How to Study Art History Through Play

Books aren't the only way to learn. Some of the most memorable “lessons” come from open-ended play!

When kids are free to explore, experiment, and imagine new possibilities, they are thinking and learning in an age-appropriate way.

Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.
— Fred Rogers
Learning Through Play- How to study art history with kids... the fun way!

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Art is such a great subject to approach playfully! I’ve written several blog posts outlining different ways to play at home. Here are some of the highlights…

Pin The Nose on The Picasso

This fun game takes about 3 minutes for you to prep! You just print the download from the Learning Library, and set it out with some markers and scissors. After that, it’s all play! Invite your kids to color and cut, and then take turns trying to get the nose on the Picasso portrait. The game is bound to end in happy giggles– the nose never ends up where it should, and that’s part of the fun! Picasso rarely painted noses where they belonged!

Frida Kahlo Dress Up

Frida Kahlo was known for her bold and colorful style, and her intense, emotional self-portraits. Spend an afternoon crafting paper flowers (like the ones Frida wore in her hair), an raiding the closets for the brightest most fabulous clothing you can find. A brightly colored sheet or curtain panel can even do in a pinch– with some clever folding and tucking! Take photos and paint self-portraits dressed as Frida. It’s a great way to feel connected to the actual person who lived behind the art.

Frieze Tag

This blog was originally written to tie into the Olympics, but the game can be payed any time! Have a look online at some sculptures where the subjects are ‘frozen’ in dramatic positions. Ask your kids to pay special attention to the way they are standing, how their faces look, the position of their hand. Then, play tag, but every time your kids ‘freeze’ they can try to replicate a pose they saw in the art!

More Dress Up Fun

Why stop at Frida when there are so many other fun artists (and paintings) to inspire your dress up play!? There’s no need to purchase anything– the whole point of this game is to think creatively… what do you already have at home that will work? Maybe you don't have a straw hat like Van Gogh, but your morning basket looks similar, and fits perfectly on your child’s head! Let them explore the house and find ways to re-purpose what you already have.

Be an Art Detective

This is a perfect game to play at home or at an art museum. Invite your kids to put on their detective hats and grab a magnifying glass (if necessary) so they can solve some mysteries in the art! There’s a printable in the Learning Library that will help you to get started.

What else?

Walk around your house with fresh eyes. What else do you have that you can use for art history play? Legos for Mondrian art? Play Doh for Picasso people? Art postcards from your last museum trip can become an instant game of memory! The possibilities are endless– your house if already full of games just waiting to be played.

Have a game area at home

There are also so many fun games available at bookstores, museum gift shops and online. Here are some favorites: