Famous Artwork For Kids: How to Engage With Great Works of Art

Famous Artwork For Kids: How to Engage With Great Works of Art

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Famous artwork for kids? Really? Can kids enjoy great works of art? We think so! In fact, we believe that engaging with artists and their works can be a wonderful family activity. We’ve gathered together 7 creative ways to help you do just that. So, get ready to enjoy some amazing art pieces, get creative, and maybe learn something along the way.

Child in art museum

You may have seen this photograph circulating around social media in the last few years. It was taken by Kirsty Kelly from Lanarkshire who graciously gave me permission to use the image. Kirsty’s photographs are gorgeous, but this one captures a wonderfully unscripted moment. It is a picture of Kirsty’s daughter responding to a picture of Anna Pavlova painted by John Lavery. I love it!

Famous artwork for kids
photo by Kirsty Kelly used with permission

Great works of art have a way of inspiring our spirits and I have found that young children often connect deeply and intuitively with art. Kirsty’s photograph captures such a moment with her daughter- right as it is happening.

But what about famous artwork for kids? Can we really get our children inspired and excited about the visual arts? Can we make it fun? You bet we can! In the next few minutes I am going to show you exactly how.

Famous artwork for kids pin
“starry_night_03.jpg” ©2006 Josh Staiger and made available under cc license

Famous Artwork For Kids 101

Ready to get started with famous artwork for kids? Let’s dive straight in.

There are many different ways to enjoy art with your children. If possible I would encourage you to visit an art museum at least once. There is nothing quite like seeing great works of art in real life. Also most art galleries have fun children’s programs that you can enjoy as a family.

Having said that visiting an art museum with younger children can be tricky, so you may want to do some planning. Alison at No Time For Flashcards has written a great post about having fun with young children at an art museum.

If you are not able to visit a gallery you can still connect with your children over a good picture. The Internet is a treasure trove of images and information, as is your local library.

Books about Art For Kids

There are some fabulous books about artists that you can enjoy. Here are some geared towards children aged 6-8 years. Look at them with your kids but leave them lying about the house for your children to pick up and look through. Here are my favorites.

7 Creative Ways to Engage With Famous Artworks for Kids

So you have selected a great picture you want to share with your children like Children by the Sea in Guernsey by Pierre-August Renoir. What can you do with it?

Famous artwork for kids
“photo of Children by the Sea in Guernsey, 1883” ©2014 CarlosR38 and made available under cc license

Here are some suggestions.

1. Talk About the Art

I have found that children have a great deal to teach us. They tend to come to the art with very few preconceived ideas and see things that we adults often overlook. Here is a list of questions to get the discussion going.

  • What do you notice first?
  • Describe what else you see?
  • Tell me the story you think the artist was trying to tell?
  • What feeling words come to mind when you look at this picture?
  • Can you tell me what you like best about this picture?
  • What would you like to ask the artist?
  • describe some of the shapes you see in this picture?
  • How many colors can you see?
  • If you could jump into this picture, where you go?
  • What would you do?
  • Describe what you see? Hear? Smell?
parent and child in art museum

Obviously you wouldn’t want to ask all these questions, but select a few of them, ask away, and then listen carefully. You will be amazed at what you learn.

Don’t limit yourself to painting either. Kids can interact with and talk about all kinds of visual art, including sculpture. For example, The Thinker by Rodin

Famous artwork for kids: The thinker
“photo of The Thinker by Rodin ” ©2009 Ed Menendez and made available under cc license
  • What do you think this person is doing?
  • Can you think of some feeling words to describe them?
  • If you were the artist, what would you call this statue?
  • What do you think this person is thinking about?
  • How do sit when you are are thinking?

2. Encourage Close Observations Of Visual Art

Famous artwork for kids
“photo of Pieter Bruegel – Census at Bethlehem (1566)” ©2011 cea and made available under cc license

If you choose a painting that is full of detail, like Census at Bethlehem by Pieter Bruegel, encourage the children to hone their powers of observation by playing a game like I spy.

“I spy with my little eye someone putting on skates.”

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has created a whole series of books that encourages kids to look carefully at great works of art and find small details. Kids love them. We couldn’t keep them on the shelves at the public library.

3. Famous Artwork For Kids: Engage the Imagination

Art has a way of engaging the imagination. Take advantage of this by inviting the children to make up stories about the painting. For example, suppose you’re looking at a painting like this one – A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat.

Famous artwork for kids
“photo of A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” ©2007 Don Merwin and made available under cc license

Direct your children to choose someone in the picture and mimic the pose of that person. Ask

  • What are you thinking or saying?
  • Describe what you are feeling?

Then help your children make up a story about their character. Alternatively ask some other leading questions such as

  • If the artist were to paint this picture today what would we see?
  • Can you think of anything that would be different?
  • What would the people be doing?
famous artwork for kids

5. Add Some Movement

Role-play is an easy way to step into a painting and add some movement. Invite your children to mimic the movement of the people they see in the painting. We see a wonderful example of that in Kirsty’s picture above.

Other paintings have a flow and movement painted into them. Take  Starry Night by Van Gogh

Starry Night
Photo of the Starry Night painting by artist Vincent Van Gogh. Oil on canvas.

Invite the children to hold an imaginary paintbrush and use it to paint the movement they see in the sky or draw the hills. Ask them to identify shapes in the picture, like the circular stars, or the triangle in the pointed steeple of the church. Then trace those shapes with your hands. If you want to go larger, use streamers to make extra large movements.

Or you could take a picture like Chrysanthemums: a Japanese print of a bee hovering over some flowers (pictured below), play Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Flight of the Bumblebee and have the children buzz around the room like a bumblebee. What fun!

Chrysanthemums in Fan-shaped Design
“photo of Chrysanthemums in Fan-shaped Design” ©2011 Peter Roan and made available under cc license

Related: Read this post for more ideas about pairing classical music and art

6. Play Some Games

Alison over at No Time For Flash Cards has created five simple games you can play with your kids at the art museum to keep them engaged with the art. My favorite was I’ll Take That One where each person gets to choose one piece of art that they pretend they can take home. They must also say where they would put the piece in their own home. Now let me see… I think I would take Van Gough’s “Starry Night” or maybe something by Picasso! What about you?

Famous Artwork for kids pin
Now which one will I take home?

7. Famous Artwork For Kids: Make your Own Art

One of the best things about great works of art is that they can inspire our own creativity. You’ll also need some basic art supplies. A simple set of watercolor paints, some crayons and pencils are things most families have on hand.  You might like to try something different like  a set of chalk pastels.  Here are 21 art projects to get your creative juices flowing.

Whatever you do remember that this is supposed to be fun!  The great thing about art is that there is no right or wrong and you can interpret a piece of art anyway you want.  That makes it really easy doesn’t it?

The Benefits Of Enjoying Art With Kids

It is never too early to start enjoying art with your children. Before I wrap up this post, the educator in me feels compelled to list the many educational benefits for primary age children.

  • Enjoying art provides many informal learning opportunities.
  • Inspires creativity.
  • Stimulates the imagination.
  • Encourages observation skills.
  • Gives insights into the worlds of other cultures and times.
  • Provides opportunities for children to articulate opinions and form judgements.
  • Develops visual perception (the process of taking images and giving them meaning).
  • Helps develop spatial concepts.

In fact, a recent study concluded that

“Students who, by lottery, were selected to visit the museum on a field trip demonstrated stronger critical thinking skills, displayed higher levels of social tolerance, exhibited greater historical empathy and developed a taste for art museums and cultural institutions.”

Whoa! All those benefits from enjoying art? It sounds pretty impressive doesn’t it? But what I love the most is the bonding that occurs when parents and children enjoy art together. Something magical happens as memories are built and connections occur. How’s that for a win win situation?

Your Turn

I’d love to hear from you.  Do you enjoy art with your children? Do you have any tips for bonding through art? Have you any art museum stories to offer? Please leave a comment below.


25 thoughts on “Famous Artwork For Kids: How to Engage With Great Works of Art”

  1. These are great tips! I love it because it encourages creativity, imagination, engagement and activity with our children. It’s a much better option than seating on the couch watching a movie or playing video games. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Sharon Harding

      Thanks for your encouraging Kelvin. I’m a huge fan of encouraging imagination! we need a lot more of it in our world.

  2. I must admit I’ve never really thought about showing my children proper art yet, but these are great tips, I’d like to try asking them a few questions.
    Thanks for sharing #LetKidsBeKids

    1. Sharon Harding

      Thanks for visiting Karen. I’m always amazed at the things children see in art. It’s fun to explore it with them.

  3. Bonnie a.k.a. LadyBlogger

    This is a wonderful post and the photo of your daughter is wonderful! I have pinned this to my “parenting” board on Pinterest so other parents will try it.

    1. Sharon Harding

      Thanks for the pin Bonnie. This isn’t my picture ….. but I agree it is fabulous 🙂

  4. Eva @ The Multitasking Mummy

    I would love to do this when my son is a little older. At the moment, art for us is painting/crafting at home, but even that’s a challenge because he more prefers cars and trucks and just doesn’t have the attention span to sit and be creative. But he’s only 2, so I”m sure one day things will change.

    1. Your little guy is at an active wriggly stage and I can quite understand why he prefers his cars and trucks. You’ll notice a huge difference in him in the next few years. He may still prefer his vehicles, but you will be able to sneak in a lot more art!

  5. I love this! The kids and I have gone to a few art museums (usually on free days!) and their perspective on the things they see always amazes me and makes me think.

    1. Yay for free days! I’m always impressed with children’s perspective on art pieces. They see things I don’t even notice!

  6. What a wonderful photograph that is – and such a great post from you as well. We took our kids to the Tate Modern in Liverpool (UK) recently, and I was amazed at how well they connected with the art there. The museum has a wonderful interactive room too, which was perfect for them 😀 Thanks for taking part in the Parenting Pin it Party this week.

    1. Oh so jealous! I will be visiting family in the UK this May and we are hoping to go up to the Tate Modern in London. I love the interactive rooms in art museums. they make art so much fun! thanks for visiting 🙂

  7. As a homeschooling momma, I LOVE this! Sadly, our local art museum is closed for remodeling at present. We’re taking a trip to Cincinnati in a few weeks, and I plan to visit their museum while we’re there. I love the tips you’ve shared!

    Thanks for linking up to A Thoughtful Spot!

    1. I hope the remodeling doesn’t take too long. Have fun in Cincinnati! Thanks for visiting!

  8. The advice to take your kids to an art museum at least month was a really great idea. I was wondering if you had advice on how to find art museums that are kid friendly or offer programs for kids? The list of questions to ask kids was useful and also a good list for anyone to think of when looking at art.

    1. Sharon Harding

      Thanks for commenting Vivian. I find a good place to start is to simply Google “Kid friendly art museums in (name of State/Province)” or “Art Museums that offer programs for kids in (name of State/Province).”

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