Why It's Cool to Visit the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) with Young Kids

SFMOMA with Toddlers

SFMOMA is located in downtown San Francisco, sandwiched between the Financial District and the Yerba Buena Gardens. It has one of the largest collections of modern and contemporary art in the world, and it's housed in a unique and chic architectural space. Far from a stuffy art museum, SFMOMA has public spaces and art works that are highly interactive. On our last visit, we took our toddlers and spent half a day there, and it was in my opinion, a very cool experience for everyone.

SFMOMA with Toddlers - Facade
SFMOMA with Toddlers - Entrance

It's Stimulating for Everyone

SFMOMA with Toddlers - It's Stimulating for You

If you've been following my blog, you'd know that I don't think toddlers are too young to tag along for a trip to an art museum or a digital art exhibition. I also don't think kid-activities should be limited to kiddie parks and zoos, in fact, we've even gone wine-tasting with our kids. All it takes is a little bit of preparation. I find it helpful to bring a cozy stroller and discreet, no-mess snacks. Once you explain the no-touch rule to them, you're good to go. Visiting an art museum can be a very fun and stimulating experience for you and the kids!


You Can Get Your Step Aerobics Fix

SFMOMA with Toddlers - Outside Stairs

Getting into the SFMOMA is a great exercise, you get a good cardio and buns workout on those stairs. If the outside stairs are not enough, they have more inside to make sure you really get your heart pumping to see art. And if you're traveling with a stroller, even better, you get a bonus weight-lifting session!

SFMOMA with Toddlers - Inside Stairs

OK, I'm joking of course. The museum is highly accessible, they have elevators everywhere. But if you want to get a workout, know that there's no shortage of opportunities.


We Can Get Lost in Art Together

SFMOMA with Toddlers - Richard Serra's Sequence Labyrinth

SFMOMA features free-for-all public spaces that can be enjoyed by everyone. At the entrance, you'll find Richard Serra's "Sequence" sculpture, an impressive steel labyrinth. A great way to get lost in art, don't you think?


There Is a Cool All-Red Restroom

SFMOMA with Toddlers - Red Bathroom

I have a thing for restroom designs. When done well, restrooms as public spaces can alter your perception and experience of a destination. On the second floor of SFMOMA, you'll find an intriguing all-red restroom (with a baby changing table, too). I love how this simple choice of color can make us feel something different. But the bathroom art doesn't end there, read on.


You Can See a Giant Living Wall

SFMOMA with Toddlers - Largest Living Wall in the USA

SFMOMA boasts one of the largest living walls in the United States. On the 3rd floor's outdoor terrace, you can see this vertical garden with Californian native plants. The terrace is also a sculpture garden, and the open space allows kids to...


Kids Can Run Around Sculptures

SFMOMA with Toddlers - Run Around the Sculpture Garden

Let's face it. Toddlers have a burning desire to run around. After walking through the galleries, this terrance provides the perfect place for them to release the bottled-up energy. Just remind them that there's no touching. I know, I learned it the hard way.

SFMOMA with Toddlers - Sculpture Garden No Touching

Kids Can Experience Larger Than Life Lines and Colors

SFMOMA with Toddlers - Happy Toddlers

You know how little it takes for kids to have tons of fun. Visiting a new place and seeing unusual things really make the day for my little ones. Here at the museum, they get to step into a giant, living picture book, with lines and colors all around them.

SFMOMA with Toddlers - Lines

Mondrian and Picasso are Cool

SFMOMA with Toddlers - Modern Art Masters

The earlier they know why Mondrian and Picasso and other modern art masters are cool, the better. Somehow, I'm sure they understand these modern art masterpieces better than adults.


Kids Can Learn Their Alphabet

SFMOMA with Toddlers - America

Without getting into the socio-political explanations of certain art pieces, kids can see the familiar alphabet do funny things on the wall. The lights and forms of the letters can be quite mesmerizing. I'll let the (not so) subliminal messages do their magic.

SFMOMA with Toddlers - Start Swimming

They'll Learn That a Blank Canvas Can Be Art

SFMOMA with Toddlers - Blank Canvas

Good art should make you feel or think. I'm not sure what she understood, but she did stare at the blank canvases for a little while. Who knows what goes on in her little head.


They'll Learn That Neon Lights Can Also Be Art

SFMOMA with Toddlers - Neon Lights by Bruce Nauman

My first experience with Bruce Nauman's work was the Vices and Virtues installation at UCSD, where words like Gluttony and Temperance flash alternately in the night sky. These neon lights by Bruce Nauman at the SFMOMA say serious things like Life and Death, and Knows Doens't Know. Instead of the familiar neon lights that yell commercial messages, these ones make you ponder. 

SFMOMA with Toddlers - Neon Lights

At the SFMOMA, you can also see several fluorescent light installations by Dan Flavin, who transformed this banal medium to express artistic and architectural aesthetics, and they are... just so very cool.

SFMOMA with Toddlers - Fluorescent Light Installation

We Can Lunch Al Fresco at Cafe 5

SFMOMA with Kids - Lunch Outdoors at Cafe 5

What better place to lunch than Cafe 5's outdoor terrace? We get to bask in the golden Californian sun (when it's veiled by the fog in San Francisco) and enjoy Californian fusion cuisine. There's a sculpture garden, too. But make sure you remind the kids of the no-touch rule (again). I know, I learned it the hard way (again). 

If I'm not visiting with kids, I'd go to In Situ restaurant on the first floor. Michelin three-star chef Corey Lee whips up some pretty artistic dishes there, but early reservation is required in order to get a table. Who's to say that modern cuisine isn't contemporary art?


Art Can Be Very... Relatable

SFMOMA with Kids - Marcel Duchamp's Urinal

I promised you more bathroom art, right? Well, after lunch, it's the perfect time to visit... Marcel Duchamp's "Fountain", or as most people would call it, the urinal. Anti-art statement or thought-provoking, it's a relatable object for the kids. Speaking of relatable, how about this giant apple core by Claes Oldenburg?

SFMOMA with Kids - Claes Oldenburg Apple Core

Kids Can Nap in a Dark Room

SFMOMA with Kids - Video Projection

I'll share a little secret with you. I love the video projection rooms in museums, because it's the perfect spot to squeeze in a nap for a tired toddler. After walking through the exhibits followed by some stroller time, nap-age toddlers will most likely fall asleep in the dark room. But the older kids can definitely enjoy watching the bubble travel through an empty house, it's wacky good fun.


We Learn About Each Other Through Art

SFMOMA with Kids - Learn About Each Other

For me, this is the essence of fine art. It allows us to learn about ourselves and each other. Visiting an art museum is not about cultivating the kids or educating them. It's a different experience for each person, and I find the usual museum Q&A sheet for kids quite stiff. It's interesting to observe what makes each person linger in front of a particular piece, and that's really the fun part of stepping into a museum instead of flipping through a coffee table book, because it's a very public yet personal experience that we live together.

SFMOMA with Kids -Man and Woman
SFMOMA with Kids - Mother and Children Sculpture
SFMOMA with Kids - The Two Kids

SFMOMA is free for children under the age of 18, and the museum is full of family-friendly amenities and exhibits, I can't find a valid excuse not to bring them. Hope you'll have a lovely time there!

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

151 Third Street
San Francisco, CA 94103

SFMOMA with Toddlers Poster

Stay Contemporary and Travel On,

Melody xx