available.