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:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

Hello Alexandria!  

This week we are introducing you to a young volunteer here at The Messy Artist: Alexandria, an 8th grade middle school student. After seeing our sign one day while driving by with her mother, she reached out to us about interning. She joined us this summer and currently helps out in our Chagalls classes of 3-6 year old children. Her patience and ability to relate to the students are wonderful complements to the passion she has for both art and children.

new jersy art class for kids


How long have you been coming to The Messy Artist?
Since July of 2014, for the summer.

Why did you want to intern/volunteer here?
I wanted to volunteer at a place that I can use my skills/love of art and work with children.

art studio for kids new jersey

What is the best part about interning at The Messy Artist?
Connecting with the children, and being able to work/teach to every child. Also, learning about new art projects/ideas that I can share with other teachers and peers.

Have you always enjoyed working with young kids? Have you had other experience doing this?
Yes, I have been working with kids for a long time, and have always enjoyed it. Before I came to The Messy Artist I worked with children, but mainly with children at a special needs camp.

What’s your favorite age group to work with?
Any age group, but if I would have to choose, it would be with 3-8 year olds.art class for elementary toddler and middle school children

We know you help your mom a lot with children with special needs. Do you prefer working with typically developing children or children with special needs?
I don’t prefer any type of children – with or without disabilities – but I have a special place in my heart for children with special needs.

What is your first memory of making art?
In my first grade art class, I drew a still life picture, using pastels, charcoal, and color pencils and realizing my talent because I won an art award.

The Messy Artist Alexandria art

Alexandria’s award winning artwork was made into a notecard by the school. Here is one of them.

Do you have a favorite medium (painting, pencil, clay)?
Pencil and painting but only acrylic – not watercolor.

What are your favorite things to do in your free time?
Drawing, All-Star Cheerleading, Reading and completing puzzles.

What advice do you have for adults, about art or kids? 
I would want adults to encourage each child with positive feedback with each project/picture that they draw. Also, to engage with their imaginary play and design of what they made.best art class for children morris county nj

What is your favorite place that you have been?
The beach in Lavallette.

What is your favorite project you have done at The Messy Artist?
The frozen paint, because while we drew with the cubes of frozen paint it would melt away in your hands. Art and Science combined!frozen paint messy artist

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us, Alexandria – and for coming in to intern every week! You help make The Messy Artist a special place.


hello studio 356!

studio-356-logoWe are thrilled to announce the addition of Studio 356 to The Messy Artist studios. This expansion will allow us to offer a special program of fine art classes for older children and adults through Studio 356, while continuing our commitment to early childhood art education in The Messy Artist.Untitled-1-1024x525The Messy Artist was created by Donna Bernstein, an early childhood educator. She conceived of a place like The Messy Artist in 1999 after having searched for toddler classes that would introduce her son Corey (4), to the joys of creative art play. She didn’t find such a class. Undeterred, she started her own unique art classes, first held in a church, and from there to dedicated quarters in South Orange, where classes were geared for children 18 months – 6 years.

Donna Bernstein

Donna Bernstein

Over the years, families began requesting higher level fine art classes. As that demand grew, The Messy Artist realized the need for staffing with a fine art background. Viviana, who had been with The Messy Artist since 2006, took on her current position as director of fine arts right after their move to East Hanover in 2012.

Viviana, Director of the Fine Arts Program

Viviana, Director of the Fine Arts Program

After relocating and having room to expand, it was time for “the little kid” art studio to grow up a bit. To begin the metamorphosis, The Messy Artist brought Anthony and Jessica aboard. Both employees have a bachelor’s degree in art education.





Two years later, The Messy Artist is pleased to debut its new home for fine art, Studio 356. It is the culmination of all of our artistic and educational expertise. We are proud to expose young minds to the endless possibilities of fine art, and to assist them in refining their craft.

messy artist art class for children batiks best art classes and parties north jersey morris county nj messy artist art classes for kids summer art camp for kids new jersey ? and YugiStudio 356 offers the following for older children and adults in our East Hanover Studios.

5yrs-up-1024x111 adult-art-classes-1024x111 afi-1024x111 adult-workshops-1024x111 corporate-events-1024x111


Please visit our website or stop by our studios if you would like more information about Studio 356.


hello autumn leaf symmetry project!

art class camp and party new jerseyThis is a bright and fun project that never fails to intrigue the students. The children love the magic of the process, and we love that we can teach them about symmetry and color mixing in a memorable way. It also ties in the way the leaves around us are changing this time of year.  Click here to download a PDF of Autumn Leaf Symmetry Project

Age Level: 2 ½ – 4 years

To teach the kids about symmetry
To teach the kids about color mixing
To relate the project to what is happening in nature

Construction paper
Tempera paints
Small plastic (condiment size) cups
Plastic lids from takeout containers
Small wooden craft sticks
Small labels

Teacher Preparation:

  • Prepare construction paper for leaf shapes. First fold each piece in half, and then cut the leaf shape. It is important to do it in this order so that the leaves are symmetrical, with the sides of the leaf matching up when folding them. We use a template to ensure the same shape each time.
  • Place 3 colors of paints (that when mixed together will create brown) into small condiment cups. We use colors that make brown since the leaves are turning brown too. We used red, orange and green.
  • Arrange a set one of each color into a larger plastic container for ease of carrying and use by the students.process oriented art for children
  • Depending on the size of the class, we have one for every student or one for every two students.best art classes for kids north new jersey
  • Write children’s names on labels that will go on back of project.       Remember to prepare more than one if each child will be doing more than one leaf. You can also put the labels on the back of the papers beforehand and just make sure to distribute the leaf shapes to the appropriate child.the messy artist art studio for kids nj


  • Show the children an example of the project and explain that they will be making this kind of painting with sticks – and a special trick!
  • Demonstrate using the craft stick to get paint from the container and then tap, tap, tapping it onto the paper. Encourage the students to use a lot of paint: the more the better for blending the colors together.
  • Fold the paper in half. Rub the paper while saying “magic words” (abracadabra, shazam, etc) and then open it to reveal the symmetrical painting. Point out how some colors may have mixed together and how their leaf painting is symmetrical (the same on each side).autumn art project with children
  • Distribute leaf paper and sets of paint with sticks.
  • Remind children to use the sticks to tap paint onto their leaves.fall leaf art project
  • Caregivers may need to help with the rubbing and folding.fine art class new jersey
  • Students can add more paint and then refold and rub the leaves again.symmetry art project preschool

Do you have any favorite fall-themed projects? Please let us know!

hello tongs!

childrens art new jerseySometimes we come across something that we think is so wonderful that we just want to share it, and can’t wait to incorporate it into our curriculum. These tongs are an example of this.

art studio for kids njWe love using tongs with our young students; they intrigue them, many having never encountered them before. Their size is just perfect for little hands, and the fun colors are appealing to the children. They also are sturdy, which is important. At one point we introduced a set of plastic tongs to use in class one day. However, the children discovered they were also fun to “snap”, and by the end of the day all our tongs were broken!

fine art class for toddlers tweens and teens njWe had been on the hunt for new tongs for a while, and Donna, our CEO was very excited when she found these at Home Goods. As she has learned through experience, it’s always best to buy many more than you need, for when things break or wear out. Often times it is impossible to find the same item again, so we try to get as many as possible and store them or future use. So yes, Donna purchased all the tongs available when she found these.

the messy artist art studio for kidsAs they work to master the tongs, the students are getting a great workout. They are using fine motor control with their hands, and also having to carefully figure out the amount of pressure to use. For example, when they are using tongs with gelatin, they must find the balance between enough pressure to pick up the gelatin and not too much, or else they will smash it.

tongs as art tool for kidsPicking up squishy balls in our sensory box is much easier for younger students, yet still offers a challenge. These students worked together for 45 minutes, showing great coordination and cooperation as they decided which color balls should go where, and how to do it. They used the tongs to move them to the desired areas, sometimes with an intermediary stop of a bucket.best art class for kids morris county nj sensory play for childrentongs in sensory play for children

Do you use tongs in your classroom? How about any other kitchen implements? Let us know!

hello new blanket! or, ode to an old blanket

In classes for our youngest students, we wind up each day’s session with a story, often thematically related to what we have done in class that day. The kids all sit on our story time blanket to listen, a happy spot to change gears after making art, and enjoy a picture book read to them by our staff. We also use the blanket in our Storybook Art class, where we read a book each week and then create art inspired by it.

story time for childrenLast week Donna, our CEO, bought a new colorful blanket. Our old blanket, though still clean and cheerful, was retired. We took a moment to reflect on our simple blanket that had been with us since our second South Orange studio, up the hill and behind a famous local deli.

For 7 years the blanket was with us every day, offering a cozy spot for all our students to sit while they listened, sometimes snuggling on a caregiver’s lap. Before the old blanket – a quilt really – we used to do story time on the ground.

At one point, Donna, our CEO and founder, started thinking about ways to make story time even better, and remembers, “Like everything we do, we think long and hard about just the right way to do things and the right materials to use. When I decided to use a blanket for story time, I wanted a quilt. It just seemed right.  It had to be just the right quilt, with bright fun colors, and also large enough to seat 10-14 children. Most quilts with a child’s design are for cribs or twin beds, and it was hard to find.” When she stumbled across our first quilt at Marshall’s, she knew immediately it was what she had been seeking.

the messy artist art studio for kids story
We have now been in our new studio in East Hanover for over 2 years. The trusty blanket made the move with us, a landing place for toddlers and other youngsters every day. Thousands of children have had countless joyful moments on our story time blanket. It is incredibly heartwarming to think back on people and things that have been with us for so long. So, thank you, old blanket, for being our loyal companion for so long, and inspiring us to remember what a wonderful journey we are on, teaching art and so much more to so many young students.

So now, it is time for a new blanket, just as comfy and bright as the old one. We look forward to all the new children to come along and grace our blanket with their open minds, big hearts and shining faces. The journey continues…..art classes and story time for children nj art class parties and camp story time for kids