Many of the great Modernist masters looked for inspiration in the untutored simplicity and spontaneity of children's art. Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky all collected doodles by the grade-school set.
Area museums offering art programs similarly recognize the worthiness of children's art, as may parents looking for an inspiring way to engage their kids on the weekends and during school breaks.
"She finds it relaxing and enjoys the sensory aspect," says Laurie Schoenfeld of her daughter Alexis's regular participation in the Long Island Children's Museum's "Messy Afternoons." The Wantagh five-year-old is particularly enamored with Oobleck, a gooey mixture of cornstarch, water and liquid watercolor.
Here are upcoming museum workshops your kids can experience:
WHEN|WHERE 1-4 p.m. Sundays, One Museum Dr., Roslyn Harbor
INFO 516-484-9337, nassaumuseum.org
ADMISSION $4 ages 4-12 ($10 adults)
Sunday afternoons offer art-making opportunities for children to interpret what they see in the galleries. This month, young artists can make torn-paper works emulating Beijing artist Lui Dan's ethereal landscapes and found-materials collages exploiting the vivid colors and recurring circles defining South African painter Gavin Rain's portraits.
During the school holiday, drop into the museum's art workshop to create objects inspired by the Chinese Lunar New Year and the museum's current show, "China Then and Now." Kids can create blue-and-white plates telling their own fantastical tales with Imperial dragons and other motifs from centuries-old Chinese porcelain and sculpture. Wool roving can be incorporated in 3-D works honoring the Year of the Sheep, and crayon rubbings can be made from cardboard matrices resembling Chinese characters. "The projects reinforce what the kids have looked at," notes museum educator Katie Hillman. Sessions run 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Feb. 17-19 and there's an $8 materials fee per family.
WHEN|WHERE 3:30-5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays for children 18 months to 4 years old, 11 Davis Ave., Garden City. Also 1-3 p.m. Feb. 16-20.
INFO 516-224-5800, licm.org
Preschoolers may find putting on a plastic smock and pounding, kneading, and stretching all types of goo in the popular "Messy Afternoons" workshop inspiring. The mediums offered -- ranging from a Silly Putty-like mixture to "clean mud" combining toilet paper and crumbled soap -- captivate budding artists, who can also opt to explore more traditional materials such as crayons on paper.
During winter break week, kids can think about how color choice and brush strokes can convey their feelings in the "Once Upon A Line" workshop. The aspiring abstractionists can decide to leave their compositions for inclusion in a monthlong exhibition and, of course, then bring their admirers to the artists' reception ($3 plus museum admission; 11 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m. Feb. 16-20).
WHERE 279 Montauk Hwy., Water Mill
INFO 631-283-2118, parrishart.org
ADMISSION $10 adults, under 18 free
The Parrish Museum kicks off its family programming this month with a free exploration of paper arts 5:30-7:30 p.m. Friday. Kids can fold sheets of paper into all manner of origami forms in the museum's lobby and blend paper pulp or string paper beads in the museum's studio. Projects crafted in the Open Studios for Families (Saturday, 10 a.m.-noon.) also relate to media and imagery featured in the galleries. Docents will lead kids on tours of the permanent collection (2 p.m. Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, free). Daily winter vacation workshops engage a variety of genres -- from portraiture to mixed-media collage -- playing off select works on view. ($40 a session Feb. 16-20; 10 a.m.-noon ages 4-6; 1-3 p.m. ages 7 and older).
WHEN|WHERE 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Feb. 17-19, 2 Prime Ave., Huntington
INFO 631-351-3250, heckscher.org
ADMISSION $20-$35 per workshop, for ages 7-11
Inspired by experiments in photography of the last two centuries in the museum's "Modern Alchemy" exhibition, the Heckscher's "School's Out, Art's In!" workshops give children the chance to try different ways of making art. The first session ($20) challenges kids to display their work in nontraditional ways, exemplified by artist Mariah Robertson's 100-foot photograph, which winds its way up, around and across the gallery space. Participants in the following two-day workshop ($35) can make hybrid animal sculptures with a nod to the show's oddly juxtaposed Surrealist imagery. Stop in the lobby for more intuitive fun and create a masterpiece on the museum's 55-inch digital touch-screen or at the central gallery's activity station.