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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.
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!
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 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?
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?
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
- 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
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.
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?
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
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!
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?
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.
- Try this idea inspired by Van Gogh’s picture Starry Night the results are just gorgeous.
- Here is a Starry Night holiday project inspired by the same painting.
- How about using yarn to create your own starry night?
- Here the painting is recreated using skittles. It is a fun way to combine science and art.
- Use playdough to recreate Van Gough’s sunflowers. It is stunning!
- Create some art using dots of color (Pointillism) is the technique used by the artist Georges Seurat in A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Here is another project based on the same painting.
- I enjoy abstract painting, so I really liked this free flowing activity inspired by Jackson Pollock on Meri Cherry. The perfect activity for a warm summer day. Here are some more splatter paintings inspired by Jackson Pollock. If you are interested there is some archival footage of Jackson Pollock narrating the creative process. Warning- the artist is smoking during this video.
- I’m in love with these gorgeous chalk pastel poppies inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe
- Recreate Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’ painting using your kids face. I bet they would love this
- Try these fun handprint pop art pieces based on Andy Warhol’s work.
- Head over to Art lessons for kids to find Picasso Inspired Faces. Aren’t they fun? You can also make them out of playdough. You can also explore cubism with this fun project.
- Children seem to enjoy Piet Mondrian’s artwork with black lines and primary colors. How about a suncatcher in the same style?
- Patty at Deep Space Sparkle used The Tree of Life by Gustav Klimt as inspiration for an art project. I’m ready to try one of these myself!
- Karel Appel was a Dutch painter who often used junk in his artwork. Here’s a fun junk artwork project based on his work. Mike Kelley is another artist who created massive collage from all sorts of junk. Here is a project based on his work. It uses all kinds of bits and pieces.
- Kadinsky’s Circles can inspire all kinds of art pieces. Try these rainbow flowers or heart. I also love this collage.
- Andrew Goldworthy is a contemporary artist who creates stunning land art. Learn how to make your own pieces of art in nature.
- Finally, just for fun, enjoy this Monet Art Project for kids.
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?
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.