hello plaster sculptures!

Plaster Sculptures Lesson Plan: Hand Casts and Modigliani Inspired Combonorth jersey art classes for children

This is a project that combines two very different methods and styles of creating plaster sculptures and joining them together in the final piece. Students first make casts of their hands, and then make plaster coated pipe cleaner sculptures, long and lean in the style of Modigliani. Finally, they fuse these two pieces together. Download the lesson plan: Plaster Sculptures Lesson Plan

Age Level: 3rd – 6th grade


  • Learn about and create different plaster sculptures
  • Learn about the artwork of Modigliani
  • Think in the moment, be flexible about their creations
  • Teamwork


  • Vaseline
  • Plaster, cut in approx 4” strips (can have kids do this)
  • Scissors
  • Pipe cleaners (1 of one color and 2 of another color for each student)
  • Foil (one approx 2’ piece per student, and one 6” piece per student)
  • Plastic containers of water
  • Teacher Prep:
  • Cut plaster strips


Hand casts

  1. One partner should coat their hand in Vaseline so that the plaster will not sick to it.fine art class for kids north jersey
  2. Have the other partner start by dipping a plaster strip in water, brushing off the excess and placing it on the hand. Repeat until entire hand is covered. Do not go too far up the wrist or the plaster will be more difficult to remove.plaster hand casting for kids Grace and Iris plaster hand casting
  3. Let dry for about 5-10 minutes, until it is mostly stiff and feels firm.
  4. Cut slit in bottom, near wrist to allow student enough room to wriggle hand out. Depending on age of students, you may want to have the instructor do this.
  5. Set aside to dry.plaster hand cast

Modigliani-inspired Pipe Cleaner Sculptures

  1. Show the students some images of Modigliani’s sculptures.
  2. Give each student 3 pipe cleaners (one of one color and two of another) and the pieces of foil.
  3. Have students crumple the foil to make a ball, affixing it to the single pipe cleaner of one color. This will be the head of their figurative sculpture.the messy artist east hanover
  4. Take one of the other pipe cleaners and twist it around the pipe cleaner with the head on it, about ½ of the way down. This will make the arms.best art class party camp new jersey
  5. Take the final pipe cleaner and attach it to the bottom of the body pipe cleaner by twisting it up from the bottom. This will make the legs.art studio for kids new jersey
  6. Have the students lay the pipe cleaner body figures on top of the larger foil piece.
  7. Have them rip between the legs, and around each arm.  They will then mold the foil around each arm and leg and the torso.art class for kids north new jersey
  8. When finished, have them take their hand sculpture and play around with their figure sculpture to figure out a way they can work together. Bend it into the appropriate pose and then set the hand sculpture aside again.childrens art class camp and party north new jersey
  9. Now the students will add plaster to the foil sculptures, using the same process as they did for the hands: dipping the plaster strips in water and placing them on the figure.morris county new jersey best art class for kids
  10. When finished, set aside to dry.lesson plan for plast art project for kids
  11. The next class session, have students use plaster strips to join the two pieces together into their final finished piece.north jersey art classes for children
  12. As an additional step, the students can then paint the sculptures once they are dry. Oil or tempera paint work well on the plaster.

hello slime!

the messy artistThis unique textural experience keeps kids enthralled as they discover its special properties. Sometimes acting like a liquid, sometimes like a solid, this mixture of cornstarch and colored water is easy to make and provides open-ended experimentation.

Here is the recipe we use in class at The Messy Artist, and as we note – the mixing requires some elbow grease so it’s best for the adults to do that part. The kids can still help out by measuring, and mixing the food coloring into the water. If you choose to color your slime, you’ll want to do it by coloring the water first, before you add in the cornstarch. If you wait until the cornstarch and water are mixed to add the food coloring, you are in for a lot more of stiff mixing. It does however create a more streaky effect if you do it that way. You can also omit the food coloring and your slime will be the color of cornstarch: white.the messy artist slime recipe

We like to do this activity on trays so kids can enjoy it and keep it contained. It makes the cleanup much easier – we just whisk the whole tray away when it is time to move on to another activity.

slime from cornstarchWe either spoon out some slime onto the tray or put it into small plastic cups before class starts.

Accessories we provide children with include popsicle sticks, plastic spoons, little cups, plastic animals, toy people and/or characters to put in the slime. However, we don’t use all of these at once; maybe just one or two at a time.

messy fun projectWe do always use popsicle sticks, however, as these allow children who are a little tentative about the slime to play with it without having to touch it and get messy. Children love to cover the objects with slime and let it drip.

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Eventually the water slowly evaporates and the slime becomes cornstarch again.  Just add more water to get it back to the consistency you want.

art studio for kids njTo store, first pour off extra water, then keep in an uncovered container.  It will dry out, but you can just add warm colored water and mix, and you’re good to go again.

Happy sliming!





hello pool painting!

Summertime means enjoying outdoor activities such as going hiking or heading to the pool. Here at The Messy Artist, we’ve brought the pool INSIDE to do a fun art project with our younger students. It is a great physical art activity that gets the kids thinking about creating art in a non-traditional way – and to inspire them to look around them for other ways to create art from things they haven’t considered before.

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This was such a hit last year that we brought it back again this summer.  Click here to download a PDF lesson plan:  Pool Painting Lesson Plan

Age Level: 3- 6 years


  • To learn about primary colors and color mixing.
  • Gravity and texture are also concepts that can be discussed.
  • To get kids to think creatively about making art.
  • To use large muscle groups in creation.
  • To foster teamwork in making their paintings.


  • Kids or dog swimming pool (ours is a dog pool)
  • Tempera paint in squeezable containers (two primary colors, and white)
  • Golf balls – ideally, one per child
  • Plastic containers to hold golf balls (we use take round take-out containers)
  • 8×10 sheets of white paper (2 -3 per child)
  • small sponges (one per child)
  • bucket of soapy water
  • spray bottle with water

You will need an assistant for this project. You will also need an open space, large enough for the children to be circled around the pool.

Teacher Preparation:

  • Write each child’s name on the back of the a few blank pieces of paper before starting class so that they will each have some paintings to take home.
  • Make sure pool is clean.
  • Get a bucket with soapy water prepared for cleaning the pool afterwards.


  1. While sitting at a classroom table, tell the students about the project – they are going to be making art today with something they usually do something very different with! Show them some samples of previous paintings, and talk a little bit about primary colors. Explain how new colors can be made my mixing primary colors together and see if they can guess what new color will be created by the colors they are using. We chose blue and red on the day we did this project.the messy artist fine art classes for kids
  2. Have the kids walk over to an open area and hold hands to make a circle, then step back to make the circle even larger. Have the children sit down.new jersey art studio for kids
  3. Put pool in center of circle.
  4. Place sheets of paper down to cover bottom of pool.pool painting project with golf balls
  5. Have teacher or assistant squirt paint around the edges of pool.
  6. Ask each child to select a ball from the plastic container and drop it into the pool.best art class camp and parties new jersey
  7. Now ask the kids to stand up and start trying to roll the ball through the paint and across the paper by tilting the pool.
  8. Have the kids work together to send the balls rolling to each child – say “Let’s send the ball to Micah”, and give each child a turn. Talk about gravity pulling the balls down. The texture of the golf balls creates bumpy tracks on the paper.process oriented art for children
  9. If needed, add more paint.
  10. Once papers on bottom of pool are painted, remove them and add more.
  11. Continue a few times depending upon the age of the students and the number of papers you will need to each child can take one home.
  12. When finished, have the children again sit down and place the golf balls back in the plastic container.
  13. Next let them each pick out a sponge from another container and have them start cleaning, scrubbing the sides and bottom that have paint. Use a spray bottle to squirt waters on areas where the paint needs to be loosened up a bit more.best art class for children north jersey
  14. When sponges get paint filled, rinse them out and squeeze them in a container of soapy water. Hand back to the children so they can continue cleaning.
  15. The golf ball pool paintings dry quickly and can often be taken home the same day. We like to bring the parents into the classroom so they can see the completed artwork and how it was created.new jersey childrens art class party and camp

hello spherical paintings!

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We taught this lesson in our painting camp last month and were reminded what a great project it is. Kids learn about perspective, shadowing, color blending and more.  Download a PDF lesson plan here:  Spherical Paintings Lesson Plan

Spherical paintings

Age Group: 3rd – 5th grade


  1. Techniques: Learning about mixing paint colors
  2. Concepts: Learning about light sources, highlights, midtones, perspective and shadows


  1. 18 x 24” paper
  2. pencils
  3. paintbrushes
  4. tempera paint
  5. round containers to trace for circles
  6. water containers
  7. paper towels
  8. paper plates to use as palettes

(A note about paper plates: we like to use the coated ones, so they do not absorb the paint and leave less for the students to use. Also each size plate has its own advantages, and we choose which size to use based on the class’ age group and level.

Smaller plates allow for less area for the children to spread the paint around, and keeps it in more controlled areas. This is good for younger kids so they don’t end up using all their paint to cover the plates.

Larger plates provide more area for mixing colors and are ideal for older/more advanced students who need that freedom.)

Teacher Prep:

Organize materials: nothing to set up ahead of time


  1. Give each student a piece of paper and a pencil and have them write their name on the back.
  2. Show students an example of the project and talk about light sources, highlights, midtones and shadows. We find a diagram like this is helpful:new jersey art class for kids
  3. Hand out plastic containers for the students to trace overlapping circles onto their papers. the messy artist fine art classes camps and parties
  4. Before starting to paint, have children select the colors they will use. For this project, the spheres will be a primary color and the background will be a contrasting color (across the color wheel from the spheres’ color).
  5. Give each child a paper plate with their selected sphere color paint on it, plus white and black.
  6. Have the students determine their light source, then first paint the highlighted area of their spheres white. Show them how to follow the curve of the sphere with the paint.
  7. Next have them paint the midtone of their spheres with the pure primary color. They will next blend the paints right on the paper to create a graduated effect. best art parties classes camps Morris County NJ
  8. The final step for the spheres will be to have them use black along the shadow edge of their spheres. Again, they will blend the paint on their paper to create the shadow effect.
  9. Painting the background will complete these projects. Have the children mix up their contrasting color and paint the background of their paintings.  how to paint spheres with kids
  10. These painting generally dry rather quickly and can often be taken home the same day. messy artist art studio for kids process oriented art painting lesson plan for elementary aged kids

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