Art Without The Mess

I love letting my daughter do art, so it makes me a little sad when I hear mamas say they don't do art because it is too messy.  Here are a few tips I have learned along the way that help keep the mess to a minimum.  Hopefully, this will help some hesitant mamas let their little ones create.

A surface that can be quickly wiped down is ideal.  Think Bathtub, Kitchen table, Kitchen counter, and Outside.  Remove everything else on the table/counter/work surface.  I have a shower curtain liner that we use to cover the surface we are working on.  This protects my furniture (or grass) from getting paint all over it.  It is also easy to wipe down, and can be used on carpeted areas if we need to be on the floor.  If we use it outside, it can be cleaned with a hose. Easy Peasy.

Put on a Smock:
It doesn't have to be a smock.  Old clothes work too.  Just don't play in stuff you want your child to wear for family photos.

Use the right mediums:
Washable paint works--sorta.  I add a few drops of clear dish soap to the paint which seems to help even more.  It paints the same way, and makes clean up that much easier.  

Use the right tools:
We use a variety of reusable brushes and items we toss after we are done with projects.  Want less to clean up?  Use Q-tips rather than paint brushes, and styrofoam egg cartons to pour the paint in.  

Set up your exit plan before you start:
Before I put the paint on the palette, I put the step stool in front of the sink I want my daughter to use.  When she was little I used laminated footprints that I placed on the ground for her to follow to the sink.   We also reviewed all the rules/boundaries before any paint came out when she was younger. 
"Paint goes on the paper only"
"I wash my hands as soon as I am done"
"I do not put paint on my body"
"I do not touch anything except the footprints when walking to the sink" 

Now that she is older and knows the routine, she quickly rattles off the rules before we start.

Embrace the Mess for a short time:
Unless my daughter specifically asks to wipe her hands off I do not clean her up until the very end.  It is exhausting to me to keep saying, 'you are going to get paint in your hair' and 'let me just wipe that up' and distracts my daughter from her creation.    

The photo above is after my daughter finished painting eggs, and a canvas.  I sent my daughter to wash her hands well (as in she must use soap and warm water and sing the alphabet song twice and loud enough for me to hear).  In that time, I had the paint canisters back in the art supply box, the Q-tips tossed, and was finishing up rinsing the paintbrushes and paint palette when she came back in.  She put the hair dryer and soap back for me, and I folded up the shower curtain and put it away.  5 minutes were spent cleaning up after she played with paint.

Do you let your children paint?  How do you keep a handle on the mess factor?  We would love to hear your suggestions.  Leave us a comment.

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