Want to Improve Your Child's Art Skills?
Enroll your child for the Atlas Mission – the ultimate learning companion for kids.
Enroll your child for the Atlas Mission – the ultimate learning companion for kids.
You know what happens when you give your pint-sized Picasso a paintbrush. Bam—the living room walls suddenly look like something out of Jackson Pollock’s studio.
She’s all about making a mess, and won’t let anyone stop her (least of all, you). Hey, that’s okay.
If you have grand illusions of your child politely sitting at a table, neatly coloring well within the lines—forget about it. Um, why? After all, don’t you want to wrangle that mess?
Well, kind of. But, not really. When your child gets messy with art, she’s also expressing herself, exploring the artistic process, getting creative and improving critical-thinking skills.
So, if you’re ready for the mess (seriously, just cover everything in painter’s tarps or garbage bags), check out these crazy-messy and easy preschool art activities.
Oh yeah, and your child will totally thank you.
As if balloons aren’t fun enough on their own, now add paint! Really—paint.
Pour a few pools of paint onto a piece of cardboard (don’t waste your money on the stuff from the art supply store, just reuse the side of an old box). Now you’ve got a palette for some soon-to-be messy art.
Let’s stop here for a suggestion. Go outside! This is messy to the billionth degree. So, stay inside if you have no problems cleaning paint drips off of your walls, window frames and floorboards for the next few weeks.
Unroll plain ol’ white gift wrap or butcher paper. Or, throw an old sheet down. Let your little artist drop a balloon into the paint. Then have her toss it onto the paper or sheet.
Not messy enough? Okay, we’ll amp up the mess-factor. When the balloon is completely covered with ooey, gooey wet paint, pop it (over the paper). Your child has never seen messy art like this before.
Oh, those regular air-filled balloons weren’t good enough? Sure, no problem. We can make it messier (or, maybe just different).
Fill them with water. Repeat the same steps as the regular balloon paint splatter, just get your child to put some more muscle into her balloon tossing.
Is she struggling to pop the water balloons? Tennis anyone? Yep, get out the tennis rackets and swat those paint-covered balloons into the paper.
When the water balloon smashes into the paper/sheet, it will break open. Boom! Instant water colors. Of course, in a totally crazy-messy way.
Add in a few non-paint-covered balloons too. Your child can figure out how the breaking and splashing of the plain water changes the paint that’s already on the paper. Hmm, a little critical thinking here.
Whether you buy a ready-to-mix paste or you stir up equal parts school glue and flour (and add a bit of water to thin it), papier mache paste can best be described as warm alien snot.
If that doesn’t say, “Yep, you’re about to make a mess,” we don’t know what does.
Cut some paper strips, dip ‘em into the paste and cover anything your child wants. Does she want to make a globe? Awesome! Cover a balloon (it will deflate inside its little papier mache cocoon after the paste hardens).
Maybe your child is into animals? Tape together boxes, cardboard tubes and crunched up newspaper to make an “armature” (yep—that’s a new vocab word she can use now).
Enroll your child for the Atlas Mission and let your child play with this award-winning educational program. Your child will become better at art without even realizing it!
Okay, okay, okay. We totally get that finger paint in itself is super-messy. But, who wants to just stick with “super”? Not your kiddo!
Make a batch of slime—which, by the way, is way easier than you might think. Measure and mix equal parts clear (that’s CLEAR, not just clear-drying) school glue and water.
Ewww, sticky. Oh, but we’re not nearly done yet. Now for the magical mystery ingredient that gives slime—well, a slimy feel. And, it is: Liquid starch!
Add an equal part liquid starch and stir until it feels like slime. Put the rubber gloves and stirring spoons away. Seriously, this is supposed to be messy.
Get in there and have your child use her hands to mix it up.
Stretch the slime and pull it apart into a few separate bowls. Sprinkle generous heapings of glitter (which is well known as one of the absolutely, positively messiest art materials ever—as it will stick to every surface and linger in your child’s hair or on your kitchen table for weeks) into the slime.
Use a different color of glitter for each bowl. Next, take that rainbow of slime and let your young artist go crazy finger painting with it on cardboard or white poster board.
Yay, it’s an arty party! So, cut up some confetti. Maybe not just some, but a mountain of it.
You know the pile of old worksheets, fliers and random pieces of paper that is just hanging out in the middle of your dining room table? Well, put it to use.
Hand over the safety scissors or let your kiddo use her hands to turn the sheets into teeny tiny pieces.
Grab a bottle of school glue and give your child the okay to squeeze it all over a piece of paper. Spread it out with a brush, and…
Throw that confetti! Will it all stick? Um, probably not. But, that’s the chance your child takes when she makes a confetti collage.
No, you’re not giving a can of spray paint to your child and encouraging her to tag the neighborhood. You’re making a watered-down version. Literally.
Mix powdered tempera and water in a spray bottle, hang a sheet up outside (or put it on the ground) and “spray paint” away.
Oh, is the paint too light? Ask your child why, giving her the chance to puzzle out what could make it brighter or darker (hint: add more paint!).
What do you get when you cross a volcano with a rainbow? This can’t miss because it’s a so very crazy messy art activity!
Has your child ever done the old standard pre-k volcano science experiment? Probably. If not, it involves mixing baking soda and vinegar to create a bubbling explosion.
What does this have to do with art? It has to do with making exploding paint (okay, so it’s more of a fizz).
Drip a few drops of food coloring into a cup or bowl, stir in a tablespoon of baking soda and then start pouring a few teaspoons of vinegar in.
And, what happens next? It will bubble and fizz everywhere, as your child paints.
You can also make it fizz on the paper itself. Sprinkle the food coloring-baking soda mix onto paper. Pour the vinegar onto it—and, get messy!
Sand plus glue plus hands equals what? Absolutely awesome finger paint!
Create a super-sized sensory experience for your child by stirring craft sand (use a few different colors) into school glue.
Forget about the paintbrushes and let your little one finger paint the sandy mix onto paper. You can also swap in glitter for a sparkly version.
A few drops of food coloring. A splash of water. The chilly air of your freezer. And, what do you have now? Paint that’s about to melt!
Not only can your child get science-y with this one (exploring the liquid to solid and solid to liquid transformation), but she can also use the sun to help make a mess.
Put the frozen artsy ice cubes onto white paper and watch them melt. Yeah, we know what’s coming next. Your kiddo is totally bored watching paint melt.
So, let’s speed it up. She can use the heat of her hands to get those cubes melting. She can push them, pat them and glide them around the paper.
This is the granddaddy of all messy art activities. It’s got something for everyone and everything for your little someone.
Turn your kitchen table (or really any other table) into a buffet. Instead of food, this spread is made up of artsy items.
Set up stations that include finger paint, glitter and glue and clay (your child can spread soft modeling clay across paper—like paint!). As she makes her way down the buffet, she can pile the art processes on top of each other.
Make a mess. Go ahead! Sure, you’ll most likely end up with painty prints all over the walls. But, isn’t it worth it?
P.S. Did you know that the Atlas Mission is the only educational program that teaches your child ALL the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century?
It covers both core skills like reading, writing & STEM, as well as 21st century skills like creativity, critical thinking, problem solving & coding.
Atlas Mission – the new educational program for 3-7 year old children that increases their awareness of other countries and cultures.
Erica Loop creates educational content for the Atlas Mission. She has written for websites like PBS Parents and What to Expect When You Are Expecting Word of Mom Blog. She is a former preschool teacher and early childhood program evaluator with an MS in child development.