| by Laura Belpedio |
It’s not uncommon to see groups of children touring the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, but on the third Saturday of each month, visitors may see a few more babies.
In the Itty-Bitty Art educational program, instructors use the museum’s art to support infants' (11 months and younger) developmental skills and teach parents strategies to interact with their babies. The classes are designed to integrate three areas: infant development, positive parent-child interaction, and the Amon Carter’s collection. Topics vary for each class and include music, early literacy, movement, yoga, storytelling, infant massage and sign language.
In the Itty-Bitty Art: Sign Language class, for example, an instructor teaches parents and babies how to sign colors. Parents walk babies around observing the museum's art, pointing to colors and reinforcing what they’ve just learned.
During the Yoga class, parents practice breathing with their babies, rolling Nubby Balls back and forth to increase their babies’ tracking skills and visual acuity, and posing with their babies held close or up in the air. Parents even get a chance to relax, given warm towels with lavender oil to put over their eyes as they lie down on mats with their babies.
The program is the brainchild of Sara Klein, teacher and school programs manager of the Amon Carter Museum, and public programs manager Jessica Kennedy. The program was inspired by Klein’s own experience as a new mother. She wanted to find an outlet where she could share her experience with other new parents. After research and conversations with other parents, Klein ultimately decided to start a pilot program at the museum in the fall of 2016. Klein and Kennedy received positive feedback and realized the program could be beneficial not only to infants, but also parents, providing an opportunity for them to get out of the house with their babies and be a part of a program with other parents in similar stages of their lives.
“From a museum education standpoint, what makes Itty-Bitty Art unique is having infant development experts co-teaching with museum educators in the galleries,” Klein said. “Itty-Bitty Art’s professional teaching component combined with the Amon Carter’s allegiance to the collection make this program a standout for engaging new audiences, creating a welcoming place for a nontraditional museum audience, and truly meaning it when we say ‘cradle to cane’ programming.”
All family members are encouraged to accompany an infant to the program. Parents are welcome to feed their babies and walk them around during the class if they get fussy. Each facilitator can accommodate 10 infants at once.
The Itty-Bitty Art program is free for parents and infants and lasts from 9:30 a.m. to 10:15 a.m., with time to socialize afterward. Registration for the classes opens on the first of the month, and parents can view which classes are being offered by visiting cartermuseum.org/calendar. Parents can register by calling 817.989.5013 or emailing [email protected].