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.

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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