Hello triangle collages!

art class camp and party north njAs we focus on shapes in our winter session, we lead the students in open-ended art projects emphasizing each one. We never use pre-made materials or kits; thus no two finished projects are alike. Each projectʼs look is decided by the young artists themselves, and we encourage caregivers to let the children make the decisions and do the project all on their own.

For triangle week, we create large shiny triangles and let the students collage smaller multi textured and colored triangles onto them.  Click here to download a PDF of  Triangle Collages lesson plan.

Age Level: 2.5 – 4


  • To learn about triangles: 3 sides and 3 corners
  • To work on glue stick skills


  • Cardstock
  • Foil
  • Glue sticks (one per child)
  • Trays
  • Masking or clear tape
  • a large variety of materials: construction paper, ribbon, fabric, bubble wrap, etc.
  • Trays to hold cut trianglescollage project for kids

Teacher Preparation:

  • Cut cardstock into large triangles (ours are about 12” on the longest side)
  • Wrap in foil and tape down on back
  • Write each studentʼs name on back
  • Write the word “Triangle” on front in large letters
  • Cut materials into triangles of different sizes and place in trays

Procedures:new jersey art class and pary

  • Show students an example of a finished project and explain that they will be working with triangles today. All triangles have 3 sides and 3 corners.
  • Demonstrate putting a lot of glue onto the foil triangle and then placing a smaller triangle onto it. “Tap, tap, tap it” (kids love this repetition) to put it into place and to get it to stick.
  • Have the children pick up a glue stick from a nearby supply table, and hand out the triangles back at the work table while they are doing so.young kids triangle art project
  • Give them a few minutes to get some glue onto the triangles before handing out the trays with the collage supplies.the messy artist classes for kids
  • Encourage the students to leave a little space between their triangles if they want the silver to shine through.the messy artist new jersey best art class for kids morris county nj
  • This project can be taken home at the end of the class period as it dries quickly.process oriented art new jersey

Shaving cream: four fun sensory rich play ideas

nj fine art classes The Messy ArtistAs one of our favorite sensory activities, shaving cream is always in heavy rotation at The Messy Artist. Kids love the squishy foamy consistency and it encourages investigation into texture.

Besides its fantastic texture, shaving cream has the added advantages of being easy to set up and easy to clean up. It also brings out a playful and silly side in most of our students and parents, which we love.shaving cream bday party

Here are 4 ways to enjoy sensory exploration with shaving cream:

1. Tray play: We spray it onto a tray to keep the shaving cream contained, and add liquid watercolor paint. This lets the kids experiment with mixing the colorful paint and the white shaving cream together, priming them for color mixing in other lessons. We like to use watercolor paints instead of food coloring as that can stain little hands.

As with all activities at our messy table, we include wooden craft sticks so that children who are tentative about getting their hands dirty can still experience it. Very often, these kids will progress quickly into covering their hands (and arms, too) with it.sensory play with shaving cream

For added interest, cups, animals and other small objects are added to the mix. Children love covering and uncovering the animals with the shaving cream and drawing in it with their fingers.The Messy Artist shaving cream sensory play

2. Mirror magic: Use non-breakable mirrors instead of trays for a base for the shaving cream. You can then add all the toys and paint like we do on the plastic tray.four shaving cream fun ideas

3. Take home art: After the shaving cream is nice and marbled with the watercolor paint, we have the kids spread it on absorbent paper. After letting the shaving cream and paint mixture soak in for a few minutes, we scrape it off with a wooden craft stick. Once dry, the students can take it home.art party class and camp morris county new jersey process oriented art the messy artist

4. Take it outside: On warm days, you can spread shaving cream on a slip and slide, spray it on tummies and legs, fill a bucket for the kids to scoop, cover a sliding board – there is no limit to the fun you can have! And when you are done, just grab a hose to wash it all away.

How do you like to enjoy sensory play with shaving cream? Let us know!best art class party and camp north jersey

Welcome Alidis Vicente and Violet!

Alidis Vicente Messy Artist copyWe are thrilled to be hosting a special event with local author – and long time Messy Artist mom – Alidis Vicente. She is bringing her recently published book Violet to The Messy Artist on Wednesday February 18 from 4 – 5:15 pm, joining us for a creative afternoon. First Ms. Vicente will read and sign her book, then The Messy Artist staff will lead the students in a related art project. Each family will go home with a signed book and their art projects. You can sign up for this event here: http://themessyartist.com/alidis/

Violet tells the tale of a young bird of the same name, the only Purple-Footed Booby living on the Galapagos Islands with her parents. Her unique appearance creates dissension among both the Blue-Footed Boobies of her father’s side and the Red-Footed Boobies of her mother’s side. Violet’s path to acceptance is an entertaining and thoughtful story of learning to see and embrace similarities rather than differences.Violet by Alidis Vicente

We love the story, artwork and message in this book, and reached out to Alidis to learn more.

Interview with Alidis Vicente

  1. Tell us about Violet.  Where did you get the idea?

The origins of the story are two fold and pretty random.  I was a Sociology major in college and was very familiar with the work Charles Darwin did while at the Galapagos Islands.  The blue footed and red footed boobies always interested me, particularly because the blue footed booby bird had such a wonderful dance.  One day, my son saw a drawing of a small giraffe on the back cover of a picture book.  He said to me, “Mom, look!  This giraffe has no spots, but it’s still a giraffe even though it’s different”.  At that moment a light bulb went on in my head.  I envisioned a character who was different from its peers yet had to show it still belonged in some ways.  For some reason, the booby birds from the Galapagos Islands came to mind and.. poof!  Violet was born.Violet at The Messy Artist

  1. I know many of our readers are curious about the process of writing and getting a children’s book published.  Could you tell us what happens once the writing is finished?

The hard part!  Writing an initial manuscript is fun because it’s a product of one’s creativity in its organic, raw form.  Once a book contract is made (which is a long, rocky road in and of itself most times), the revision process begins.  Editors and publishers ask authors to change their work several times over.  For example, my book title was different for this story & there was no moment of preface for the reader.  It’s not always easy to digest, but in hindsight it is usually a helpful learning process.

  1. Do you have an idea for the illustrations as you are writing, or does the illustrator come up with those?

When writing I envision general idea for illustrations I think might compliment my work.  However, illustrators come up with their artwork on their own.  I am able to see the work before it is published during which time I can make suggestions, but all in all the illustrations are out of my hands.The Messy Artist Book event with Alidis Vicente

  1. How long did it take you to create Violet?

Writing the initial manuscript took me a couple of weeks.  Finding a publisher was particularly difficult because, as my agent explained, contracts for books written in rhyme are not trending in the publishing world.  I was fortunate enough to be offered publication by Operation Outreach USA who published my first book.  Once they took the story on and editing was completed, it was published within a year.

  1. Violet‘s theme is one that is very much in the news these days, and your book contains a wonderful message of inclusion for children (and their families). Do you have other plans to spread its message besides the book signing at The Messy Artist?

Absolutely!  Aside from school visits, I’d love to do something at a dance studio to compliment the birds’ dances and perhaps join with an organization that helps spread diversity awareness of any and all kinds.

  1. How did you get started writing children’s books?

I was a Child Protective Services Investigator prior to writing books.  I was working with children and families in a totally different way, obviously.  Once I had my children, I decided to stay home with them.  As much as I loved my “job” as a stay at home mom, I missed interacting and helping needy kids.  Writing has always been my strength and passion.  It has kept me balanced since my youth.  So, when I found myself exhausted and emotional as a new mom, I did the only thing I knew how to do… I wrote.  One night I was falling asleep and got an idea for a children’s book.  I jumped from the bed, grabbed the first writing utensils available to me (construction paper and crayons) and allowed ideas to flow.  I have been writing children’s literature every since.  I have traded crayons for pens and keyboards, however.

  1. How did you get involved with The Messy Artist?

We are a Messy Artist Veteran Family.  My six year old son began taking classes at their former location in  South Orange when he was 18 months old.  I also hosted a book signing for my first picture book at their studio.  It was such fun to see the art work kids created after reading the story that I knew I had to do it again for Violet.

Ms. Vicente at The Messy Artist with her sons

Ms. Vicente at The Messy Artist with her sons

  1. What have been your family’s favorite classes at The Messy Artist?

I can’t pick just one.  We love them all!  I can say they throw the best birthday parties ever.  That’s technically not a class, but it’s my personal favorite activity offered.  My youngest son, on the other hand, might say he likes his Picassos class best because he is obsessed with Messy Artist slime. Violet book and art at The Messy Artist 2Alidis Vicente and sons The Messy Artist copy

  1.   Anything else you would like to share about the book, yourself, or art!

As a parent, I know it can be difficult to get young children to find pleasure in leisurely writing and/or writing assignments. Kids love to color, draw & paint.  Picking up a pencil to write a journal entry or story is not always met with the same enthusiasm.  My best tip is to convey to your children that writing IS art!  Words are paintbrushes.  They allow readers to envision the most expressive, beautiful worlds simply by ingesting thoughts colored by our stories.  Encourage reading and writing by modeling the behavior individually or together.  Understanding the power of words, both written and verbal, is a vital asset.

If you’d like more information on my writing journey, events, bookings and/or my other award winning titles, feel free to check out my website:  www.alidisvicente.com.

You can also follow me on Twitter @alidisvicente & Facebook (same name).

Alidis Vicente book signing Violet The Messy Artist 2Thank you, Alidis! We are looking forward to having you back in our studios on February 18 for a wonderful afternoon!

hello initial collages!

the messy artist fine art studio for kidsWe do this project toward the end of the session, after the children have been with us for many weeks. At this point, they are used to following directions to create projects and are familiar with the materials we use.

A big goal of this project is to get the children more comfortable with their cutting skills. This is a difficult skill to master, but by making strips of paper thin enough to cut easily, and clearly describing to the caregivers how to help, the children are often successful.

Click here to download Hello Initial Collages!.

Age Level: 3-5 years

Gain cutting skills
Learn letter recognition
Work on gluing technique

Patterned paper (such as scrapbooking paper)
Marker or grease pencil
Glue sticks
9” x 12” sheets of construction paper

Teacher Preparation:
Cut patterned paper into ½” strips
Create large open initial on construction paper for each childthe messy artist a journey in art kids initial art projectProcedures:

  1. Show the children a completed project and explain they will do it in a couple of steps.
  2. Demonstrate to the children how they will first be cutting long strips of paper into small squares.
  3. Have them select two (“one for each hand”) strips of paper from a supply table set up nearby.
  4. Go through step-by-step instruction of using the scissors
    1. “Thumbs up” to properly place their fingers
    2. Have a caregiver hold the strip so that the child only has to concentrate on cutting
    3. Ask them to cut small pieces off to make squaresbest art class north njart class party and camp east hanover nj 5. Once the children have created a pile of squares (roughly 20 or so), hand out each child’s initial to him or her. We often enhance the pre-reading/letter recognition aspect by holding up each letter and asking the children to yell out each one.  Then we ask whose name starts with each letter and get everyone involved.

6. Once all the kids have their initial, the teacher can pass out glue sticks, or have students pick them up from the supply table.fine art class for kids new jersey7. Demonstrate gluing the squares onto their letter, talking about interior and exterior spaces of each initial.process oriented art studio for kids8. This project dries quickly and can be taken home at the end of the class session.initial project collage for kids

Our 5 Most Favorite Posts of 2014

As we approach the end of the year, we want to thank you all for coming along with us on this journey in art and education. We also are taking this opportunity to look back over our last year of blog posts and see which ones have been the most popular. Here is our countdown of our 5 most popular posts of 2014:

  1. hello Amy! Feb 21, 2014

An interview with our instructor Amy, who has a rich and layered background in early childhood education.toddler art elementary classses best teacher Amy

  1. Simplifying the Complicated Jan 3, 2014

Making complicated ideas easy for our students to understand is integral to our education process here at The Messy Artist. Here are some of the ways we do it.art class and parties new jersey

  1. hello snow dough! Feb 14, 2014

A recipe and activity ideas for a favorite sensory material: snow dough.snow dough creative fine art messy artist

  1. hello resist painting! April 18, 2014

A lesson plan for a resist painting project for kids age 1st – 2nd grade (and up).kids art class and parties new jersey

  1. Stained Glass” Drawings January 10, 2014

A project designed by one of our instructors, Anthony, that creates a vibrant stained glass effect for students 1st grade and up.best art class party

Are any of your favorites on this list? How about any that didn’t make it?

If you have ideas you’d like to see us cover, please comment below! We’d love to hear your thoughts and incorporate them into future blog posts.

Best wishes for a wonderful start to 2015!

why, hello all you mountains of artwork!

Since this post is once again quite relevant, we’ve updated it from last year and are posting it again this December. Please chime in in the comments section if you have any other ideas to share about managing your child’s artistic output!

childrens art class new jersey

invasion of the children’s artwork

Although we love all the art that our student-artists make in class, we realize that sometimes at home THERE IS TOO MUCH OF IT! Relax, overwhelmed parents, we have some suggestions to repurpose this art in a way that celebrates the creations AND extends their usefulness. This time of year offers a few great opportunities to make good use of your child’s many creations.

May we present:

  • The wrapping paper solution. The holiday season can be a great time to clean out a big stash of all the excess paper art and use it to wrap Christmas and Hanukkah gifts. But don’t forget – you can use it all year long for birthday parties, teacher presents, hostess gifts and any other time you need to wrap something.
this will be perfect for wrapping a gift

this will be perfect for wrapping a gift later on

  • Put it in a big envelope or box and mail it to the Grandparents. Or favorite aunt, far-flung cousins – anyone who loves your kids will be touched to be remembered and receive this in their mailbox.  They’ll enjoy it even more with an explanation such as ”This is Billy’s painting of a duck.  Even though it is blue and possibly not immediately recognizable as a duck, that’s what it is!”

    fine art classes north jersey

    hi, Grandma!

You can also tuck a piece of artwork into Holiday Cards that you mail out since you are already sending these dear ones some mail anyway.

  • Lantern project. We saw this upcyling of art into colorful Chinese-style lanterns on a blog and think it’s a great idea. These would be wonderful displayed in a child’s bedroom or playroom.
from “The Imagination Tree”

from “The Imagination Tree”


  • Handmade cards. Make (or buy) some note cards. Cut out a selection from the artwork and glue it onto the front of the card; a glue stick works well, or if you want to make it fancier, you can get some foam adhesives/double sided thick tape that provide a bit of separation between the artwork and the card.photo (8)

Another option is to take a photo or scan a particularly appealing piece of art and send it to one of the online printers such as shutterfly or snapfish to make a card, and then discard the original art. We like the personal touch of the homemade card, though.

  • Less from more: create a collage. This can be a fun activity to do together with your child. Select a few artwork pieces with coordinating colors – this will give your finished project a more cohesive look.  For example, you might want to select a few paintings and drawings that all use warm colors, like yellow, orange and red.   Cut the artwork into random pieces and then select a contrasting piece of paper or poster board (in this case, green, purple or blue would all work well. And black always works!) Start gluing, but make sure to leave peeks of the background color visible; this is one of our favorite projects and creates a great looking piece of art.nj art class for kids
  • Book it, Dano! Take photos of all that art and then upload it to make a photo book, again using one of the many online sites that offer this. And then discard it all! Paintings and drawings on paper and cardboard can be recycled.fine art class for kids new jersey

Here’s to all the wonderful artworks of the past year, and a very happy holiday season to all!








hello parties!

the messy artist great partyAs well as being an art studio for kids, The Messy Artist is also a small business that has been growing for the past 16 years. Over this time we have learned a lot from creating a business and running it from the ground up. Responding to our customers’ requests is one thing we have found very important as we’ve grown – it’s essential to stay flexible and adapt.

The Messy Artist originally began as a place to provide art classes for young children, with just one class a week, running out of a classroom in a local church. Now 16 years later, our current location has two separate studios, and we run 29 classes a week! But along with the expansion of classes, we also had parents requesting something else – birthday parties on weekends for their children. We spoke with CEO Donna Bernstein about the addition and evolution of birthday parties at The Messy Artist. the messy artist party room art party

How did you start having birthday parties at The Messy Artist?  

The first party came about from a customer in class asking if I would do a party. I’m guessing it was about 20 children. For pricing, I just calculated supplies, rental fee (since I was in the church and paid by the hour), and I found someone to assist me, so then the salary was added in. I looked at what other places charged and made sure it was comparable.

I like to thoroughly think through all the aspects of something before starting it, and did that with the party format. I have to say that our structure has always worked really well. We haven’t changed it in 16 years! We do 3-4 art projects /activities first with the children, then transition into the food time.

north new jersey art party How many parties do you have on the weekends?

We can have up to 8 parties a weekend, including our times on Friday. Sometimes we add extra weekday slots when a session has ended, or around the holidays when we don’t hold regular classes. Our parties are an hour and a half, with 55 minutes of art and 35 minutes of food time.nj art party Why do you think your parties are so popular?

I’ve thought about this a lot and I think there are three reasons. One is that we offer lots of age-appropriate, customizable fun for every age party. The parents get to choose exactly the activities that their child and guests will enjoy. Second, I am very lucky to have a great staff, who provide excellent service and have experience in art and young children. Finally, we have listened to parents over the years, and now offer lots of options for their involvement with the food part of the party. For example, parents can do all the work themselves, from bringing in the paper goods, decorating, arranging for and serving the food and cleaning up afterward. Or they can have us do it all: we provide and set up all paper goods and decorations, arrange for and serve the food, and clean up after the party. The family gets to arrive right at the party start time with all the guests – no work required.

Savannah and Cake at Messy Artist copyWhat is your favorite aspect of parties at The Messy Artist?  

Ensuring that all children are engaged and busy the entire time is my favorite part. At parties you get much more of a range of children with different interests and ages. It’s important to keep all children busy and happy. Our play based station program is perfect for that.

Also, getting great feedback from our customers always makes my day and lets me know that our parties are being well received. Here are a few – the first one is from just this weekend.

I couldn’t settle in tonight without sending you and your staff a heartfelt thank you for helping to make my daughter’s fourth birthday just amazing. She was so happy and so were we. Anthony, Jessica and Julianna did an incredible job. From setup, to greeting us, to making sure each guest had fun. The event went seamlessly and did not feel hurried or rushed. Olivia and her friends left beaming and many of my mommy friends were ready to sign up for their own events. It was truly well done. It’s wonderful how many smiles you helped put on the faces of children, especially mine.

 “We absolutely loved The Messy Artist! It was something that was so different and unlike any party we have ever attended. All our guests had a great time and we even had a guest of ours book a party for their daughter’s birthday as well! Overall, this is a great place to have your child’s birthday party!!”

“Great staff, great facilities!!! Never seen a party before where all kids were involved and had smiles on their faces throughout the whole time! :) Thank you “messy artist”!!”

new jersey art party“Just wanted to say thanks for a great party yesterday! The staff was fantastic… they really engaged the kids and made sure they were all having fun. I especially appreciated that they called them all by their names and encouraged them to get involved with the art. Amelia and her friends had a great time.   Becky Lorig, NJ

Thank you so much for the fantastic and unique birthday party. The staff went above and beyond to make sure that each child was engaged and having fun. They really made sure everything went smoothly so that we could enjoy the party. I was so impressed with their enthusiasm and attentiveness to all of our guests. Thank you!  Amy Jernigan, Morristown, NJ

messy artist art pary morris countyHow have you seen parties change over the past 16 years? 

The structure is always the same but we do change the projects. About every year or so we add some new projects in to the mix so that the kids are always able to experience something new.  A big change from our first South Orange space was that we just had one classroom, so we had to do a very quick clean up and turn around from art to food. Now, since we have two studios, we move from art in one room to food in another. We also offer many more options such as food, beverages, balloons and service.

art party fun cakeThis isn’t really a “change” per se, but recently my staff has started a friendly competition when setting up for parties. One of our more popular activities is tabletop painting, where we cover a table in white paper, and then put out trays of paint, accompanied by a fun variety of objects to paint with. We have cars, potato mashers, Legos – all kinds of stuff that encourages kids to explore painting, and they love it. So the staff has gotten very creative in setting up the tables before parties, with all kinds of designs.
Here are a few:

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Do you see any changes coming for parties in the future? 

We will keep things the same since our parties are doing so well, though we are going to start adding in a party favor option. This is where we can provide special takeaways for the birthday party hosts and child to give to their guests.

See more about our parties on The Messy Artist website.