Vincent Van Gogh

Add to My Folder
This item has 5 stars of a maximum 5

Rated 5/5 from 1 rating (Write a review)

By Hilary Whiteeducational and craft writer

With his bright colours and bold shapes, Van Gogh is an artist whose paintings are both accessible and appealing to children.

Even young children can try painting and drawing in the style of Van Gogh – and his familiar, everyday subject matter makes a good starting point for a wide range of different activities.

Van Gogh's paintings

Continental Café

Personal, Social and Emotional Development
Making Relationships

Van Gogh - Terrace

Show the children Van Gogh’s 1888 painting ‘Café Terrace at Night’ in the Slideshow , ‘Van Gogh’s paintings’. Tell the children the name of the painting, and talk about how we know that it’s a night time painting. Look at the tables and chairs, arranged outside the café on the terrace. Can the children spot the customers sitting at the tables, and the waiter with his white apron?

Visit a real café with small groups of children, and create your own role play café in your setting – outdoors on the patio if possible. Think of a name for your café and make it attractive with table cloths, small vases of flowers, cups and saucers and napkins. Choose food with a continental flavour, such as cut-up croissants and platters of fruit. Provide white aprons for the waiters and waitresses, a pencil and pad for taking orders and writing bills, play money, a cash till and a tip jar. Put out just a couple of tables so that the café is not overwhelmed. Monitor carefully to make sure no child eats too much and offer every child the chance to be both a waiter and a customer.

Can I take your picture, please?

Communication and Language

Van Gogh - Joseph Roulin

Look at some Van Gogh portraits, such as his 1890 portrait ‘Peasant Girl in a Straw Hat’, his 1888 portrait of the postman Joseph Roulin (in the Slideshow , ‘Van Gogh’s paintings’) and his 1888 portrait ‘Girl with Ruffled Hair’. Explain to the children that a portrait is a picture of a person.

Look at the appearance of the person in the portrait – their hair colour, their eye colour, their size. Does the person look happy, sad, kind, cross, scary? Does the portrait show just the face and shoulders or the whole body?

Look at the colours Van Gogh used. Look at the background and see if you can spot his characteristically thick brush strokes. Explain to the children that the picture they are looking at is a reproduction – not the original picture that Van Gogh painted. Show the children different prints of the same portrait, so they can see how the colours vary a little in each version.

Help the children to take portrait photos of each other. With the children, decorate some large sheets of paper to pin up on the wall as a background. Choose brightly coloured paint and techniques to create striking patterns, such as handprints, sponge painting, and dripping and dribbling paint directly from the bottle. You can also use patterned cloths and wallpaper. Let the children choose the background they want. Look again at Van Gogh’s portraits for inspiration, and encourage the children to try different poses and facial expressions.

Patterns and pencil effects

Member-only content

Scholastic Resource Bank: Early Years - join today!

  • Over 2,000 EYFS resources, activity ideas and games
  • Perfect for anyone working or playing with children from 0 to 5 years old
  • Unlimited access from just £1.25 per month
Join now


  1. dianaalice
    on 24 October 2012

    New material!

    It’s good to have some new material. I only wish we had a poster of all the images to look at whilst we talk and do the activities, it’s not practical to have to use the computer for my very young children.

  2. SjS
    on 28 September 2012


    So good to get something something brand new. Can’t wait to try out some of these ideas with my Primary 1 class!

    5out of 5