Hello paint – and glue – and salt!

messy artist art studio for kids njHere’s a new project we just tried for the first time: watercolor paintings, layered with glue and then salt.  We’ve been intrigued with the idea of salt paintings for a while and were happy to have the opportunity to check them out with our Chagalls class.  This class is made of kids ages 3-6, a great age jump into this multi-step project.

First we gave a lesson about watercolors: what they are, and how to get the paints nice and wet so that they brushes pick up color.  We advise the students to swirl their brushes in the paints for a count of 5 to be sure to get saturated color in them.

nj art parties classesfine art childrens classes NNJ north jersey fine art classes and partiesThe students are instructed to cover the whole paper with paint – paint it so we don’t see any white.  To make sure the paper stays wet and to help the colors cover the paper, we walk around with a spray bottle and add extra water if needed.

best childrens art class new jerseyAfter the kids have finished painting, we hand out glue bottles.  They add swirls or any designs of their choice on top of their paintings.

the messy artist watercolor glue salt projectThe final step is to shake on the salt onto the paintings; we find that fine sea salt works better than other types.  We use cake decorating shakers, with some of the holes taped over if the salt comes out too fast. 

paint and salt glue kids art project nj kids fine art class the messy artistThe salt adheres to the glue and creates an interesting texture after the paintings and glue are all dry.   Have you used salt as a texture elements in paintings?  Show us pictures of your salt paintings!

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hello Amy!

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Sometimes life has a wonderful way of circling back around. Back when I was first starting The Messy Artist 15 years ago, teaching classes in a rented classroom a few days a week, I would also help my sister by caring for my niece. I would take her to her nursery school, located just up the street from me in the South Mountain neighborhood of Millburn. (The nursery school was located in an elementary school that had been closed due to low enrollment and was being leased to the nursery school. It has since been re-opened into a neighborhood elementary school – my son went there and many of our current students now attend it!)

Between drop off, pickup, and school activities I got to know the teachers at the school well, and could see the wonderful instruction and care that the students received.  One teacher in particular that stood out was Amy.  I was able to observe her teaching style and interactions with the children and was always impressed by her calm, warm and knowledgeable style.  Amy was not only a skilled teacher, but a wonderful manager: she came to become assistant director of the nursery school.

Eventually, my niece graduated from nursery school. The Messy Artist also grew, and moved from Millburn to two different locations in South Orange and then to our current space in East Hanover.

One day, right before our move to East Hanover, I got a call out of the blue from Amy.  She was looking for work, and wanted to know if The Messy Artist was hiring.  Of course, I wanted to leap at the chance to have Amy become part of The Messy Artist family, but did not have an Assistant Director level position open at the time.  However, after discussing the situation further, it worked out perfectly – as a mother now, Amy was looking for a lifestyle change that would allow a lower responsibility position yet still provide the opportunity to continue  her love of working with children.  We are thrilled to have Amy at The Messy Artist in an ideal position for all of us.

-Donna Bernstein, owner/creator of The Messy Artist

fine art classes Morris County Amy-3Here is our interview with Amy, in her own words.

What are the first art experiences you remember as a child?

Some of the first art experiences that I remember as a child are easel painting while in nursery school and creating puppets and putting on puppet shows when I was in first grade.

What is your background in early childhood education?

I earned a A.S. degree in Early Childhood Education and my B.S.degree in Human Services. All of my internships were with young children and their families.

How long have you worked at the Messy Artist? What is your position?     

 I have worked at The Messy Artist since the spring of 2012. I was fortunate to be a part of the move to our wonderful studio in East Hanover.  I am an assistant teacher.

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Please say a little about your previous role as Assistant Director of the South Mountain Preschool.  How does that affect how you teach here at The Messy Artist?

I was a teacher and the Assistant Director at South Mountain Nursery and Kindergarten for 18 years.  South Mountain School rented space in Millburn and then in Maplewood until it closed in the Fall of 2004. Most of the children were in our care for a full day. Our time was filled with getting very messy indoors and out!  I am proud of the title I held during my years there: I was known as” The Pied Piper” of the two year olds.  My mantra was “It’s the Process NOT the project!”

Tell us about your own children. What kind of art projects and / or messy play activities do you like to do with your own kids?

My work at the Nursery School did help prepare me for the next stage of my life, becoming a parent. I have a nine year old son and a seven year old daughter both adopted from South Korea as infants. Together we have always incorporated art/messy play into our days. When my children were toddlers and preschoolers we would use play dough (some store bought, some homemade). We would go on walks and collect sticks, acorns and leaves and create collages. The children have always enjoyed cooking with me and we had a special stand  called “A Learning Tower” in our kitchen that would allow them to be counter height.

What are some of your favorite projects or topics that we teach?

 Some of my favorite materials at The Messy Artist include our new  and wonderful Snow Dough and Slime because I like to watch the amazement on both the children’s and adults faces as it keeps “changing” from solid to liquid. Over the summer, during our mini-camp drop off weeks, it gives us a chance to do some elaborate art work that requires a few steps. Last summer our 3-5 year olds made 3-D sculptures with card board tubes and then painted them.

Amy and a student enjoy Snow Dough at our messy table
Amy and a student enjoy Snow Dough at our messy table

What advice do you have for parents to help them to encourage their children in art?

It is so important that adults provide children with hands on activities through out their day. Children are sponges and they will soak up everything that you do. Remember that being messy is OK! If you are hesitant the children will be too.   Set the tone by being silly, laughing, listening to music. Try to be outdoors each day and show the children all of the beauty in nature as well.

fine art childrens kids classes new jerseyThank you for sharing, Amy – we always love to hear your perspectives on kids, learning and art.

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hello snow dough!

snow dough creative fine art the messy artistWe recently learned about this wonderful tactile sensory mixture called snow dough.  Even though we have been getting more than enough snow outside here in the northeast United States, we  love playing with it INSIDE! It is very simple to make as only two ingredients are needed: shaving cream and baking soda.  That’s it!  We like to sprinkle some glitter on it to give it some extra visual interest, but that is optional.  

Snow Dough:

  • Get a large container and spray out ½ – 1 can of shaving cream into it.  If you are making this with kids, they will enjoy helping with this part.
  •  Then slowly add ½ – 1 box of baking soda into the shaving cream.  Adding more baking soda makes it thicker and more moldable, while less creates a looser consistency.

Sprinkle on some glitter when done mixing if desired.making snow dough The snow dough will “set” and get thicker over time.  The shaving cream and baking soda also create a reaction that causes the snow dough to get cooler as time goes by – making it more like real snow and surprising the kids when they touch it. kids art class elementary middle high school nj snow dough kids art fun projectWe set it out on trays, with sticks to use for the children that are more tentative about getting their fingers messy. fine art classes for kids north nj snow dough kids project winter Children (and their adult caregivers) really enjoy exploring this fun mixture.   We’ve seen lots of snowmen and snow blocks created.  Have you tried snow dough?  What do you do with it? snow dough snowman art party and class nj snow dough cubes the messy artist nj

hello hearts!

art class party kids nj best coverWe like to do heart-shaped art projects leading up to Valentine’s Day with our youngest students.   Here are two projects we did recently, for age groups 18 months – 3 years, and the slightly older 2 ½ – 4 year olds.  We focus on projects that the children can do all on their own so they can experience the power of artistic choice and accomplishment, even from this young age.

Sponge Heart Stamping

These young artists are encountering many of these art concepts and tools for the first time, so we make things easy for their little hands and appropriate for their motor skills.

children's art studio nj heart projectWe cut hearts out of sponges and allow the children to press them into different colors of paint, then stamp them on to paper.   The sponges have an appealing texture and hold the paint nicely.

We have two tricks that make this project go smoothly.  The first is the type of sponge we use.  We have found that these compressed “miracle sponges” are very easy to cut into shapes – much simpler than attempting to cut a regular sponge.  You can draw on them and then cut them as if you are cutting thick paper.  Once you put them into water the sponge plumps up into shape.  We get ours from Dick Blick:


The second thing we do is to make sure the optimal amount of paint is used.  As with all printmaking, it is important to use the right amount of ink so that the image is clear and not blobby.  We’ve found that using these paper plates with a small amount of paint, spread thinly, works best.  More paint can always be added as needed.  Clean up is also easy as the plates can just be tossed at the end of class.

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As with all out projects, we encourage the children to explore, trying the materials how they wish, so moving into finger-painting is good learning fun too!

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Heart Symmetry Paintings

The students here are provided with pre-folded heart shaped paper and a coordinating paint palette.

NJ fine art class kids heart project

We teach them about symmetry and then let them enjoy dabbing paint on their hearts, folding them, and seeing the magic of the paint transferring to the opposite side.

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art party class north jerseyParents love to display these projects for Valentine’s Day, or give them to loved ones.

art class party kids nj bestWhat are your favorite Valentine’s Day projects to do with your young artists?  Please let us know!