but the Mess!

Of course the most common response I get as to why people avoid art making at home is because of the mess!


So I am sharing how I deal with messy art projects, because I can assure you it stresses me out as well and I have learned what I need to do to avoid a freak out.

First, prepare mentally. Know a mess is going to be made and it’s okay. Choose a contained space like the kitchen table, set up a kids table, or even go outside if you want.

Then I prep everything. I completely set up the space so little hands aren’t reaching and starting before we are ready. This involves covering the table, setting out paper, pouring paints into small containers (this limits how much paint is being used), setting out brushes, water cups, etc. Then I dont have to worry about finding and gathering more materials while they are just going crazy unsupervised.




Next we put on our special paint shirts that we use for every messy project. Just grab an old t-shirt (I use one of mine so they are oversized) that can get covered and you don’t care.

Before we start creating I set boundaries. We talk about the project in a positive way so they get inspired and they know what the “goals” are (though these can change and if they take a different route, be prepared to be okay with that, this is their art making time and its part of the creative process.) Then I quickly remind them of any rules, like keep the materials on the table.



I do want to add that discussing the project does not mean giving strict instructions that have have to be followed. For example we create a lot of art inspired by other artists so we will look at a few examples, and I will say “we are going to try our own version using these materials. You could try doing this or this” and then I turn the art making over to them. It takes practice to not interject often. I usually keep myself busy making art too or taking pictures.

Finally, and this is the tricky part, knowing when to call it quits. I have learned over the years that there is this invisible line that gets crossed in a matter of seconds. It’s when the art making turns into mess making. I still don’t get this right every time but I try and watch for when the purposeful creating stops and then I begin the process of wrapping up the activity. Sometimes I say “you did a great job creating today. How do you feel about your artwork? It’s time to clean this up but if you want to keep creating we can pull out some different materials (that aren’t messy) after we clean this up.”


Depending on this child’s age, (mine are still young) I take them to clean their hands and take off their paint shirts and then I banish them so I can deal with the wet, messy materials quickly without them getting messy again.



So to break this down:

1: Know a mess is going to be made and choose a contained space (or go outside!)

2: Completely prep the space and materials without kids

3: Set boundaries and review the project

4: Call it quits when art making turns to mess making

5: Clean little kids, get them occupied with something else and finish cleaning (unless they are older, they can help clean too)

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