Oh, My Stars! What a Super-Famous Van Gogh Painting Can Teach Our Kids

making color swirls with paint and hands

Even those who are not art aficionados probably know the masterpiece The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh. Because our Pre-K children study fine arts, they will get to know the painting, too—and experiment with Van Gogh’s rolling, swirling brushstroke styles.

The Starry Night is a fun and exciting painting for children to explore,” says KinderCare Education Senior Curriculum Developer Sue-Ann Lively. “It invites children to use their imaginations and discuss what they see in the night sky—and what might be happening in the town below.”

So what can children learn from The Starry Night? Take a look.

The Starry Night inspires children to...

1. Observe and imagine.

Children have the capacity and curiosity to really see a work of art’s many details. By asking open-ended questions—those that can’t be answered with a "yes" or "no"—you can encourage her budding imagination. Ask questions like, What do you see in this painting? Or How do these colors make you feel?  (There are no wrong answers here: Whether your child sees “fireflies attacking Darth Vader” or “flashlights in the ocean,” the point is to let her express herself freely.)

girl in garden with red hand

2. Paint like Van Gogh.

Van Gogh’s bold brush strokes create a feeling of movement. To make his works, the famous painter often applied thick quantities of paint and then brushed them into the swirling strokes he became known for. That technique is quite well-matched for finger painting, so grab a smock, and let your little one uncover his internal artist by swirling, swooping, and moving paint across paper. The goal is not to reproduce the painting (or even paint a night sky), but to encourage children to experiment with the style.

3. Count the stars.

It’s impossible to count all the stars in the sky, but children CAN count the stars in The Starry Night. (There are 11, plus one bright and shiny crescent moon.) To combine counting skills and art, let your child roll a pair of dice and count the resulting number of dots. Then, invite her to paint the same number of stars—or flowers or circles or squiggles or whatever she desires—on her own paper.

girl painting in smock

4. Think about the world above.

The Starry Night is part of "The Sky and Weather" unit of our Early Foundations® Pre-K curriculum. While the painting is all about the stars, there are many other things that fly, float, and can be seen in the sky. Together, name other things that can be found overhead, like rain, airplanes, birds, clouds, falling leaves, and planets. How many things can you think of?

5. Make a sky collage.

The sky has been the source of inspiration and study for many artists, from Titian to Georgia O’Keefe, to the budding painter at your living room table!  Here’s a great project for a family art night: Gather materials—from cotton balls to glitter to glue to sky pictures cut from magazines—and make a dreamy sky collage. Talk about the sky and weather and share your stories—from snowstorms to thunderclouds—as you work. 

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