Children’s Bookshop column: How to introduce your kids to art this half-term

With half-term upon us, parents and grandparents are busy planning family days out. This October, many of them are choosing to take their children to the Turner exhibition at Tate Britain or to Constable at the V&A. Several are also using the opportunity to introduce children to the works of these and other great artists ahead of their visits through a selection of appealing art books.

One of our own favourite introductions to the world of art comes through James Mayhew’s delightful Katie series of picture books. In Katie and the British Artists, the enterprising young heroine makes a new friend, Ben, when she climbs into Constable’s Cornfield. Together they clamber in and out of beautifully recreated paintings, trying their hand at assorted jobs and introducing the reader to works by Turner, Gainsborough and Stubbs as they do so, in a book that is an engaging and helpful precursor to gallery visits.

Seasonal sights

The most recent addition to the series, Katie’s London Christmas, features our heroine in a glorious adventure amid the seasonal London sights. James Mayhew will be coming to sign this and other books on Saturday, November 15, and we know young fans and their parents will have many questions to ask him, not least about the art and the places that have inspired him.

Meanwhile, those who are stuck indoors at half-term needn’t go without their fix of art. There is great creative fun to be had – and much to be learnt about modern art – in Marion Deuchars’ new book, Draw, Paint, Print Like the Great Artists. An inspiring introduction, it shows how artists use different techniques to create their own unique styles, encouraging children to emulate their work and try out new ideas of their own. They might use scissors like Matisse, blots like the surrealists or create a tree of life, Klimt style. Whatever they choose, the thoughtful text will provide helpful instructions and a lively commentary on the artists without ever feeling didactic.

And if all that leaves you in the mood for an evening of family art fun, Thames and Hudson’s My Big Art Show is a little gem in a box. Outsized playing cards feature paintings from galleries around the world, while a booklet of background information, together with instructions for a host of games including art rummy, gallery trumps and guess the theme of the show, offers much pleasure and hours of fun, even if you can’t get to a gallery this half-term.