Art around you | Vincent Van Gogh

Olive trees

Activities for children of all ages to look at, talk about and make their own discoveries about art.

As you explore this resource please keep in mind that there are no wrong answers, or that there is only one way to do the activities - they are all about looking, chatting, making, and exploring art, wherever you are and whatever you have around you.

You know your child best

Some activities may suit you better than others so pick and choose!


We’ve aimed the language at age 7+, but activities can be suitable for any age, just adapt to suit your child.


How long your child engages with the activity will vary. Depending on their age, the way they’re feeling that day, the immediate appeal of any activity... some will work better than others. Don't worry if they're not feeling it - try again another time, or move on to something else. You might be surprised by what they're interested in.  


We hope these suggestions will allow your child to develop their creativity by encouraging their curiosity, open mindedness, problem-solving and imagination.

Art knowledge

You don’t need to know anything about art to have fun with it. Encourage your child to share their ideas, observations and opinions. There’s never a wrong answer about art. And it's ok not to know all the answers. Nobody does. Where would the fun be in that?


If something worked, do it again!

Let your child lead

You don’t need to have all the ideas. In fact, if you really want your child to be creative, encouraging them to come up with their own ideas is a brilliant way to help your child be creative and explore their imagination.

Try to enjoy, together

Take a deep breath, you’re doing a brilliant job. Let us know if we can support you - we can't wait to see you in the gallery, as soon as we can.

Vincent Van Gogh

Olive Trees

Olive Trees by Vincent Van Gogh is a beautiful, colourful painting of three trees together on a hill.

Trees can stand strong in any weather because of their deep roots under the earth. But did you know that a tree’s roots also connect it to the other trees nearby? Trees can talk to one another, and there are some trees that can even help a weaker tree by sending food over through their roots.
Isn’t that amazing?

These activities are inspired by this olive grove and provide ideas about invisible connections, family trees and having a go at making your own wibbly-wobbly lines!


 Activity one: Trees and invisible connections!

Trees are connected through their root systems underground so that makes them invisible to people.

Our own connections to people are often invisible too, but they are also what keeps us strong.

  • Who are the people you are connected to?
  • How do you stay connected to them?

When we look closely at this painting, we can see a lot of lines. Are they straight, tidy lines? Or are they wibbly-wobbly lines? Can you see the different lines used for the grass? And for the leaves on the trees, and for the trunks of the trees?

We are going to have a go at painting with wibbly-wobbly lines.

You will need:

  • A mirror
  • Toothpaste
  • Or an old lipstick
  • Or poster paint
  • Go to your bathroom mirror, or another mirror in your house.
  • Put a little ‘paint,’ on your fingertips, it can be any kind of ‘paint,’ you like. Toothpaste or an old lipstick.
  • Use your fingers to paint some wibbly-wobbly marks like the ones you can see in the painting onto the mirror. Try and copy the lines for grass, leaves and tree-trunks.
  • Now have a go at painting yourself in the mirror. You could add a beard, or wild hair, using wavy lines.
  • You could ask a family member to stand beside you in front of the mirror and paint them onto the mirror as well!

See if you can connect the two portraits, just like the trees. Think about how you help your family member, and how they help you.

Being connected, even when our connections are invisible, help us to feel strong like the olive trees.

Activity two: See, think, wonder

Lots of people only look at a painting for 7 seconds. But we’re going to look a little longer to try and find the painting’s secrets … the things that we don’t see at first glance.

  • How many colours can you count in the grass?
  • What colour are most of the leaves in the trees?
  • Can you see where the shadows are in the painting? How can you tell where they are?
  • What do you think the weather is like in the painting, and why?
  • What mood do you think the artists was in when they painted this?

What other kinds of living things might there be in the painting that we cannot see?

Vincent van Gogh Olive Trees 1889

Activity three: Turn your family into a forest!

Have a look around your house for a space on the wall where you can make shadows. You might want to point a lamp at the wall, or use a wall near a window.

You are going to make some shadow shapes! If you lift your hand up and spread you fingers wide, the shadow looks a little like a tree!

  • What other objects around the house might make a shadow shape like a tree?
  • Can you try a handful of pens?
  • What about a handful of toothbrushes?
  • What about a mophead? Or a hairbrush?

Think about things that could make the shape of curly branches. Or of waving leaves, use your imaginations!

Can you arrange all the bodies in your family to make a tree shape? Maybe everyone needs to hold socks for leaves!

Activity four: Watch

Enjoy Ben’s story inspired by this painting. While you’re listening you can close your eyes, draw along or let your eyes wash over the painting. Whatever works for you.


Activity five: Especially for Under 5s

When we look closely at this painting, we can see a lot of lines.
Are they straight, tidy lines? Or are they wibbly-wobbly lines? Can you see the different lines used for the grass? And for the leaves on the trees, and for the trunks of the trees?
Let’s make some wibbly-wobbly lines.

You will need:

  • A tray
  • Tinfoil
  • Flour or Sand
  • Your fingers!

1. First put some tinfoil over a tray, and then tip a thin layer of flour/sand out on top. You are going to use your fingers for making marks!

  • Try a wibbly-wobbly line with one finger
  • Now try it with two fingers together
  • Now with three!

Notice if it looks different when your arm is relaxed compared to holding it tight. Which helps you get the wobblier lines?

2. Have a look at the painting and try and copy the lines for a leaf, a trunk and grass. Notice how different they are.
What kind of lines might you do for a cloud? Or water?

All the best artists play and experiment, so keep playing and have fun!