Leonardo da Vinci, multi-talented master of the Renaissance, had a mind as curious as a preschooler. Just as your little one is soaking in knowledge about the world around her, da Vinci had an unquenchable thirst to discover the inner workings of nature. He expressed his curiosity and inventive creations through art, science and many visionary inventions. Though the full complexity of da Vinci's work sails over the heads of preschoolers just like his famous flying machine, simplified versions of many projects on Leonardo da Vinci introduce your young explorer to the master and give her a taste of his medieval world.
Leonardo is perhaps best known as an artist, paving the way for your little one to explore his artistic side with a variety of art projects. One of da Vinci's paintings is a self-portrait. Your child can create his own self-portrait by observing the color of his skin, eyes and hair and pasting colored foam or paper shapes on a face template. Or, make a stylized version by creating a mosaic face collage of cutout shapes. Da Vinci was the first person to try to accurately represent the natural world in his art, so your junior artist can paint or draw pictures of animals and landscapes just like the master. Renaissance artists like da Vinci often had to mix their own paints. Your preschooler can experiment with making his own child-safe paints using milk or yogurt, colored with food coloring or berries. He can also practice sculpting with craft dough or salt dough.
Da Vinci was also a keen observer of the natural world, so taking a nature hike with your little one is an ideal opportunity to imitate Leonardo and teach observational skills. As you walk along, talk about what you see, hear, smell, taste and feel. Leonardo's curiosity led him into many scientific explorations as well. Your tyke can learn about colors through a simple science experiment. He can stir a few drops of food coloring into glasses of water in different color combinations to create all the colors of the rainbow and arrange them in order.
Da Vinci's curiosity and quest to learn as much as he could about the world inspired him to imagine and invent many machines. Some he built; others he recorded in his notebooks as drawings but never brought them to life. Preschoolers are curious little tykes who may enjoy creating their own inventions. Provide a box full of safe odds and ends and challenge your aspiring inventor to experiment with combining them in different designs until he is satisfied with his invention.
Leonardo da Vinci was fascinated with the proportions of the human body. While calculating the body ratios that da Vinci discovered is too complex a math skill for preschoolers, they can measure lengths of body parts such as fingers, arms, legs and feet using cut lengths of yarn. They can then compare their strings to siblings or other family members. Leonardo was also fascinated with geometric shapes. Give your little one a bucket of wooden or foam shape blocks to practice identifying shapes. Give her the freedom to rearrange and combine them in different manners to see what she can build or create out of simple geometric shapes.
- Crayola: Smile for Leonardo!
- Dripping Springs Community Library: The Animated Hero Classics Resource and Activity Book: Leonardo da Vinci
- Leonardo da Vinci for Kids: His Life and Ideas, 21 Activities; Janis Hebert
- Library of Congress: Leonardo's Workshop
- Math Forum: Leonardo da Vinci Activity
- First School: Inventions Kids Love
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