Art Appreciation

5 Fun Activities That Introduce The Art Basics to Kids

Before diving into a week-by-week, artist-by-artist study this past summer I wanted to first give the kids an opportunity to become familiar with the supplies and practices we would be engaging in for the rest of our hot summer afternoons. The idea of this week was to instill the basic boundaries of knowledge that would ironically offer the freedom for them to explore and grow their own artistic perspectives.



Color Study

Attention to Detail

Making Mistakes With Grace

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Day One: Color Basics


My Color Workbook

Crayola Washable Paints

Palette & Brushes

  1. First I printed the My Color Workbook on cardstock (or any non-slick paper). This workbook is available for free as of now on my the Homeschool 2 Unschool Teacher’s Pay Teachers store.
  2. Then I filled each palette with red, blue, yellow, white, and black washable paint, placing one small cup of water, a brush, and a paper towel at each seat.
  3. Following the directions in the book I loosely guided instruction, but for the most part, allowed the kids to explore colors independently. Perhaps the most instruction will be required in explaining the difference between primary colors and secondary colors, and the various terms in coordinating colors.
  4. This is a great opportunity to show the students how to use their palette creating separate spots to create enough of different hues to use over and over again throughout their future projects.


Day Two: My Mood, My Art


My Many Colored Days


Washable Paint


Palette & Brush

After a day of getting technical with color, it’s now time to talk about the emotional power of color and symbolism. Start with the book My Many Colored Days, discussing the feelings portrayed in each illustration.

After reading ask the kids what they are feeling today; what would make a great symbol of these feelings? Some may repeat what is in the book, while others more comfortable with the topic may venture to develop their own. The important thing is that they understand there is no wrong way to express themselves. If they feel a purple dinosaur should be happy and not sad, then, by all means, let them own their own beliefs, isn’t that what art and unschooling is all about?

  1. Now using one of the color rules form yesterday’s workbooks they need to choose the colors that will best describe their feelings. Add these to their palette
  2. Decide on and draw a symbol that represents their current emotion(s).
  3. Now paint it!

Day Three: Attention to Detail


Construction Paper


For most children, when asked to draw anything they will draw the very basic of details. On a face, there will be an outline, an eyeball, a smile, a nose. Or perhaps on a house, they manage a few windows, a door, and a tree in the yard. The idea of this lesson is to urge them to look deeper at the grains in the wood, the glares on the glass, and crevices of the skin.

  1. Have the kids trace their hand onto the construction paper, and then cut them out.
  2. Now looking at the back of their hands have them observe the wrinkles in their knuckles, the crevices in their nail beds, the veins, and bones protruding from under their skin. Let them point out their observations.
  3. Now draw the details of the back of their hand onto the construction paper cut-out
  4. Flipping the paper hand over have them now look at the inside of their hands. Again allow them to make observations, to add a bit of fun you can shout out some palmistry trivia, like lifelines, wealth lines, and love lines.
  5. Now let them draw the details they observed.
  6. On a scratch piece of paper use pressure to color a dark blob of shading with a No.2 pencil. Let the kids press the tops of each finger onto the shaded blob and then transfer their fingertips onto the tips of the hand cut out.
  7. When all is said and done ask the kids which looks more realistic, or at the very least interesting: the hand with nothing or the hand with details?

Day Four: Shadow Play


Desk Lamp

Construction Paper


With two pieces of construction paper and a couple of artist pencils at each seat, place the desk lamp on a flat and clear surface within view of everyone in the room. I personally placed everyone around the dining room table with the desk lamp in the center of the table. Turning it on place something in the stream of light, anything that stands on its own, a toy, a cup, a vase, you dream it and it fits under the stream of light, you can place it.

Have the kids observe. Where is the light? Where is the shadow? Feel free to let them change sides of the table Is the shadow still the opposite side of the light? If you turn off the light how dark is the shadow? If you turn on the light is the shadow lighter? At what point is the shadow the lightest? Where is it the darkest? What happens to the size and angle of the shadow as the light is shifted and tilted?

Let the kids practice sketching out a dark shadow and then a light shadow, no specific shape. Let them rub their fingers to spread the dark to light.

  1. Once they are familiar with shading turn off the desk lamp and pull out a clean sheet of construction paper.
  2. Introduce a ‘horizon line’ across the center of a landscape oriented paper. Everything drawn above this line is the sky, everything below is ground.
  3. Have them draw a sun on the left or right side of the paper.
  4. Then have them draw a pyramid on or just below the horizon line.
  5. If their sun is on the left side, where is this shadow? What shape will the shadow be? How big will the shadow be? Why do they think that?
  6. Now, let them make their shadow.
  7. After, if you want, they can color it in with anything, crayons, markers. watercolor, washable paints, etc. I would suggest watercolor for best results.

Day Five: Don’t Stress Perfection


Construction Paper



5 or 6 Random Objects from Around the House (Vases, figurines, a pile of books, fruit, etc.)

I don’t know about your crew, but I know this has been a week of very stressed out tots who wish they could work with the precision of Michelangelo, Rembrandt, or DaVinci overnight. Art is about self-expression, not perfection is a phrase that really makes them roll their eyes. But truly, I rely heavily on art for unschooling so to show my kids how mistakes are not about right or wrong, but about growth and acceptance.

Of course, as I introduced this project I could hear their audible tortured groans, but when it was done my tiny artists could see that the best art is unique and unpredictable.

  1. Once more I placed the kids around the dining room table where they all had their own unique view of the items displayed at the center of the table. Considering I am working with toddlers I asked them to pick only one object in their line of vision to draw, but when you are working with an older crew feel free to challenge them to add on more objects.
  2. Now holding their pencils they have to draw the item, looking only at the item and never down at the paper on the table in front of them. If you have tempted peekers, feel free to poke their pencil through the center of a paper plate to block their view.
  3. Once they are done grunting, groaning, crying out in ire at losing their place in their minds, oh and just done with the drawing altogether let them look at their rendering. It is going to look absolutely wacky!
  4. There is no erasing allowed, but now they can try to make their image whole with their pencil, closing off loose ends, or for the more daring adding on their own modern contemporary flourishes to their imperfections.
  5. Using the knowledge of details allow them to add whatever details they may want to make a more clear picture of their item
  6. Encourage them to add shading.
  7. Now color it in Van Gogh!

Introductory Art Activities & Lessons for Kids.png

By the end of the week the kids ought to possess enough knowledge and practice with certain art basics to make an easier transition into the world of other famous artists, such as the symbolism and facial precision of Frida, or the more challenging dabs of impressionism of Monet.

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