As an aside, I must argue for the use of great religious art for small children. I fully admit it seems pretentious at first, but our experience is that it holds our children's interest by acting as a puzzle for them. They enjoy the challenge of figuring out the story the painting is depicting and then trying to find the different aspects of the story the painter has put in the picture. When Clare is restless at Mass, she asks for the "pictures" from the Vatican II Hymnal and tries to figure out who everybody is in the picture.
On New Year's Eve, while my parents were in town, we headed to the National Gallery. Meg, my aspiring artist, dressed for the event in her long bohemian skirt and the Downton Abbey-style cloche hat she received for Christmas. She looked every bit the artist as she and Clare wondered about the religious art galleries, large Advent calendar in hand, looking for matches. They surprised us by how well they knew the paintings. They found nearly half the pictures with relative ease. Clare decided her favorite painting was Jacopo Tintoretto's The Madonna of the Stars (I think it was all the gold in the painting). Meg informs me her favorite painting was Gentile da Fabriano's Madonna and Child, because she likes Jesus depicted as a prince (yes, she's really in the prince and princess stage right now). Baby Anne's favorite display was the moving ceiling lights between the East and West building--a favorite among one-month olds.
It was a successful trip. When I take the girls to an art museum, we go with a limited plan. We go to look at ballerina paintings or Mary Cassatt paintings with which the girls are familiar. If we get beyond our limited plan, that is bonus. If we only stay 15 minutes, that's okay. The Advent calendar scavenger hunt kept the girls interested in the paintings for an extended period of time and I'm grateful to my mom for the great idea.