A Day at the Eric Carle Museum

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

The highlight of our trip was the Art Studio. Henry was pleased to sit down and make a collage with tissue paper and liquid starch. Just like "the real Eric Carle."(Photo credit: Karen Bayne)

Our most pristine days have been reserved for traditional summer activities like turning on the sprinkler, slurping popsicles and tossing food on the grill. It takes a heat wave to tear us away from simplest of summer pleasures like swimming with friends and running through the splash pad. We are relishing every moment of these lazy summer days. Three boys, three school schedules and a handful of careers between two parents, summer’s slower pace has been a gift.  The recent heat wave slowed us down a bit too much, though. Once again we looked for air-conditioned refuges to perk us up.

We made a long awaited trip to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, MA. I’ve been waiting because I want my boys to be able to have the attention span and appreciation for some time in the galleries. I was so happy to see they offered a little activity to help the youngest kids give the art the attention it deserves and not just buzz through at breakneck speed. Before you enter, pick up a clipboard, pencil and gallery treasure hunt map. Kids can find animals A-Z in the West Gallery, which houses Eric Carle’s work. My boys most enjoyed seeing the glass cased presentation of the materials used to make some of their favorite illustrations – paint, tissue paper, scissors and brushes.

Theo exploring light, color and magnification in the studio. (Photo credit: Karen Bayne)

The central and east galley exhibits will change but we had fun exploring the art of Barbara McClintock, especially the pieces that showed her process, changes and final presentations. We are now sure to check The Heartaches of French Cat.  Tomi Ungerer was an artist whose work I have seen without being very familiar with his own story. Most of this went right past my boys’ little brains but we did see the familiar Flat Stanley and Moon Man.

The highlight of this trip for younger kids will most likely be the Art Studio. The daily project will change. Henry was pleased to sit down and make a collage. A few manipulatives and magnet boards with different materials, colors and textures engage kids of all ages. My kids would play with magnets on the frig all day – we even installed a magnet board in their room because I need to occasionally open the frig door and disturb the artwork. There was a moment I thought they were just going to move in to the Art Studio and never leave – not a bad plan considering the air-conditioning was included! Instead, I decided that I would make them some magnets with new colors and shapes with my fabric scraps at home.

A few manipulatives and magnet boards with different materials, colors and textures engage kids of all ages. (Photo credit: Karen Bayne)

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art hosts special events year round. During the summer it is open Monday-Friday from 10am-4pm,  Saturday 10am-5 and Sunday 12-5pm. The museum is only open Mondays during school vacation periods, so check the website for details. We used our trusty Forbes Library Museum pass to get in. Ordinary admission $9 per adult and $6 per child. If you have visited before, what did your family enjoy the most? If you haven’t taken this trip yet, I hope you do!


Karen Bayne

Karen grew up in Manhattan and lived in Connecticut before moving to Northampton with her husband Matt to raise their boys. Her sons Isaac, Henry and Theo are 11, 6 and 4,  leaving Karen on a search for all the “just right adventures” that will wow them and wear them out.  She works as a birth doula, childbirth and parent educator in the greater Northampton area. She writes about mothering at Needs New Batteries and about birth in our culture at Gentle Balance Birth.

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