Kids create a Matisse-inspired Christmas tree. Quick and easy holiday craft project for boys and girls.

Matisse-Inspired Christmas Tree




Kids create a Matisse-inspired Christmas tree. Quick and easy holiday craft project for boys and girls.

I wasn’t planning for this project to take one class period, but that’s how it turned out. Sometimes it’s tricky gauging how long it will take children to complete a project.

I was a little off on this one.

My goal was for my first grade class to create a symmetrical coniferous tree (or a Christmas tree!) and add Matisse-inspired shapes for decoration. I anticipated two, 40-minute class periods.

Truthfully, I’m not completely familiar with my art rotation yet. This is the second time this year that I’ve seen my 1st-4th grade classes. I’m still trying to assess classes for art abilities. This particular class is a bit young so they have less interest in cutting detailed stars, triangles and spirals. By the fifth shape, most were done.

But of course, I just realized this today.

To start the lesson, I read the book, Henri’s Scissors by Jeanette Winter to introduce Matisse to the students. They enjoyed the book and so did I. It’s a great book for the art room as the story is succinct and the images relate well to art projects.

Then I demonstrated how to cut a symmetrical tree. They loved this part and did super well at it. I used 12″ x 16″ white sulphite paper for the trees and a 12″ x 18″ colored sulphite paper for the background.

After the children splatter-painted their backgrounds with white paint, they glued on the trees.

Now the interesting part: Matisse-like shapes.

Using posters of Matisse paintings, I pointed out where Matisse used organic shapes and where he used geometric shapes. I showed how to cut wobbly shapes, spirals and stars. They were all quite good at stars and spirals but less so at wobbly shapes. Go figure.

In the end, this lesson took 40-minutes. I could have used 50 so all kids could finish adding their colorful shapes. If I were to do this lesson again, I would either need 10 more minutes for first grade, or up the grade level. Third graders would be amazing with this project!


Kids create a Matisse-inspired Christmas tree. Quick and easy holiday craft project for boys and girls.

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  • Lucy Z.

    Thanks so much for posting this – and just in time. I needed a quick project for my next Art Club class, and will use this next week.

  • Linda Baum

    Great project. I’m not going to be at school on the day we do art, so I left all instructions for my substitute. She loves to teach art, and I have both Matisse’s Garden, and Henr’s Scissors. I’m going to have her read Henri’s scissors, and instead of paint spatter, I’m having them make tiny snowflakes to use instead. The other idea is to punch out white dots and scatter on background. I used that for another project. May be more matisse like. If you have a suggestion or comment, love to know. She’s teaching it tomorrow.

  • keri wright

    I think this is a great quick lesson but did you let the splatter paint dry before gluing on the tree?

    • Patty

      Probably not!

  • Jordan G.

    Would a glue stick or liquid glue be better?

  • Loretta

    It would be good if the holiday pac was not weather focused. Ok for the Northern Hemisphere.

  • Rianna Learn

    Awesome awesome awesome, loved pairing this with the book Henri’s scissors – there’s a full read outlaid on YouTube if you dont already have the book

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