By Lorraine Allen
Little kids rely on creative activities like painting, drawing, making collages, stringing beads, and molding with clay or dough to both express themselves and be productive in a calm, independent way.
But these creative pursuits tend to leave in their wake a constant mess of crayon pieces and glitter strewn around the family room, paint splatters on the walls, and beads lost between the sofa cushions. These simple tips will help you indulge their creative whims while containing their messes and materials, too.
Designate a Space
Give your kids a designated space where they can be messy and creative, without getting in your way or getting messes all over the furniture and walls. This can be a small table in their room or a playroom, or an easel with a shelf, for example. Encourage them to clean up after each art project by making it fun, and providing fresh, clean paper or surfaces for them on a regular basis.
Every kid seems to love drawing with chalk (I’m convinced it’s the mess of it that they are drawn to!). Encourage this activity by hanging a chalkboard somewhere so they can doodle, and even help make grocery lists to promote literacy and organization skills. You can also paint a closet or bedroom wall with chalk paint for a much larger yet contained creative space. Just make sure it’s not the wall over their bed unless you want to wash sheets on a daily basis! Give kids a good eraser or sponge to encourage cleaning the board too. It’s a fun job; they’ll love it.
Use Jars for Storage
Repurpose any empty jars or containers you use up in the kitchen to help contain all those messy art supplies. Jam jars with lids are made of sturdy glass that will not break when dropped. You can stick with plastic for littler kids, too, as many things from ketchup to sugar and cornstarch come in these sorts of containers. Jars are great for storing anything from beads to bits of ribbon, crayons and markers and even paper clips. Kids love sorting, starting in toddlerhood, so they enjoy the task of keeping their things neat this way. Jars make it easy to grab supplies on the go as well, and help avoid things spilling over and rolling all over the floor.
Image ©iStock.com/Grigorios Moraitis
Try Muffin Tins & Baking Sheets
When your little ones want to paint or (brace yourself!) work with glitter, a rimmed baking sheet is the perfect solution to containing any spills or messes from getting on the table or floors. A muffin pan is an ideal way to dish out paint colors from larger paint bottles too, or to serve up beads and other materials in an organized, easy-to-access manner for collages.
Save Unfinished Projects
Often, as kids age out of preschool, they start to work on projects that they don’t get to finish right away. This is a good thing: It shows they are building patience and thinking about projects in a more long-term way. Give them a tray or box where they can store unfinished work, so that it does not fall apart or get ruined before they finish.
Kids love to draw, write, and doodle, and that’s great and all, until you realize that you are constantly picking up crumpled paper and “rough drafts” they’ve abandoned all over the place. Put a small trash bin and a recycle bin near their desk or art table and teach them to keep their space tidy. Encourage kids to consider how they can save and reuse wasted materials and paper scraps for later projects, too. (That can be a creative exercise and project in itself, for a rainy day!)
Image ©iStock.com/Vasiliki Varvaki
Display and Save Artwork
To encourage kids to keep creating and building while keeping their work space clean, offer a lidded box or a portfolio folder to store their favorite masterpieces in (and keep them out of the way and off the floor too!) Hanging a cork board or magnetic panel is a great way to give kids a space to proudly display some of their artwork, too.
What are your favorite ways to contain kids’ messes and promote creativity?
Lorraine Allen is a writer, and mom and personal chef to one spunky 6-year-old girl with severe food allergies. You can enjoy their delicious recipes and follow their amusing family cooking adventures at Feeding Lina.