Leonardo da Vinci Art Projects For School Kids

We’ve been studying the Renaissance this year and it certainly wouldn’t be the same without Leonardo da Vinci!

Leonardo da Vinci was a true Renaissance man with a variety of diverse interests. He was a painter, an architect, an engineer, a sculptor, a scientist, writer, and musician. He was one busy man! 

There are plenty of ideas and Leonardo da Vinci art projects for kids – his works and imagination can help us explore many different avenues of art and drawing. In fact, he’s the perfect artist to inspire projects for school kids as he’s incredibly versatile allowing you to cover a range of different works and mediums.

Inspired by all these projects I put together a list of our favourite which we’ve covered over the last couple of months. Some projects are suitable for children as young as 5 and can easily be adapated for different skill levels, learning styles and teaching styles.

Sketch Like Da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci was certainly curious about how things worked. He would take things apart and sketch the various pieces. Some of his drawings were very detailed.

In fact, Leonardo da Vinci was even one of the first people to cut open dead animals and humans to study their anatomy. His drawings of human anatomy were so detailed that they were used in many medical books.

While we certainly don’t plan to cut open any dead animals, we can be inspired by his curiosity and look at the devices and mechanisms around the house to practice sketching.

Over the course of the last two months we’ve taken apart the following and tried to sketch the inside;

  • Pen
  • Apple
  • Avocado
  • Tomato
  • Cake
  • Inside A Jewelry Box
  • Pumpkin
  • Inside A Book – A picture book works well for this
  • Hand soap (the bar kind)

I’d love to know how creative you get. Let me know what you sketch the inside of down in the comments below.

Paint a Portrait

Leonardo da Vinci is probably most well-known for his painting of Mona Lisa. While it is certainly a famous portrait, it’s made even more famous by the fact that da Vinci was not known for portrait painting – he only did a handful of painted portraits in his lifetime.

While painting can get messy it’s a great form of expression. We look to do it in the garden on a sunny day to minimise the amount of clean up. However, if the weather outside is bad we use this incredible kid’s art smock and this affordable table cover.

You could opt to make the painting freehand, alternatively, you can get some outlines, such as these of Mona Lisa for the child(ren) to paint inside of using colours similar to those used by Da Vinci.

Sketch a Self Portrait

While Leonardo da Vinci didn’t actually paint many portraits, he did spend quite a bit of time sketching – people (including himself), anatomical features, and scientific sketches.

Create a project whereby the child(ren) draw a self-portrait. This is a great way of opening up a discussion about the different portrait styles too.

Drawing a self-portrait is easy, simply take a picture of yourself using a camera phone or a camera and then use it as a guide (you can use a mirror, but we’ve found this to be slightly harder). Then simply sketch yourself using a sketch pad and either a pencil or some chalk pastels.

Consider spending some time researching what makes a good self-portrait with older kids, so they know what to look for and how to improve moving forward.

Compare the Portraits He Painted

Add some art study to your art schedule! Take a look at the portraits da Vinci painted (you can find them all online) and compare them. Open each in a different browser tab and compare two at a time.

A few art study questions to get you started:

  • What’s the mood of the portrait? Happy? Sad?
  • How does he/she feel?
  • What are they thinking about?
  • What do you notice about the background of the painting?

Now study one picture for a few minutes, noticing all the details. Then cover the picture and ‘narrate’ it back.

Pretend that they’ve never seen the picture before and you’ve got to describe it. Alternatively, ask yes or no questions such as;

  • Is there a baby in this painting?
  • Does this painting have a black background?
  • How many people are in this painting?
  • Is there a woman in this painting?
  • Is there a man in the painting?

Send A Secret Message

Leonardo liked to fill his notebooks with his sketches and ideas. He wrote his notes backwards – “mirror writing” so the only way to read his notes is to hold them up to a mirror.

Have fun with a friend – writing secret messages using da Vinci’s “mirror writing” technique. Or come up with your own secret message language and share it with a friend. If you need some inspiration check out this post.

Another fun way to send a message – with invisible ink. Mix equal parts of baking soda and water (about 1/4 cup of each). Dip a paintbrush into the mixture and write a message on white paper. Let dry.

To read the message: paint with a dark juice (like grape juice) across the paper. The acid in the juice reacts with the baking soda, making the message appear.

For a more detailed process and explination on how to make and use invisable ink, check out this post.

Learn About Perspective

This activity is perfect for older children and focuses on perspective. Many Renaissance artists started using techniques to make paintings look more realistic – using light, colour, and perspective.

Take some time to study da Vinci’s The Last Supper – look at the lines and vanishing point (Jesus’ head), noticing how the forced perspective makes it look like the room grows smaller in the background of the painting.

Then go ahead and practise making your own drawing using the forced perspective technique. Be sure to keep older drawings so you can see how your skill has improved overtime.

Make Your Own Paint

Renaissance artists couldn’t run out to the nearest craft store and buy paint – they had to make it themselves! They would grind and blend their own pigments and ingredients to make the colors the needed.

Try making your own paint with this fun (albeit messy) craft.

  1. Crack an egg and separate the white from the yolk. Hold the yolk over a small bowl and use a toothpick to carefully extract the liquid from the egg yolk, throwing away the membrane. Repeat with two more yolks.

  2. Add 3 teaspoons of water to the yolks and mix until smooth.

  3. Choose the chalk colors you plan to use and carefully grind each one to a fine powder, adding each to its own container or section of the muffin tin. Add a small amount of water and mix thoroughly to make a paste for each color.
  4. Add an equal amount of egg yolk to each color, stirring well. It should be like smooth paint – not too runny. If it’s still too thick, add a little bit of water, mixing well.

  5. Your paint is ready – start painting!

If you need additional detailed step by step instructions with photos then check out this post. Be sure to try sketching out a picture and use your homemade tempera to complete the painting.

Create A Lap Book

Put your new-found creativity to work by creating a Leonardo Da Vinci lap book. Instead of using plain colored folders, pick up some brightly colored ones or paint some yourself.

Then simply fill the book full of useful Da Vinci facts and information. Consider adding in some paintings of your own or printing off some of your favourite Da Vinci portraits.

If you’re stuck for ideas this website has a whole host of different printables to get you started.