hello autumn tree painting collage!

and….happy Halloween!

art class for toddler elementary school kids new jersey

This project lets the students put together skills they have been working on all session. It combines finger painting, cutting and gluing. This multi-step project works well with our class design; the children participate in station play for the first part of the class, where they complete the initial step of the project. Later, they all join together and finish the rest as a group. Click here for a PDF Autumn Tree Painting Collage.

Age level: 3-5 years


  • Following sequential directions.
  • Learning about color mixing and the color brown.
  • Developing cutting and gluing skills.


  • Finger paint (orange and blue)
  • Trays
  • Texture tools
  • Cardstock
  • 18” x 24” paper or cardstock
  • white glue in squeeze bottles
  • patterned paper
  • scissorsbest art class for children north nj

Teacher Prep:

  • Cut out tree shapes from cardstock, one per child
  • Cut patterned paper into ½” strips
  • Write each child’s name on a sticker that will go on the back of the cardstock tree

Cutting skills:  This class is often our 3-5 year olds’ first experiences with using scissors, a difficult skill to master, especially for this age group.  We do a few things to make this introduction successful for children who otherwise would not be ready for it.

  • We have two different types of easy to use scissors.  One set has a simple loop instead of finger holes; the others are the traditional type.  We start out giving the kids the traditional style, then offer the loop style if they are having difficulty.images-1
  • We prepare the paper for them to cut by creating ½ “ strips. This offers them a very small area to cut, much simpler than a larger area.
  • We offer lots of instruction to the caregivers who are helping out, giving them ways to aid the students.   For this project, we remind them “thumbs up” while holding the scissors, and encourage the adults to hold the paper strips for the children to give them one less thing to coordinate.

Note: It is helpful to have a co-teacher or assistant for this project as there is one step that adults do for the children


First phase:

  1. We usually do this during free-range station play, and put out trays with orange and blue finger paint.
  2. We encourage the children to mix the colors together with their hands until they get brown.the messy artist fine art classes for kids
  3. At that point, we give them the pre-cut tree trunk cut from cardstock and a texture tool. They finger paint the tree and can add texture with the tool – or their fingers – if they like.autumn kids art project
  4. Make sure to add their name sticker to the back so you know whose painting is whose.

Phase 2:

  1. Set the trees aside to dry; it doesn’t take very long.
  2. Have an adult glue each dried tree trunk onto an 18” x 24” piece of paper or cardstock with white glue.
  3. Write child’s name on front of paper.collage for kids art project 3 year old

Phase 3:

  1. The instructor should go over a brief cutting lesson as they demonstrate cutting the patterned strips into small pieces.
    1. We like to say “thumbs up” to remind the children which way to put their fingers into the holes.
  2. Pass out the scissors and the patterned paper strips.
  3. Asking the caregivers to hold the strips for the children can make it easier for them.morris county new jersey kids art classes art classes party and camp for children new jersey
  4. Once the children have cut up a few strips and have a pile of smaller pieces, hand out their trees and a glue bottle.
  5. Show them how to dab on a dot of glue and then place a square into it.the messy artist and art studio for kids
  6. It’s good to have some extra squares on hand in case a child is having difficulty cutting enough squares in the time allotted. They can the use some of these when it is time to glue.
  7. Let them add the squares to their project so that they look like leaves falling from their tree.new jersey best kids art class
  8. You may want to turn the paper around for the kids to reach more easily.
  9. These take some time to dry and go home the next class session.cutting project for 3-5 year olds

What are your favorite fall projects? We’d love to hear about them!





hello October events!

We’ve got lots of events coming up that we want to share with you. So fasten your seatbelts, here we go!

  • Book Drive. For the second year in a row we are partnering with Bridge of Books to collect new and gently used children’s books. Our book drive started at the beginning of October and is going until the end of the month.  Please come on by and drop off any donations in our lobby. Last year we were able to deliver over 400 books thanks to your generosity and we hope to do the same this year!
Student helpers who volunteered to help us sort books last year
Student helpers who volunteered to help us sort books last year

the messy artist art classes for kids

  • Pumpkin Carving at Field Station: Dinosaurs in Secaucus.   field station logoThis Saturday and Sunday (October 25 and 26), we are bringing one of our favorite activities – pumpkin carving – to a super fun place: Field Station: Dinosaurs. Staff from The Messy Artist will be on hand in a special event to help visitors unleash their creativity at Field Station: Dinosaurs from 11am-3pm each day. The carving workshop is free with admission to Field Station: Dinosaurs.Pumpkin Carvingpumkin carving art class for kids

You can bring you own pumpkin, or buy one there from Field Station: Dinosaurs.

And we have a special treat (no tricks!): 20% off your admission either day! Click this link to get the coupon to print out or show on your phone to get the discount: http://myemail.constantcontact.com/20–off-admission–Pumpkin-Carving-at-Field-Station–Dinosaurs-with-The-Messy-Artist-.html?soid=1116109131156&aid=wTDDkV8utIg


  • Halloween Bash!halloween party for kids nj

Join us for Messy Artist Fun with a Halloween Twist! We’ll decorate a trick-or-treat bag, play with slimy spaghetti, paint with fall colors – and more – at our Halloween Bashes on Halloween weekend. Great for siblings.

  • Spook-tacular Halloween Bash!
  • Friday October 31 and Saturday November 1, 2013
  • 10 am – 12 noon
  • 1.5 – 6 year olds with caregiver
  • $35 per child/$30 per sibling
  • (no costumes needed– we’re getting messy!)halloween MA logo


  • Mini camp for NJ Teacher Conference Days: Thursday Nov 6 and Friday November 7.october art events
  •  Thursday 11/6 and Friday 11/7
  • 9:30 – 11:30 am
  • $40 per child/$35 per sibling or additional day
  • (additional lunch add-on available for $10 (11:30 – 12:30)
  • 3-5 years/1st-2nd grade
  • drop off
  • Registration required.
  • https://www.formstack.com/forms/themessyartist-minicamp

For our 3 – 5 year old mini-camp, we’ll start out with some exploratory station play. Children are free to roam from station to station whenever they wish. The sensory box, easels, play dough, and a messy activity will all be available for your child to sample throughout the first part of the day. We’ll break for a light snack and a story, and then continue on with a spectacular fine art project. Teachers will give a short lesson, and then guide the children in creating a work of art they’ll be proud to bring home.

art camp for kids north jerseyFor our 1st – 2nd grade mini camp, students will immerse themselves in a multi-step, teacher directed project. We’ll discuss an artist, an art concept, or explore a new medium, all while working hard to create a one-of-a-kind mini masterpiece. We’ll also pause midway to have a snack.

Kids in both age groups are welcome to sign up for an add-on lunch option either or both days.

We hope to see you at one of our Fall events!

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!