Don’t get me wrong, I like a good, messy art project as much as the next mom (I’ll leave it to you to imagine how much that might be), but sometimes I just can’t handle the cleanup. Or the damage to my long-suffering upholstery. But far be it for me to deprive my arty toddler of his creative fix. Luckily, I’ve got a few projects up my sleeve for those times when only art will do, but I’m in no mood for mess. In case this is a scenario you find yourself in as well, here are three no-mess art projects that have worked for us.
1. Color Wonder Markers (stamps, paints, etc.)
This is the simplest version of the no-mess art project. It requires no set up at all from you (beyond purchasing the supplies) and has literally no chance of accidentally making a mess. Basically, these are regular art supplies, like markers, stamps, paints, etc. that only work on special Color Wonder paper. So, if your budding Picasso becomes suddenly inspired to use the bedroom wall as his canvas, he’ll have to title his creation Invisible Chaos (A.K.A. Foiled Again) because nothing will show up. It also won’t color his hands or his clothes, which is a huge change from regular markers which tend to resist even the most determined scrubbing from Mommy (out damned spot!). You can purchase a package of these markers on Amazon for around $9.00 and the paper that goes with it for around $7.00. They also have paint, stamps, and other cool materials.
2. No-Mess Finger Painting
This one does require a little bit of set-up but, done right, you’ll be providing an engaging painting project with absolutely no messy clean-up (or ruined carpets). Find a piece of thick paper (like poster paper or finger paint paper). Cut it so it fits easily inside a freezer size ziplock baggie. Squeeze three or four quarter-sized drops of different colored paint onto the paper and gently slide it into the ziplock baggie. Try not to smear any of the paint as you do this, although if you do it’s not a big deal. Zip the baggie closed, trying to push out as much air as possible without smearing the paint (it’s okay for the bag to touch the paint, just try not to smear too much of it around inside the bag). Make sure the baggie is really tightly closed, otherwise this project will go from no-mess to lots-of-mess in pretty much no time. Set your child up at a table with the paint-in-a-bag and let him go to town. He can smear the paint around, use a rolling pin to spread it all over the paper, use the blunt end of a pencil or a fork to make lines in the paint, or anything else you (or he) can think of. The paint will move around on the paper inside the bag but won’t get on your child’s hands or (more importantly) your furniture. To increase the amount of time your child will spend of this activity, be sure to provide lots of different implements for him to try. It doesn’t really matter what you offer him (as long as it’s safe), he’ll just want variety or he’ll get bored. When he’s done, unzip the baggie and slide out the paper. You should have a pretty frame-worthy piece of art!
3. No-Mess Collage
For this one you’ll need to purchase a roll of contact paper which you can get on Amazon for around $8.00. You’ll also need a bunch of interesting items to stick to it. This could be as simple as a bunch of cut up scraps of different colored construction paper. Or you could cut out interesting pictures from magazines or newspapers. Or, if you’re feeling more ambitious, you could collect leaves, sticks, cotton balls, or other three-dimensional but lightweight objects. Glue the contact paper to a large piece of cardboard (you could cut a flat section off the box the contact paper came in) sticky side up. Tape the cardboard to the wall or a bookshelf or other flat surface at your child’s eye level. Spread the construction paper shapes or other items on the floor below the cardboard and let him go to town. The fact that everything sticks to the cardboard by itself will be interesting to your child (particularly since the board is hung up on the wall as opposed to lying flat on a table). The variety of items to stick should also hold his attention for a while. And the lack of sticky, runny, messy glue will improve your mood immensely.
Sometimes you’ve got to give in to the mess, he’s a kid after all. But you’d be totally forgiven for feeling like you just can’t handle it all the time. Just keep these ideas in the back of your mind (and maybe pick up some of these supplies while you’re thinking of it). I’ll bet they’ll come in handy.