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Top ten artworks for kids at the Museum of Modern Art

The midtown bastion of modernism is the perfect place to introduce kids to works that express curiosity, inventiveness and a sense of fun.

  • I and the VillageMarc Chagall (French, born Belarus. 1887-1985)1911. Oil on...

  • The Starry NightVincent van Gogh (Dutch, 1853-1890)Saint Rmy, June 1889. Oil...

  • The Red StudioHenri Matisse (French, 1869-1954)Issy-les-Moulineaux, fall 1911...

  • One: Number 31, 1950Jackson Pollock (American, 1912-1956)1950. Oil and enamel...

  • Photograph: John Wronn

    untitled (to the "innovator" of Wheeling Peachblow)Dan Flavin (American,...

  • The ChariotAlberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966)1950. Painted bronze on wood...

  • Three MusiciansPablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973)Fontainebleau, summer 1921...

  • BedRobert Rauschenberg (American, 1925-2008)1955. Oil and pencil on pillow,...

  • Photograph: John Wronn

    GibraltarAlexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)1936. Lignum vitae, walnut,...

  • Water Lilies (Tryptic, Left Panel)Claude Monet (French, 1840-1926)1914-26. Oil...

I and the VillageMarc Chagall (French, born Belarus. 1887-1985)1911. Oil on...

When it comes to excursions for the kids, MoMA, with its rotating exhibits and cutting-edge installations, may not be the first spot that comes to mind. But its permanent collection, secreted away on floors four and five, chronicles the hundred-plus-year history of modern art so ravishingly that it remains the institution's pride and joy—and deserves to jump to the top of your family's to-do list. Nearly all of its works have kid appeal, but we've selected ten we believe will capture your child's imagination.

I and the Village by Marc Chagall (1911)
Simultaneously enigmatic and approachable, this work reimagines the agrarian life of Chagall's childhood in Belorusse, which he left behind in emigrating to Paris. The artist's visionary use of color and dreamlike juxtapositions underscore the spiritual connection between humankind and nature in a way that children will grasp intuitively. Fifth floor.

The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh (1889)
Kids will be entranced by Van Gogh's use of brushstrokes in what is perhaps the most beloved painting in the museum. It embues the nightscape with a pulsing electric energy that unites earth and sky, matter and spirit, light and darkness. Fifth floor.

The Red Studio by Henri Matisse (1911)
The French painter's blood-red portrait of his workspace will draw young viewers into the artist's state of mind. All that matters, it seems, is the creative process, a belief Matisse underscores by making the paintings seem more real than the studio itself. Fifth floor.

One: Number 31, 1950 by Jackson Pollock (1950)
Pollock's enormous work is mesmerizing no matter how close to it one is. Once painters-in-training hear that he created it by placing a canvas on the floor and walking around and on it, dripping paint in sweeping gestures, they'll likely want to try the technique themselves. Fourth floor.

untitled (to the "innovator" of Wheeling Peachblow) by Dan Flavin (1968)
Budding art aficionados will be intrigued with this work by Minimalist artist Dan Flavin, who used light as other artists have used wood and steel, paint and canvas. Its fluorescent bulbs transform the corner of the gallery into a portal to another world. Fourth floor.

The Chariot by Alberto Giacometti (1950)
The Italian sculptor's elegant oeuvre is one of the most expressive in 20th-century art, and this seemingly simple work is no exception. Kids will no doubt wonder just where the chariot is headed and what it might be like to ride it. Fourth floor.

Three Musicians by Pablo Picasso (1921)
The collage-like, fragmented shapes in Picasso's enormous canvas will give mini art historians a sense of how the configuration of abstract shapes can conjure a recognizable scene. They'll also appreciate the artist's exuberance and childlike sense of play. Fifth floor.

The Bed by Robert Rauschenberg (1955)
Worn bedsheets and a quilt thought to have belonged to Rauschenberg become the canvas on which he created this highly personal work, which blurs the line between art and life. Kids are bound to connect with the artist's expressive brushstrokes, splashes and drips of paint, and freestyle pencil scribblings around the pillow, which taken together evoke the stuff of dreams and unbridled imagination. Fourth floor.

Gibraltar by Alexander Calder (1936)
Kids needn't know their European geography to appreciate the universe Calder managed to create from a few well-chosen, strategically placed elements. Here the fanciful balancing act that characterizes the sculptor's mobiles finds its expression in static form. Fourth floor.

Water Lilies by Claude Monet (1914-1926)
The quintessential Impressionist's life-long preoccupation with the play of light and shadow reached its apex in this mammoth triptych, whose three panels immerse the viewer in the microcosm of the artist's pond in Giverny, France. Little ones will love trying to discern reflections on the water's surface from the pond's plant life. Fifth floor.

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