Exhibition Activities for Families & Children

Exhibition Activities for Families & Children

Explore Samurai Armor from the Collection of Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller using this resource which provides prompts for careful looking, and discussion of the objects featured in the exhibition.

East Asian Art
Activity Type:
Special Exhibition

Exhibition Activities for Families & Children


The art, armor and arms (or weapons) featured in this exhibition were owned by Japanese samurai. The samurai, which means “those who serve”, were hired by wealthy landowners to protect their land by battling with other samurai in Japan hundreds of years ago. You’ll see examples of the armor they wore to protect themselves, the weapons they used to fight with, and images of battles.

Para obtener una versión en español de este recurso Actividades para familias y niños relacionadas con la exposición. 

Fast Facts!

More than 160 objects in the exhibition including… 

17 full suits of armor

42 helmets 

15 weapons 

That’s a lot to see! Use this guide to find key works throughout the galleries that tell the story of the samurai.

Activities for Exploring the Exhibition

Search through the exhibition to find these items owned and worn by the samurai. The cards below appear chronologically so keep your eyes open and when you find a work, tap the card to flip it–on the back you’ll find more information about the artwork and a question or activity to help you explore further. 


Seated Armor
The images and symbols on a samurai’s armor expressed something important about them. Symbols could connect them to their family, offer protection, and give us clues about what samurai found important.

What symbols can you find on this armor? Do you see an animal figure in the center of the helmet? It is a lion. Lions were viewed as protectors and symbolized strength, both of which were important qualities for samurai. What animal would you choose as a symbol and why?
Every artwork has a story! Find the large screen in this gallery. This screen shows an image from a famous Japanese battle between two families, or clans. But it is fun to use your imagination to tell your own story!

Based on what you see in this scene, what is happening? What might happen next? How will the story end?
Child's Armor
Take a moment to look closely at this set of armor. It was made for a child, but not meant for battle.

Think about how many separate pieces are combined to make it. Can you imagine wearing this? What would it feel like? How would you feel wearing it?

Wondering how a samurai put a suit of armor on? Look for the step-by-step drawing nearby!
Look closely at this helmet. Can you think of a helmet you wear? Maybe one while riding a bike or playing a sport? How does the helmet you wear look different from this one? The helmet (or kabuto in Japanese) was one of the most important parts of the suit of armor. Decorating the helmet with fancy materials like the gold on this one helped the samurai stand out on the battlefield. At the end of the guide, try designing your own samurai helmet!
Start designing!
Horse Mask
Find this horse mask, or bamen, among the saddles, stirrups, and other items a horse might use in battle.

How has the mask's artist made the horse’s face scary? Do you see the horns and the bulging eyes and flared eyebrows? These features might remind you of a mythical dragon. Dragons represented power, courage, and wisdom to the samurai.

Look for horses in battle in the next room!
The samurai fought with many different types of weapons including bows and arrows, swords, and later on, firearms. Can you find this sword? Do you see a shape that repeats all over the sword sheath, or covering? The three leaves in a gold circle are a symbol, or crest, of the Abe family, and identifies who owned the sword. What symbol would you choose to decorate something important to you? Be sure to watch the video of how a sword like this would have been made at the end of the exhibition!



Take a break. Sit in the museum’s sculpture garden or café to share a snack and think about the art you have seen today. Take time to reflect on what you noticed, felt, or thought and share your reflections with someone you came with or write down your own thoughts.   

Explore the permanent collection of East Asian Art on the 2nd floor of the museum. Did you know that VMFA also has a suit of Samurai armor? It is not on view right now, but you can learn about it in the Samurai Art in Depth digital resource.   

Visit the Interactive Family Lounge on Level 1.  

Design your own samurai helmet using the activity on Learn 

This exhibition is organized by The Ann & Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum, Dallas.

Educational materials for Samurai Armor from the Collection of Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller are generously supported by the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust. 


Images (in order they appear on the page)

Nimaitachidō tōsei gusoku armor, Muromachi period, ca. 1400 (helmet bowl); mid-Edo period, 18th century (armor), Attributed: Myōchin Yoshimichi (helmet bowl); Myōchin Munenori (armor), iron, shakudō, lacing, silver, wood, gold, brocade, fur, bronze, brass, leather. © The Ann & Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum, Dallas. Photo: Brad Flowers

The Competition to Be First at Uji River, Japan, early 18th century, Six-panel folding screen, ink, color, and gold on paper. © The Ann & Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum, Dallas. Photo: Brad Flowers.

Armor of Warabe Type for a Child, 19th century, Iron, lacquer, gold, wood, lacing, wood, and fabric, © The Ann & Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum, Dallas. Photo: Brad Flowers. 

Ridged helmet, (Sujibachi kabuto), Late Muromachi to mid Edo period, 16th–mid-18th century, Iron, lacing, fur, gold, shakudō, bronze, leather, © The Ann & Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum, Dallas, Photo: Studio Ferrazzini Bouchet Photography, Geneva 

Tachi‑type Sword (efu no tachi), 1660–70, Yokoyama Sukesada (Japanese, active 17th century), steel, bronze, stingray skin, wood, lacquer, gold, © The Ann & Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum, Dallas, Photo: Brad Flowers  

Horse Mask (bamen), 19th century, leather, metal, lacquer © The Ann & Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum, Dallas, Photo: Brad Flowers