Kids Art Made Easy: Teaching Surrealism

Surrealism Art Lesson for Untrained Art Teachers

Recently, in a homeschool co-op art class I taught a lesson on Surrealism.  Not being a trained artist, I had to prepare well for this task.  For those of you, untrained like me… copy, copy, copy!!  Take my lesson plan, stress less and have fun!

Surrealism:  Art of the Imagination

Surrealism became a well-known style in Europe in the mid 1920’s and remained a significant part of the art world after World War II.  Poets, artist, and writers express their thoughts and ideas through imagination with little prep or thought. Automatic drawing, doodling, and creating in the moment by putting down whatever came to mind are all common techniques.

“Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision.”  Salvador Dali, Surrealist

Today, Surrealism is a method for kids to express the world of dreams and fantasy by creating unique images.  It is a springboard to their imagination and creativity without limits.

A Lesson in Letting Go of Control

Moms, surrealism will be easier for your kids than for you.  It is critical that you allow your kids to create exactly what comes to their mind.  If you’re like me, that can be difficult.  But, for your kids to learn this art form, they must be allowed to experience it and that means…no comments or suggestions from mom!   Let go of the final outcome of the project.

“To be a surrealist means barring from your mind all remembrance of what you have seen, and being always on the lookout for what has never been seen.”  Rene Magritte, Surrealist

Beware: When Teaching Surrealism to Children

Do not conduct Surrealism internet searches with your children.  Luckily, I researched this project while my daughter was in the other room.  Many of the art pieces are fun and suitable for little eyes but beware…not everything is appropriate.  I suggest gathering samples ahead of time.  Here is a kid friendly link to safe pictures:  Surrealism Art Samples for Kids.  Or consider getting the book Imagine That! .  I was able to find it at the local library and it was very helpful as a prep tool and teaching aid.

Surrealism Activities and Projects

My co-op class was made up for 5-7 year-old children.  However, these activities can apply to kids of all ages.  Modify as needed.  Most important…hold your tongue and let the kids create.

Activity #1

Our first activity was based on the artist Max Ernst who believed that art had to flow out of the artist without controlling the outcome. He liked to make strange magazine collages and odd paintings where imaginary beings and objects could be found.  Ernst enjoyed discovering new ways to make art and he often liked to play art games when family and friends came over for a visit.

“All good ideas arrive by chance.”  Max Ernst

Activity Instructions (if you have the book Imagine That!, see page 22):

  1. Best played with 3 or more kids.  However, improvise as needed.  My daughter and I practiced this activity prior to the co-op and we had fun doing it solo.
  2. Take a piece of white 8 x 10 paper and fold it into threes.
  3. Have child #1 draw a head of any animal, person or things he/she wants to.
  4. Pass the paper to child #2 and have him/her draw a body of any animal, person or thing.
  5. Pass the paper to child #3 and have him/her draw the legs of any animal, person or thing.
  6. You can have multiples of this going at one time so that all children are drawing a part at the same time.
  7. Collect all the picture and show them to the kids.
  8. Have the children explain what their part was…did they draw a penguin’s head, a cheetah body or legs of a star fish?
  9. Laugh, have fun and enjoy the newly created creatures!  Allow each child to take one home.  Encourage them to continue this later in their free time.


  1. White 8 x 10 paper
  2. Pencil
  3. Crayons, markers or colored pencils

Created by Joshua age 5 and Jude age 5.

Activity #2

The second activity was inspired by Rene Magritte, a surrealist who wanted to puzzle his viewers by creating mysterious drawings and paintings by changing the size of an ordinary object.  Magritte also enjoyed the world of opposites.  For example, making a picture by taking what belongs on the ground and putting it in the sky and taking what was in the sky and putting it on the ground.

Activity Instructions (if you have the book, Imagine That! see page 18):

  1. Start off by discussing opposites.  Introduce ideas and show examples of opposite pictures (see below).  The purpose is to spur on imagination and creativity not so they can copy a picture.  However, if you have a child who just cannot imagine then copying may be a solution.
  2. Ask questions, “Can you imagine your bed floating in the sky like an airplane or a cloud that has now become your mother’s new car?  Or what if fish flew in the sky like birds and stars twinkled deep in the ocean?  What if the grass was colored like rainbows or your orange tree grew basketballs instead of oranges?!
  3. Have kids pick a background color for their picture.
  4. Provide them with supplies and let them create!

Supplies Needed:

  1. Construction paper in a variety of colors.
  2. Glue Stick
  3. Scissors
  4. Colored pencils or markers
  5. Stickers (optional) -because my kids were younger, I provided stickers for little objects that were hard for them to cut out…like stars.

Created by Abigail, Age 7.  Street in the sky and clouds on the ground.

The world of imagination is fun and exciting.  Children are naturally gifted at imagining and visualizing creative, new ideas.  Let’s not stifle this gift.  Instead let’s encourage it!  Chicken IN today.  Teach your children about Surrealism and do your best not to get in the way!

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More examples:

Activity #2 Tree with clouds for the leaves and stars for the fruit.  Flower cloud with frogs.



  1. Katie | 23rd Feb 17

    This is such a fun art lesson! Kids make art way more fun!!

    • JJ | 24th Feb 17

      Totally agree!

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