stilllife_smallMy family and I spent a few days in Washington, D.C. over the July 4 holiday, seeing the sights and taking full advantage of the city’s plethora of museums. More on our trip later. . . .

In the process of planning for it, however, I discovered some fun online games for kids at several of the museums’ Web sites. I’ll be highlighting a few of them here over the next week or so. (We also had a big week in politics, so stay tuned for that as well.)

I’ll start with the National Gallery of Art, which has several great apps at NGAkids. All require the Shockwave plugin for your browser. (You’ll be prompted for it if it’s not installed already.)

  • My favorite is probably the Still Life Composer, in which users drag objects from the museum’s collections to create a still life in the style of the Old Masters. Choose wallpaper, fruit, vases, mirrors, and much more. I like it because of the juxtaposition of the old style with the new technology, and wasted quite a bit of time with it myself. (The image above, for example, I call  “Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit.”)
  • Slightly more contemporary is Jungle, which lets kids create scenes using objects from the works of Henri Rousseau.
  • Collage Machine contains bunches of everyday objects and shapes to play with, and also has a second version with different items.
  • Dutch Dollhouse uses paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries as the basis for objects in an interactive dollhouse where objects can be moved and altered. Lots of fun little things to explore. (Try moving the living room cat next to the mouse, for example.)
  • BRUSHster is a more standard but still robust online paint program, with lots of special effects for creating abstract art.

There are even more apps than those, so go check them out, especially if you’re tired of the sound effects at PBS Kids. Yes, there’s still much to be said for taking crayon, pencil, or paintbrush in hand, but for children of the video generation, these apps may provide a fun alternative once in a while and may even help introduce them to different styles and artists.