Exploring Art of the Ancient World at the Getty Villa
This page offers some tips for exploring art of the ancient world with children.

The Getty Villa is more than a museum; the building and gardens are works of art in their own right. They provide an opportunity to open your children's imaginations in amazing ways! Here are some simple ideas to deepen your family's experience.

To learn about programs, events, and activities we offer for families, visit our section Family Events and Activities.

The triclinium at the Getty Villa
Look First, Then Talk
Take some time to just look. This lets you discover the works of art, rooms in the Villa building, and the gardens in all their detail. You'll make fantastic discoveries! Even the floors and ceilings at the Villa have surprises.

Ask Questions and Get Talking
Spark your children's imaginations by asking for answers rather than giving them. Simple questions can lead to very interesting conversations. Try these:
  • What's happening here?
  • What would it be like to be a part of this work of art?

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Toy in Shape of Rider / Roman
Tell Stories
Ask your children to tell stories about the sculptures, or about the pictures they see in frescos or on vases. Get them started with questions like these:
  • What happened right before the moment you see here?
  • What's going to happen next?

Make up a story as a family about a work of art. Each person can tell one line of the tale and then pass the story to the next person. You can also imagine stories about the world in which objects were made:
  • Why was this object made?
  • Who used or played with this object?

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Sarcophagus with Scenes from Life of Achilles (detail) / Roman
Use Play
Play is learning! Here are some ways to explore the Museum by using play and pretend.

The Villa recreates the home of a wealthy Roman family. Imagine what it would be like to live in such a house. Pretend to be a Roman family and take a stroll through one of the gardens. Talk about the many things that were different in the ancient world than they are in the modern world. Use these questions to get your family thinking and looking:
  • What was it like in this house in the summer?
  • In the winter?
  • After dark?

Have your children strike the poses of figures in the works of art. Pretend to be characters in the works of art and have a conversation. Ask:
  • What would this person's voice sound like?
  • What might he or she say?

Encourage your children to use their hands rather than words to describe the shapes or lines in a work of art. Pretend to be an artist in the ancient world. Ask your children:
  • How did you make this?
  • Why did you make it look like this?

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Drawing at the Villa
Be an Artist
Bring paper and pencils or colored pencils. You and your children can make your own works inspired by the art or gardens. Keep in mind that pens and markers are not allowed in the galleries, and adults should carry all art supplies when not in use.

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Greece! Rome! Monsters! - a Getty publication
Listen, and Let the Children Lead
The Villa is an experience for all the senses. Let your children wander a little, and follow their interests.

Bring a book of mythology that you have read as a family and let your children choose gods, goddesses, or heroes they like. Then find images of those characters in the galleries. You can also bring a book about life in the ancient world and connect the information it provides with works of art by seeking out real armor, eating and drinking bowls, athletes' trophies, and even children's toys from thousands of years ago.

Children's Books about Art at the Getty Villa and the Ancient World (RTF, 3 pp., 485KB)

Plants of the ancient world at the Getty Villa
Explore the herb garden, where you can touch plants (gently, please!) and discover marvelous smells left on your hands from rosemary, lemon-scented thyme, citron tree leaves, and many others. Explore lamb's ear with your fingers to understand why ancient Romans used this plant as bandages. Visit the East Garden, a place of serenity and escape for a Roman family, as well as the children's school! This is where a tutor would teach children their daily lessons. Explore the mosaic in the garden, or close your eyes to enjoy the soothing sound of the fountains. Learn more about our gardens.