My husband and I welcomed our first child at the end of last year, and as we were preparing for her birth, we naturally consulted all of the various checklists that we could get our hands on. While such lists might have prepared us for the essential material goods that we needed (or didn’t as the case may be!), they also got us talking about the way in which we wanted to raise our baby, especially in terms of education and early child development. With both of our backgrounds in the arts, we soon discovered the strength of our convictions regarding early exposure of our daughter to the arts. However, it is not easy nor always encouraged to tote your newborn to museums and concert halls, and we resolved to rectify this. Thus, our organization, Culture Babes, was born.
Culture Babes is dedicated to organizing monthly cultural events that are extremely child friendly, but which are ultimately geared towards stimulating parents. So far, our group has seen a great print exhibition at the Museum of Anthropology, the Audain Collection at the Vancouver Art Gallery, as well as visits to the Burnaby Art Gallery. Last month we hosted our first musical concert, Treasures of the Czech Classical Tradition, performed by VSO and Vancouver Opera musicians. Attending our events, parents are not only getting to see an otherwise off-limits exhibition, but they are also exposing their children to culture at a young age, and are able to meet other parents with similar interests.
If you are eager to take in some cultural events around the lower mainland on your own, there are many options. For example, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra offers Tiny Tots, a concert series geared towards little ones featuring musical educators. Each of the major museums offer free entrance for children under the ages of 4 or 5, and most have regular family events, such as the Fuse family day at the Vancouver Art Gallery. If you are hesitant to tackle one of the larger museums with your tot, you might consider one of the smaller cultural centres around the lower mainland, such as the Burnaby Art Gallery or the gallery at the Evergreen Cultural Centre in Coquitlam. As these are smaller in size and tend to offer intimate temporary exhibitions, they are ideal for shorter visits and will probably have fewer patrons to disturb during off-peak hours.
If you are looking for a great way to engage your little one while at an exhibition, one favored tactic is to go to the museum shop at the beginning of your visit and have your tot select a postcard or two of a work in the collection, that you can then look for as you make your way around the museum. While you may wish to, it is not necessary to stay at a museum until closing time: instead, consider becoming a member of a museum, so that you can dip in and out for shorter visits.
Numerous studies have shown that even the briefest of exposures to cultural events makes for a well-rounded child, and will encourage the same kids to seek out such activities as they grow into adults.
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Hilary Letwin lives with her husband and baby in Port Moody. She works as an academic, specializing in the Italian Renaissance. She also writes for a number of local publications, including Montecristo Magazine. She recently set up Culture Babes, which is a parent and tots group devoted to making cultural visits in and around Vancouver. For more information and to join Culture Babes for the next event, visit the website: www.culturebabes.ca.