hello play dough!

It would be an understatement to say we love play dough – we adore it so much we almost consider it a necessity!  We have it on hand (ha!) for all our classes for our youngest students as one of our sensory stations.

Each session we create a signature “look” for our play dough.  For example, spring may be yellow play dough with a lemony scent.  Autumn might be purple with a lavender scent. Because it has so many merits and kids love it, it is always at the top of our lists of favorites.

Some of the benefits we see from children playing with play dough are:

  • It promotes hand strength
  • It improves eye- hand coordination
  • Play dough allows for open ended, imaginative play
  • Many other tools and toys can be introduced into play with play dough
  • It is a very adaptable material; we make it different colors and scents, add sometimes add glitter.

Here is the recipe for the play dough we use in our studios:

play dough recipe the messy artist

Some of the tools we use with play dough:

Popsicle sticksprocess oriented art for kids

Plastic gemsthe messy artist new jersey

Plastic animalsfine art class for kids new jersey

Rolling pins, including textured onesart studio for children class camp party


Pizza Cuttersplay dough recipe

Wooden hammerscreative art studio for kids

Large buttonsbest art class party and camp north jersey

Sea shellsart class for kids east hanover nj

Extrudersplay dough tools and recipe

Cutting tools/pie serversnorth jersey art class for kids

Nothing at all!favorite art class camp and party new jersey

Each week we change the accessories that we put out with the play dough. The first week of the session, we offer no toys, and then cycle through our arsenal, mixing and matching them as the session progresses. The children look forward to the play dough each class, and discovering each week’s tools.

Do you have favorite ways to enjoy play dough with children?

hello bean mosaics!

process oriented art project

This project allow children to get some great fine motor skills practice as they select and place the beans into their mosaic. They are also learning concepts of sorting, backgrounds and patterns.   Click here to download a PDF lesson plan: Bean Mosaics Lesson Plan.

Bean Mosaics

Age: 3 – 6 years


  1. Children will learn to follow sequential ordering.
  2. They will learn about mosaics, backgrounds and patterns.
  3. They will do some color and shape sorting and pattern creation.


  1. One 8 x 8” piece of white thick cardstock or cardboard per child.
  2. Thick oil pastels
  3. Glue in squeeze bottles, one per child
  4. Assortment of beans in various colors, shapes and sizes

Teacher Prep:

  1. Write each child’s name on the back of an 8” square piece of cardstock or cardboard. We find this size is reasonable for the children to complete in a class session (roughly 45 minutes).
  2. Prepare a glue bottle for every child to use.
  3. Spread beans out on a tray, one per every two children. We like to use the lid from a round take-out lid container to hold the beans. The beans can be sorted, or not. Younger children benefit from having the beans separated to more easily see the similarities of the bean types, where older children enjoy the process of sorting their own beans.


  1. Explain to the children a little about mosaics– that they are artworks usually made of broken tile or glass, placed into plaster to create a picture.
  2. Show them an example of the project they will be making.
  3. Discuss a little about how a pattern is made by repeating objects and encourage them to use a pattern in their project – point out one on a sample project.
  4. Hand out the pieces of cardboard and have each child select an oil pastel from the supply table.toddlers elementary school tweens art class and party the messy artist art classes and parties
  5. Have the children cover the entire piece of cardboard with oil pastel to create a rich background. Explain to them that this background will be behind their beans. A background is the back of a picture.
  6. When children are finished, hand out glue bottles (or have them select from the supply table).favorite art class for kids new jersey
  7. Tell the children that they will now create an image on their colored background with the beans. They can do this by “drawing” with the glue first and then adding the beans, or going bean by bean and gluing as they go.pre sechool art project lesson plan
  8. Show the children how to place the beans in the glue to create their image. Demonstrate a pattern of repeating elements so they can better understand it.art class camps and parties north jersey
  9. Allow the children to keep the glue bottle with them so that they can keep using it as needed as they complete their design.bean art preschool art project fine art class camp and parties
  10. These will need a few days to a week to dry, depending on amount of glue and weather conditions.morris county new jersry art class for kids childrens art class nj

hello Salt Painting! (lesson plan)

These multi-step paintings are fascinating for the kids to do, and a great example of a process-oriented project. The kids enjoy “drawing” with glue, a novel way to use it. And once they start dabbing the watercolor paint onto the salt, watching the salt absorb the paint and spread is mesmerizing. Click here to download our  Salt Painting lesson plan.

fine art class for children morris county njAge group: 4-6 years


  1. Children will learn to work with both common and uncommon painting materials.
  2. Children will learn about primary colors.
  3. Children will learn to follow sequential directions.
  4. Children will learn about solids and liquids.



  1. 1 piece of 8×10” watercolor paper per child
  2. fine grained salt in a shakable containers
  3. clear glue in squeezable bottles
  4. liquid watercolor paints
  5. paint brushes (3 per child – one for each primary color)
  6. plastic trays larger that the watercolor papers to catch the excess salt


Teacher Prep:

  1. Write each child’s name in permanent marker on the back of a piece of watercolor paper
  2. Prepare a salt container for every 2 children to share
  3. Prepare a glue bottle for every child to use



  1. Show the children an example of a finished project and explain they will be making these projects with paint – plus special ingredients: glue and salt.the messy artist project
  2. Have the children walk over to the supply table to pick out their glue bottle. We like to have the children get up to stretch their legs and keep their interest piqued. Having a supply table gives the kids a chance to take a break from sitting still and also to make a choice when they get to the table. For that reason, we always have one or two extras so that even the last child to the table gets to choose.
  3. While they are doing this, distribute the watercolor papers with their names on them on a tray, with the names facing down so they won’t interfere with their project’s image.
  4. Instruct the children to draw picture with glue on their paper – it can be of something in the real word (representational), or even shapes (abstract) – whatever they want.nj best kids art class
  5. Distribute the salt shakers (or have the children get them from the supply table) and have the kids shake salt all over the glue lines on their paper.   When finished, tilt the paper and shake it to remove excess salt.kids art project lesson plan
  6. Have the kids walk to the supply table and select a paintbrush.
  7. Distribute watercolor sets, removing the lid to the first primary color. Our studios are process (rather than product) oriented, but we take into account using supplies that work well together, That’s why for this project we are using primary colors, one at a time – even if they mix together on the salt, they will create a secondary color. We structure the project in a way to maximize beautiful results, even though we are focusing on the process.paint glue salt project 4 - 6 year olds
  8. Instruct children to dip their brush into the paint pot, then dab – not brush – it onto the salt. Watch the salt absorb the liquid watercolor and turn that color.art class camp and parties north jersey
  9. When they are done with one color, the instructor should close the lid on the first paint color and open the next primary color. Children can get a clean brush from the supply table.
  10.  Repeat again for the third color, and the paintings are complete!
  11.  Let dry for a few days.new jersey art classes and parties art party for kids new jersey art studio for kids new jersey






Hello art show!

Last week’s blog post focused on our first year of our Art Intensives Foundations program here at The Messy Artist. We capped off the year with a spirited art show on Saturday, June 21.

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As with all special events, it took some planning to get everything to go off smoothly. There were drawings and paintings to frame, and sculptures to mount on bases. There were walls to prepare and invitations to be sent. But it all came together for a celebration of art and education on a beautiful Saturday evening in our studios.

Our young artists came about 2 hours early that evening to work on a special group project, as well as to help hang their pieces.

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The group art project was a site-specific string art installation, taking over one of our hallways. Stretching from wall to wall, this piece had the students working as a group to make one piece. This installation was a great way to epitomize their whole year of working together in class.

best nj art class messy artist At 6 pm doors were opened for the audience to come in, and a large crowd came to see the works of these 24 talented students. The students’ final projects as well as some others from the year were put on display.

new jersey art classes and parties kids art show njStudents posed in front of their art pieces and instructors at The Messy Artist made some speeches to the assembled guests. The attendees and students as well enjoyed seeing all the works that had come out of the AFI’s first year.

The messy artist art show and classes nj art classes and parties

Some of our Messy Artist Instructors

Some of our Messy Artist Instructors

This show marked the culmination of this year’s course, with students being graduated to the next level. We can’t wait to see what they do next year!

Art Foundations Intensives: Year One wrap up

This was our first year of Art Foundations Intensives, an invite-only full-year course for the serious art student. The AFI students worked for 33 weeks on drawings, paintings, and sculptures, all the while learning about the philosophies behind great art.  We even had a field trip to the Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ earlier this month. Some of our AFI students are mentors in a Chagalls class with students ages 3-5, sharing their love of art and helping out a younger generation.

We have three different AFI levels, with students grouped by age. Each level had a unique final project assignment.

Our youngest students, in AFI 1, were tasked with creating a vessel from clay that pertained to one of the five senses. The students got very creative in interpreting this assignment.

One artist focused on touch, creating a vase that was half smooth and half textured. She also painted it to enhance these qualities, using one flat color on the smooth side and speckled paint on the textured side.art class and party kids new jersey

Two students concentrated on taste and decided candy should be theme to express that sense. One created a fluted candy container with a trapdoor. The other also made a candy vessel of clay slabs and painted it with striped paints.

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Two students also chose smell. One made a vessel for holding a fragrant flowered plant and painted it to represent flowers – pink for the roses, black drips representing soil, and inside, forest green to reflect foliage. The other “smell” project was 4 star-shaped candle holders, one holder for each unique scent. She chose the colors first and then let that determine the scents: blueberry, green apple, black cherry and cran-orange.

new jersey art studio for kids nj art class and party for childrenAFI 2 students had to choose a fruit and divide an image of it into three parts: one drawn in charcoal, one in acrylic paint and one collage.best art classes and parties north jersey nj fine art class for kidsAFI 3 students had a choice of three projects:

  • A series of 3 drawings that share a common element and tell a story
  • A still life painting that utilizes three objects that symbolized the artist
  • A tabletop version of a fruit sculpture from our Artist Harvest series.

Here are a few of their projects:new jersey art class for kids toddlers tweens messy artist art class for children fine art class camp and parties in nj

To wrap up the year, we had an art show displaying the Art Foundations Intensives final projects, as well as a site-specific string art piece created by the students before the show. Photos of that will be in our blog post next week!



hello body drawings!

This has been a great project to end up our spring session! Its positivity and individuality appeal to the kids while creating them – and to everyone who sees them when they are finished. They are a wonderful document of a slice of time in our students’ lives, both physical and emotional.art camp party class for kids new jersey

To make these body drawings, we first cut large (about 4-5 foot) pieces of paper from a roll of black craft/butcher paper.

We had the kids pair up and trace each other’s outline on the paper with silver or gold sharpie.nj fine art class for children toddlers elementary school

Next they filled in the outline of their body with all kinds of words that they came up with to describe themselves, written in different colors of chalk pastel.morris county nj messy artist art classes for kids

This can take a while, and is a fantastic exercise for the kids to stretch their self-awareness and vocabulary. They can use adjectives, activities they like to do, quotes – anything that helps complete the picture of how they “fill” themselves.best art parties and classes new jersey new jersey kids art class

The next step was to work on the background, filling it in with metallic paint.the messy artist fine art class for kids best art class party camp for kids summer 2014 new jersey

These took a few sessions to complete, and it was great to see each student’s piece come out as unique as they are.messy artist body drawing art class and party nj childrens art studio nj

What words would you use to describe yourself on your body portrait?

hello Goop!

nj art class and partyOne of our most beloved materials here at The Messy Artist is Goop. This stretchy, squishy material also goes by other names (slime, gak, flubber) and is simple to make with white glue and liquid laundry starch. We add color and glitter to add even more interest to this material – but it is lots of fun even without these!

Here’s our recipe – it’s very easy and quick to make.goop recipe with logoBefore class starts, we like to spread it out all over the table in fun patterns so that when kids enter the room they are immediately intrigued. This encourages play as a group activity as the kids jump right in.art studio for kids with classes and parties nj goop project for kidsFor birthday parties, kids love it when we spell out their names.fine art class children morris county nj

best art class new jersey kidsGoop is very stretchy and as it warms from use, gets even more pliable. Some of our staff are experts at stretching it across large areas, as well as making bubbles out of the stretched out goop.childrens art studio nj art partes and classes for kdis nj new jersey art parites for kidsWe also do a “make your own goop” activity, where the kids get to do their own mixing and kneading to create their very own personal sized serving of goop. We package it up so they can take it home and continue the using it there.goop kids art project kids fun goop art classes and parties north jerseyOne caveat with Goop: since it is made of glue, it will stick when placed on porous materials. This includes clothing and hair. But if this does happen (and since we work with kids age 18 months and up, we’ve seen it happen!) clothing can be soaked to loosen the goop, and then washed. Oil (vegetable or other) or peanut butter can be used on the hair to release the goop from it.

Goop encourages social interaction and is wonderful for both large and small muscle development in the fingers and hands. The children become scientists, investigating the properties of this unique substance, testing its textures, stretchiness and bounciness. Of course, the kids don’t realize all the learning and growing they are doing – they just think it is a blast!art class for toddlers tweens elementray school kids nj glue and laundry starch goop gak flubber new jersey art class for kids