Thick layered paint, rich blended colors, heavy brush strokes: we’re not talking about your two-year-old’s latest creation. We’re paying homage to one of the greatest artists in history, Vincent van Gogh, and offering your itty-bitty impressionists some ideas to recreate his masterpiece, The Starry Night, in style. So no matter your kiddos age, read on for ways to make sure this work really leaves an impression.

Start with the Art

Before you dive into any of these projects, learn about the man behind the painting, van Gogh himself, through books. For the toddler crowd, we suggest In the Garden with Van Gogh, a chunky board book with bright pictures and playful rhymes. Older kids will love Camille and the Sunflowers, based on the story of Camille, who befriends Van Gogh when he moves into town. Another winner is Katie and the Starry Night. Not only is it a fun read, but it’s a great intro to the painting they’ll be working with. Now you’ve got the story, let the mess-terpiece begin!

photo: Allison Sutcliffe 

For the Tot Lot
When it comes to this age group, two words are all you need: Finger. Paints. Because let’s be honest, there’s no way to go wrong with this messy medium. And lucky for your aspiring artist, finger paints lend themselves oddly well to van Gogh’s dynamic, thick brushstroke style. Work with your little to find colors in her finger paint collection that match the ones in Starry Night. Then let her swish and swirl out sweeping clouds, windy gusts and twinkling stars until her heart’s content. Or use your paint choices to try this intriguing layered finger paint project from The Imagination Tree. It adds another dimension to the basic dip and swirl technique with framable results. Look out art corner, here comes another masterpiece!

Tip: To keep the moon and stars from becoming brown globs, try working on multiple versions at once to keep the little hands busy while you’re letting the layers dry just a bit. 

photo: In the Playroom

For Preschool Painters

Sponge painting is always a blast for preschoolers. And this Starry Night project developed by Anna at In the Playroom is no exception. To make this mess-terpiece, couple your sponge-worthy art supplies (think: rollers and cut up sponges) with the free printable on the blog and then get creative with colors and textures, just like van Gogh!

Another easy favorite for this age group is crayon resist painting. Pairing these two classics leads to a lovely work of art, worthy of the starring spot on your fridge. It’s probably best to have mom or dad use a crayon to copy out some swirls, treetops and the glowing moon from the original painting onto paper. Or let your kidlet try her hand drawing out some of these key elements herself. Then break out the watercolors, brushes and bowl because it’s time to make this painting come to life. Using the original as a template, brush the vibrant watercolors over the crayon elements for an effect that’s almost as stunning as Van Gogh’s.

photo: Sawyer Pangborn via flickr

For Grade School Artists

Take your cue from Melissa and Doug and create your own sticker mosaic Starry Night with your school-aged munchkin. Start by having your petite painter draw out his own version of this stellar painting. Nothing too fancy. A focus on the simple shapes in the sky and that magnificent tree that really catches your eye in the foreground will do just fine. Then use the pre-cut foam stickers you can find at your local craft store to patch together the colorful patters van Gogh’s pronounced brushstrokes make in the glittery heavens. Voila!

When 8 1/2 x 11 is just too small, go big on the sidewalk. Use sidewalk chalk to blend or create own sidewalk chalk paint like this one from Mommy’s Kitchen. Use white chalk to sketch some of the basic outlines of the painting’s composition: tree, stars, moon, steeple, etc. Work together to mix up the colors you’ll need for the painting. Look closely: there’s more than one shade of yellow, and shadows are more green than black.

Do you plan to try one of these crafts? Tell us how it goes in a comment. 

—Allison Sutcliffe

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