Observing Art

Children will make observations about art.

Lesson Objective

Children will observe and interpret art by carefully looking at works of art.


What You'll Need

What To Do

  1. Display the image of the painting, Laundry (Le Linge) by Édouard Manet. 
  2. Tell the children that they will be using the painting to learn how to observe works of art. 
  3. Discuss what can be learned about art by carefully observing the work of art (see Did You Know?). 
  4. Have the children look very carefully at the painting and tell their observations. 
  5. Ask the children to describe the colors used in the painting. 
  6. Ask what they think is happening in the painting and how they know (see Guiding Student Inquiry). 
  7. Discuss how the child in the painting is helping. What are they doing? 
  8. Ask the children how they help at home and at school. 
  9. Talk with the children about how doing laundry in the painting is different from how laundry is done today.

Guiding Student Inquiry

  • Describe where the people are in the painting (inside/outside), the time of the day, and the weather.
  • Describe the colors that the artist chose to paint this image.
  • Tell me what the woman is using to do her laundry. Have you ever seen anyone do laundry this way?
  • Tell me what the child in the painting is doing.
  • Describe how your everyday life is different from what is shown in the painting.

Explore, Extend & Integrate

  • Gather some laundry items such as a bar of laundry soap, an old washboard, some clothesline, and some clothespins. Explain how doing laundry in years past such as is depicted in the painting is different from how laundry is done today. Have the children connect these items to what is happening in the painting.
  • In the dramatic play area, string a length of clothesline at the children’s level. Place a basin for the children to use to pretend to wash the doll clothes and hang them on the clothesline with clothespins.
  • Reflect on the concept of doing household chores. Have children discuss what is happening in the painting, and ask them how they help with household chores.

Check for Children’s Understanding

  • Could children explain details of the painting (where the people are, time, and weather)?
  • Could children describe the colors in the painting?
  • Could children explain how doing laundry today is different from the way it is being done in the painting?
  • Could children compare the painting to their everyday lives?


Did You Know?

The focus work of art for this lesson is Laundry (Le Linge) by Édouard Manet. It is housed in the art collection of the late Dr. Albert Barnes at The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Dr. Barnes believed that observation was a key component in understanding works of art. Careful observation can be encouraged by asking children to respond to what they see and to think about the story that is suggested by an artist’s work. When exploring art with young children, linking everyday objects and activities to artwork can help them make sense of the artwork.

Dr. Barnes believed that appreciation of art was deeply rooted in line, light, color, and space and their relationships to each other. His view was that art was created when elements of art combined to become an expression of everyday experiences. Artwork can be further enjoyed through the viewer’s ability to live through the experience depicted. Édouard Manet was a French painter and one of the first artists to paint modern life and everyday activities.

Vocabulary: Child-Friendly Definitions

  • observe– to watch with care.
  • laundry – clothing, sheets, and other things that you wash.
  • happening – something that is taking place.
  • colors – the quality of light that our eyes see; red, blue, and yellow are some colors.
  • artwork – a painting, sculpture, or other illustrative project.
  • painting – a picture where liquid has been used to place color on the surface.

Lesson Tips

You could introduce this lesson with the book The Three Little Kittens by Jerry Pinkney. The kittens in the story soil their mittens, and then the mittens need laundering. The children could share their observations of the illustrations, relate them to the painting, and recount the story in their own words.


  • Laundry Day by Maurie J. Manning
  • Henry Helps With the Laundry by Beth Bracken
  • Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems
  • A Pocket for Corduroy by Don Freeman

Home School Resources

Home educators: use these printable lesson PDFs to teach this lesson to your home schoolers. They're available in English and Spanish.

Home/School Connections

Las Conexiones a la Casa

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Content Provided By

Common Core State Standards Initiative – These lessons are aligned with the Common Core State Standards ("CCSS"). The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of the concepts and skills children are expected to learn and guide teachers to provide their students with opportunities to gain these important skills and foundational knowledge [1]. Visit the CCSS