Vincent van Gogh Playdough Activity

Hello everyone! The other day my fellow Rockin’ Art Mom Asia published an amazing glowing playdough recipe and inspiration struck. Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night immediately came to mind and I thought the combination of the two would make a great project for young children. And it did! My kids enjoyed helping me make the playdough and then had a blast creating their own glow in the dark version of The Starry Night.

This activity will benefit your preschooler in the following ways:

  • Art appreciation
  • Shape and color recognition
  • Fine motor skills
  • Language development

Grade schoolers will additionally learn:

  • Math (I talked with my 1st grader about fractions as we made the playdough)

I enjoy making literary connections to art history, so I started by reading Katie and The Starry Night by James Mayhew. In the book, Katie, the protagonist, actually enters the paintings in an art gallery and interacts with the people and places in them. I really like the Katie books because they introduce children to great works of art in an imaginative, fun way.


I then showed the children Vincent van Gogh’s masterpiece on my computer.

Vincent van Gogh, The Starry Night, 1889, Museum of Modern Art

Vincent van Gogh, The Starry Night, 1889, Museum of Modern Art

I asked the following questions:

What colors and shapes do you see?
How many stars are in the painting?
During what season do you think the artist painted this picture?
If you were inside the painting, what would you do?
What are a few words you can use to describe this work of art?

I told them that Vincent painted The Starry Night in France. The artist would drink lots of coffee to keep himself awake and then go out into the night to paint by candlelight.

After our art conversation, the kids were excited to start the project.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • All natural glowing playdough
  • A blacklight (optional)
  • Scissors
  • Black and blue construction paper
  • A tray or cookie sheet
  • A pencil
  • Plastic knife

Step One: Make the playdough

The playdough is super easy to make and only took about 20 minutes. I had my kids help with everything but the cooking part. Since my 1st grader is learning fractions, I let her measure the ingredients. My 4 and 6 year old did the mixing.


Step Two: Make shapes for the artwork

Once the playdough was cool, I gave each child a large portion and had them pound it into a pancake. We then used a plastic knife to cut strips for our Van Gogh “swirls.” The children rolled them on the table with their hands to round them out. I recently purchased a Pop Chef for cutting fruit, so we used the star and moon shapes with the playdough which worked well. You could always cut your own with the plastic knife or scissors. Of course little balls of playdough would work nicely for the stars in lieu of the star shapes.

Step Three: Arrange the Shapes on Construction Paper

I then gave each child a piece of blue construction paper which acted as our canvas. I had Vincent’s Starry Night showing on my laptop in front of them so we could reference the painting while creating our compositions. The children placed the swirls and shapes on the paper in imitation of his masterpiece.

Step Four: Cut the Black Paper for the Trees and Houses

Next I outlined the tree and house shapes on a black piece of construction paper in pencil. The children cut them out and arranged them along with the playdough shapes.

Here’s the finished product:


We were so pleased! For the finale we entered a closet where I set up a blacklight. It was so much fun to see our creations glow in the dark.


So, what do you think? If you like this project, please share it on Facebook or Pinterest by clicking on the buttons below.

If you would like to teach your children more about Vincent van Gogh, you’ll enjoy sharing these other posts with them:

Vincent van Gogh Art History Lesson for Children

Vincent van Gogh Saltwater Sunflower Art Lesson

Art History for Kids: Teaching Compassion

See you next time!

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  1. This is the best! What a fun, cool way to introduce Van Gogh to wee ones through the magic of playdough.

    • Kristen Nelson says:

      Thanks Jeanette! My kids really did enjoy this activity. My son liked the finished product so much that he glued the playdough down on the paper to immortalize it. He’s probably going to want to have it professionally framed!

  2. Just a perfect project on all levels! Great lesson, fun and engaging art project,…I love it Kristen!

  3. Great idea! I love how it looks in the dark! This Van Gogh painting is perfect for this!

    • Kristen Nelson says:

      Thanks Crystal. This project has given me more ideas about how to use playdough in other ways. My kids enjoyed this activity so much.

  4. Wow! Can’t wait to try this one!! I’m sure my kids will LOVE it! Thanks for sharing!!

    • Kristen Nelson says:

      Thanks Leah. Please send me photos of their work if you decide to do the activity. I’d love to see them!

  5. There you go again… so creative and fun!!

  6. Love the use of play dough, and love the questions that you asked the kids beforehand!

  7. This is amazing, I love it! We just did a sponge painting version of this van gogh painting but I love the glowing aspect of yours – so cool :) Thanks for linking up to Tuesday Tutorials

  8. Wow! This is fantastic. Definetely a must with my girls :) #Pintorials

  9. Stephanie says:

    This is just fantastic on so many levels!!

  10. Stopping by from Collage Friday…

    That is a fantastic way to study Van Gogh – what a creative idea! (We love the Katie books too.)

  11. That is such a great project.
    Blessings, Dawn

  12. This is a great idea, what a fun project for art history!

  13. This is a great idea. I think we may have to have a go at this… We are doing a moon activity this week so it is a great follow on…


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