Hello tissue paper on foil collages!

the messy artist art classes for kidsWe like to do this multi-step layered project with our 4-5 year old students. Glue wash, foil and many colors of tissue paper allow students to create a graphic piece of art that they are always proud of.  Click here for The Messy Artist Tissue Paper Collages on Foil Lesson Plan.

Age Group:
4-5 year olds

Aluminum Foil
Black Sharpies
White Glue
Various colors of tissue paper, cut into squares or rectangles. (It can be interesting to have a visual theme: all warm colors, all cool colors, complimentary colors. etc. )
Brushes for glue wash.
Cups for glue wash.
Containers for tissue paper – one per every two childrenart class parties and cmap for children Morris County NJ

To learn about layering.
To think about graphic elements and colors.
To learn about gluing with glue wash.

Teacher Prep:
Cut cardboard into 8” x 8” squares
Cover cardboard squares in foil and tape to back.
Add child’s name to back of square,
Cut tissue paper into squares or rectangles.
Put cut tissue into containers for kids to access (one per every two children)
Make glue wash (½ glue and ½ water)
Put wash into small cups

Note: a different lesson that we like to do is with all circles (instead of squares or rectangles). We discuss big and small circles, overlapping circles, circles inside of circles and circles falling off the page.


  1. Show the children an example of the project and go over the steps with them.
  2. Pass out foil covered squares and black sharpies, one of each per child.
  3. Encourage the students to create designs and draw on the foil, filling the whole area but not covering the entire foil with black.  We like to talk about different types of lines for our different projects, and introduce children to the terminology. In this project, we do this by discussing:  horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines, as well as dashed lines and zig zag lines. Patterns can also be incorporated with the lines in the project.
    tissue paper glue art project for children
  4. Collect the sharpies and hand our glue wash and bushes. Have the kids start covering their squares with the glue wash.
  5. Tell the students to cover the entire square so they will be able to stick tissue over the whole square.north new jersey fine art class for kids
  6. Distribute containers with tissue squares and have the kids start sticking the squares onto the foil.art studio for kids east hanover nj
  7. Show them that they can layer the tissue by painting glue on top of an already placed square and sticking another one on top.tissue paper collage project
  8. When finished, we like to place these on a tray to dry so they do not stick to the tables, counter, etc. These will take some time to dry (depending on how much glue is used) and will be ready to go home with the students in a few days.best art classes for kids north jersey

foil for blog

painting with unusual objects

painting with group of kidsWe like to introduce unusual objects for our students to paint with and create prints with in our classes for our youngest children. These encourage children to think outside of the painting paradigm as something that can only be done with brushes or hands. We show them they can paint with almost any object, and to question the ordinary uses of objects. It also inspires them to really look at the shapes and properties of things and imagine creating art from them.fine art class for toddler kds new jersey

One of the ways we do this is at a favorite messy table station project. Especially popular at parties, this is a great activity for a group of children. Here we cover a table in white paper, and then put shallow trays with a thin layer of a different color paint in each corner.   We make sure the paper is taped down, well underneath the table, as sometimes the kids can get very energetic with this.the messy artist art  classes for children best art class for children nj east hanover

We put out our assortment of “odd objects”, none of which most kids have ever used for painting before. For example, we use potato mashers, legos (giant and regular sized), cars – even shoes sometimes. The kids have a great time testing all the objects and seeing what shape each object makes on the paper.painting with odd objects

You can always put another layer of paper on top if need be, and clean up is easy: just remove the tape, crumple up the paper, and you’ve got a clean table.process oriented art for children

We are always looking to recycle and reuse objects here at The Messy Artist, and if we can create art with these objects, that’s even better. One of our projects that does just that is our circle-printing project. We keep a bin specifically for odd round objects and add to it throughout the year. Then when we are ready to do this project, we are all set.the messy artist east hanover

Some of the many things we have collected are: plastic lids from different sized containers, scotch tape roll centers, (these create a prints with two different sized circles), film canisters, halves of plastic eggs…once you start looking, there are lots of out there.art with kids new jersey

For this we spread the paint thin on paper plates so that the kids are able to make crisp prints (too much paint creates a gummy print) and cut out paper circles for them to stamp onto.new jersey art studio for kids best art classes parties and camp nj

We do another project with flower stamping that also opens up the kids minds to new ideas of unusual things to paint or stamp with – even things from nature. Again, we use thin layers of paint on paper plates for the proper amount for printing, as well as for quick clean up.best art class for kids north jersey art class party camp morris county new jersey

Do you use non-traditional or recycled objects in creating art with kids? What are your favorite projects?

hello gelatin!

best art class party and camp morris county new jerseyIn our studio, one of the stations that is the most exciting for our youngest students is the “messy table”. Here we introduce a new sensory experience each week for them to explore, experiment with, create with – and yes, make a mess with.

Throughout the session, we cycle through a number of different substances– such as goop, slime, and snow dough, to name a few – and gelatin.   Kids love its jiggly motions and the way it is squishy and breakable; it has been in our rotation for about 10 years.art studio for kids northern new jersey the messy artist art studio for kids

How to enjoy play gelatin at home:

  • Mix up a batch of unflavored gelatin, using less water than the recipe calls for. We tend to use about 1/8 less than the recommended amount.   This makes it thicker and allows it to be cut into shapes and not break as easily. We use Knox brand, found at many grocery stores.      knox
  • We use unflavored gelatin so that even if a child does decide to taste it, the lack of flavor stops them from wanting more. We have noticed however that not too many children do try to taste it – perhaps jello is not as popular as a dessert now as it was a generation or two ago.
  • To give the gelatin color, we use food coloring.
  • For added visual interest, we add glitter. The glitter will often settle to the bottom while the gelatin cools, so we flip the cubes over as we serve them up, and then sprinkle more glitter on top.      north jersey art classes for children east hanover

We pour the gelatin into a 9” x 13” baking tray, and the once the gelatin has thickened, we cut it into squares. As with many of our messy activities, we put it on a tray for the children to enjoy: this keeps it easily contained for them, and makes cleanup easier for us.new jersey art class camp and party morris county sensory play for toddlersWe put out tools and toys for the kids to use to experiment with the gelatin: popsicles sticks, small plastic cups, tongs, plastic animals.

the messy artist gelatin sensory play fine art class nj for kids

Have you tried gelatin as a sensory material for children? Let us know!

hello Blue Collages!

gavin gouing objects onEach session, we have a specific theme for our youngest classes. This gives them a sense of pattern and lets them know what to look forward to each week. This Fall’s theme is color; these collage projects are a great way to delve into the color blue.

Click here to download a PDF lesson plan of Blue Collages

Age Level: 1.5 – 4 years


  • Focus on the primary color blue
  • Learn color mixing
  • Learn the properties of glue
  • Discussion of the different tones of blue, and textures of collage materials


  • 8×10 paper with the word “BLUE” written on it (capital letters are easier for these pre-readers to recognize)
  • white glue
  • blue food coloring
  • small plastic cups for glue
  • popsicle sticks for mixing glue
  • an assortment of collage items: we used blue corrugated paper, pasta wheels dyed blue, foam pieces of varying shades of blue, cut into different shapes
  • flat plastic containers to hold collage items
  • small stiff brushes for brushing gluecollage supplies

Teacher Prep:

  • Write the word “BLUE” on the paper, one per child (capital letters are easier for these pre-readers to recognize)
  • Fill plastic cups 2/3 full with white glue and add a few drops of blue food coloring
  • Add popsicle sticks for mixing glue
  • Arrange collage items in plastic containers, 1 per every 2 kids


  1. Teacher should demonstrate the project, starting by showing the children how to mix the glue so the blue food coloring mixes completely into the white glue, turning it blue.
  2. Show the students how to brush glue onto the paper, advising them to use a lot so that the collage items will stick to it.
  3. Demonstrate placing items into the glue and then tapping them so they affix to the paper.
  4. Hand out glue and have the students start mixing.misxing glue from above
  5. Once some students are finished mixing, have the children walk to the supply table and select a paper.michelle and jordanna picking up papaers
  6. Hand out brushes and instruct them to start brushing glue on the paper.jordanna brhsing glue on paper
  7. While the students are doing this, distribute the containers with collage supplies, placing one between every two students.
  8. Encourage the children to create the collage with the materials they choose.michelle gluing
  9. These projects will take time to dry and can go home the next class session.finished collage more collages



hello new decorations!

With the start of a new season – and session of classes – it was time for a fresh look for our studios. We are fortunate to have a giant wall of windows in our front classroom, which is great for letting light in to make art, and for showing our personality. We always like to have something eye-catching up front.the messy artist new jersey

This is our third look for our windows since we opened up in this location in 2012. The first was an array of paper lanterns.kids art class camp parties new jersey

The second was colorful ribbons.fine art class for children nj

But this one is the first one where me made the whole thing ourselves with these string balls.front of MA with string balls copy

Here’s how we did it:

  1. We wrapped string covered in white glue around different sized balloons. Finding places for them all to dry was sometimes a challenge, but we used all of our space.best art class for kids nj morris county new jersey kids art class
  2. We popped the balloons to remove them from the string – this part was fun. (well, all of it was fun – but this part especially so).ball vid
  3. Next we trimmed off any lumps and bumps from the glue.east hanover art class for children
  4. White spray paint was used to even out the color.process oriented art class
  5. The final step: attaching the strings and hanging.art studio for kids new jersey art studio for kids classes parties and camp njviv hanging string balls copy

We couldn’t be happier with the way our project came out, and customers are telling us they love the new look.

Do you have any fall redecorating plans? Let us know!

art class for childreb morris county nj



Lemon Juice Paintings

art studio for kids njThese multi-step paintings create a dreamy effect by using lemon juice to dilute and bleach the watercolor paints. Our mini-camp students had a great time making these during our summer session. Click here to download a lesson plan of Lemon Juice Paintings

Age Group: 3-6 years


  • To learn about painting with watercolors
  • To follow directions
  • To learn about the bleaching effects of lemon juice
  • Developing fine motor skills with the use of eye droppers


  • Water color paper – we used 6”x9”
  • Liquid watercolor – at least one set per 2 kids
  • Paint Brushes – one per every color pot of paint
  • Lemon juice – we like “Italia Garden” brandchildrens art studio north new jersey
  • Eyedroppers
  • Small cups for lemon juice, like condiment serving size

Teacher Prep

  • Put names on backs of watercolor paper. We find it is always easier to do ahead of time when we are doing anything that could drip or get smudged if we try to write the names on afterward.
  • Put one paint brush in each color of the watercolor sets. We do this so the students do not use a brush for more than one color and accidentally mix them in the pots. If they do mix colors, however, that’s okay too if it happens. It’s a balancing act of teaching the idea of not mixing brushes, yet also giving the children the freedom to explore.nj fine art class for kids
  • Put small amount of lemon juice into cups.


    1. Explain to the students that they will be creating a watercolor painting, and then creating a special effect by dropping a small amount of lemon juice onto them. The lemon juice will slightly dilute the paint as well as slightly bleach (“remove color”) from the watercolor paints.
    2. Hand out the watercolor paper with the kids’ names on the back.art class parties and camps morris county new jersey
    3. Distribute the watercolor paint sets. Putting one per every two children promotes sharing.
    4. Instruct the children to paint, covering their entire piece of watercolor paper.best kids art class north jersey
    5. Once they have finished painting, demonstrate how they will use the eyedroppers to put small drops of lemon juice on their paintings. Too much will mean they won’t be able to see its effects.childrens art class party and camp east hanover nj
    6. Distribute the lemon juice and eyedroppers, and have the children drip the lemon juice on their paintings.  Keep an eye on them so they do not add too much.art class for toddler elementary tweens teens new jersey lemon juice painting the messy artist
    7. These projects tend to be quite wet and take overnight to dry.art studio for kids new jersey



hello Claymation!

It is always hard to say good bye to summer and our summer camp programs here at The Messy Artist. One of the ways we make it easier is to schedule one of our favorite  – and most challenging – weeks of camp as our final one.claymation dinorsaurs

We started offering claymation about 6 years ago as a summer camp session, and we also teach claymation off site, in special workshops. Claymation is quite simply clay animation – creating a video with clay characters, with the illusion of motion achieved by making tiny movements frame by frame and videotaping them. The kids learn a lot from the step by step process and tediousness of creating a claymation video.fine art class for kids toddler through middle school

We start by having the kids brainstorm all together as a class to come up with a unifying idea. For this summer’s camp video, “Finding Deeno”, it was dinosaurs. Then the class breaks into pairs and creates storyboards for their snippet of the video. Next, they create their clay characters and the backgrounds.new jersey art class party and camp creative fun art camp video kids clay animation

Finally, the animation process is ready to start – they move their clay characters a minuscule amount each time before taking each photo. It takes patience and precision. For these stop motion videos, 10 photos for every second of video are needed. That’s 600 photos for just one minute! In today’s world of instant gratification it’s great for kids to work so hard on something so tedious.claymation for kids

Each team takes turns using the animation set up. One of the skills they learn – and that the kids really enjoy – is to create the illusion of something either growing or shrinking. They do this by first creating the clay character, fully formed. To make it appear to get smaller, they cut off a small piece, take a picture, cut off another small piece, take a picture, etc. To make something appear to grow, the students once again create a clay character. Then they use a string to slice it into horizontal segments. They then add one slice, take a picture, add another slice, take a picture, etc until the piece is fully together again. You can see this a couple of times in “Finding Deeno”.
claymation camp for children stop motion clay animation for kids

The students also make the titles for their individual chapters and their names for the credits. They get a lot of clay sculpting done in one week!claymation camp

To complete the process, they created posters to advertise their film.best nj art class camp and party fine art camp for kids nj the messy artist claymation

It’s impressive to see how quickly the kids learn this new skill, and how competent they are with the technology part. The excitement when we first load the pictures up to the software and see the images come together into a video is always a magical time in the classroom.

This year’s group of students worked hard on their claymation video, and we are proud to present it here:

Finding Deeno

We also have two claymation videos created in an offsite workshop this summer at Arts N Minds in Chatham, NJ. In this workshop, the class was arranged slightly differently. Each of the two groups was given the same topic to animate – caterpillars turning into a butterfly. The students followed all of the same techniques as in our summer camp (storyboarding, creating the characters, making backgrounds, etc) and made their videos. It’s interesting to see the difference in how they interpreted the same idea.


Epic Catipillar Transformation