hello Carla, pediatric occupational therapist !

We are thrilled to present a special guest post today from Carla Flynn, one of our favorite customers – who also happens to be a pediatric occupational therapist. Her unique insight into the way children learn (and specifically learn through art) is much appreciated. Much of occupational therapy’s philosophies are incorporated into our programs for young children here at The Messy Artist. We consciously choose activities to promote large and small motor control, as well as those that encourage social skills, such as sharing. That’s why you’ll often see one palette for every two children in our classes: we are introducing the ideas of sharing and taking turns.

carla OT 3 copy
Carla with her sons at The Messy Artist

Not only did Carla take time out of her busy schedule to write this blog post, she is the mother of a newborn baby girl. We are impressed with her dedication and energy, and can’t wait til her daughter is old enough to join us for art classes!

Hello, My name is Carla Flynn and I am excited to be a guest blogger for the Messy Artist. I am a wife and mother of three amazing children, two boys and a girl, ages 5, 3, and 2 months. I am also a pediatric occupational therapist who has been practicing in the field for 13 years with experience in private practice, early intervention and school-based settings. And if my schedule wasn’t busy enough, one year ago I decided to pursue my doctorate in occupational therapy with a concentration in pediatrics.

When I was presented the opportunity through the Messy Artist to blog about the profession I love, I thought… “Hey, why not!”

Occupational therapy is deeply rooted in art. The OT profession was born out of the arts and crafts movement of the early 1900’s. Occupational therapists are trained to use arts and crafts as meaningful and purposeful activities as an intervention for rehabilitation across the lifespan. I especially find art to be useful in my treatment sessions for the many amazing benefits that it provides to the children I serve.

I’d like to give you some insight into the mind of an occupational therapist. Our training and education allows us to see every activity in a new and different way. We are constantly analyzing situations, activities and tools to fit our client’s needs. For example, during an art project, I may use an easel or another vertical surface to strengthen a child’s upper extremity muscles and to promote wrist extension, which is necessary for handwriting. Within my therapy sessions, I love making collages with students or using decoupage. I ask my students to tear paper into small pieces or tear around pictures using their fingers. This effort is great for working on fine motor skills and isolating the muscles in the hands to address endurance as well as mental focus and concentration. Most children also enjoy drawing or coloring. I never pass on an opportunity to take out a variety of markers, crayons, chalk bits, colored pencils, pens, pastels and dot markers. Each of these tools provides a different kind of resistance while using them, therefore they can build fine motor strength and endurance and require children to grade pressure while creating their masterpieces. Many of the students that I see have difficulty holding a pencil using a functional writing grasp. Teachers are constantly pointing out this difficulty in students. Within my sessions, instead of sitting down to work on pencil grasp through writing, I will encourage the use of a paintbrush to create a piece of art because in doing so the student is mimicking the grasp pattern used when holding a pencil to write.

These applications for the use of art during my therapy sessions just scratch the surface in terms of the benefits that art provides for my students. Using art as a medium during therapy also has practical applications to assist with social skills, visual motor, visual perceptual and sensory skills. Most children enjoy creating and crafting so another great benefit is it is fun and provides an outlet for leisure skills.

From the perspective of this therapist, I can use art to get children to work on just about any skill I wish to address and without much resistance. Children just think they are having fun and I’m able to achieve great therapeutic results (but that will be my little secret!) In the end, I even get the title of “the coolest teacher”…enough said!!! 😉

Carla is employed by the Livingston BOE and is also Handwriting Without Tears Level 1 certified.  She can be reach at carlamcf.ot@gmail.com

carla OT copy

Thank you, Carla!

Comments? Questions? Want to guest blog for us? We’d love to hear from you!

Painting the pepper!

This week we’ve been finishing up the final details for this Saturday’s event – an unveiling of 3 of our Artist Harvest sculptures, with an invitation to the public to help us paint our “Peppered like Pollack.” We’ll be splattering our specially prepared 6 foot pepper Jackson Pollack style and want everyone to join us!peppered like pollack artist harvest

It’s all happening at the Livingston Oval, in Livingston NJ, from 10am – 1pm on Saturday May 23. The Oval is on South Livingston Avenue, behind the Livingston Library.

We are thrilled to be part of Livingston’s Family Festival Day, a special event during the town’s 18th annual Youth Appreciation Week.  The Family Festival Day is a community-wide celebration, from 10am-3pm, offering many family friendly activities.

We’ll be with the Food Day festivities, a perfect match for the Artist’s Harvest message of healthy eating. Donna Bernstein, owner and COO of the The Messy Artist was inspired to create The Artist Harvest from other large-scale sculptures projects such as “The Cow Parade” and “The Great Light Way”  (the West Orange light bulb sculptures). “I decided to create fruits and vegetables to instill healthy eating for children and to paint the sculptures in the style of famous artist to promote awareness of art history,” said Bernstein.   She added, “Another wonderful part of the process has been to watch the students work cooperatively to create community art.  I had never created large-scale sculptures, so it has been a learning process. We are thrilled with the end results and look forward to sharing them with the Livingston community.”munch room artist harvest straw dali artist harvest sculpture with kids the messy artist harvest large sculpture with kids the messy artist

Our “Straw-Dali” (a strawberry painted in the style of Salvador Dali) and Munch-Room (a mushroom painted in the style of Edvard Munch) are completed and will be on display. The Peppered like Pollack will be awaiting its painting in the style of Jackson Pollack, splattered by the public. We can’t wait to see how it turns out!

To learn more about Food Day go to www.foodday.org. or like the Livingston Food Day Facebook page at www.facebook.com/LivingstonFoodDay. To learn more about the Messy Artist go to www.messyartist.com. And to see the display, be sure to come out on Saturday for the Family Festival.

exciting Artist Harvest update!

All the hard work on the Artist Harvest is coming to FRUITion! (sorry, we couldn’t resist). We will be presenting 3 of our sculptures at the Livingston Oval on May 23 from 10-1 pm. Artist Harvest w Web

We are proud to announce that the Messy Artist will be featured at Livingston’s Family Festival Day, a featured event during the town’s 18th annual Youth Appreciation Week.  The Family Festival Day, scheduled for Saturday May 23, 2015, is a community-wide celebration, from 10am-3pm, offering many family friendly activities including pony rides, a petting zoo, craft tents, face painters, a giant blow-up obstacle course and slides, a chalk walk, and others.

The Messy Artist will be displaying half of the Artist Harvest collection in the Food Day tent.   Food Day is a nationwide celebration focused on access to healthy foods and it was created to inspire positive changes in our diets and our food policies.  Livingston is an active participant in this real food movement and has hosted food day events for the past three years.  Our Artist Harvest collection, a concept conceived by Donna, excites children and adults alike about fruits and vegetables while also honoring the style of a famous artist.

On display at the Food Day tent will be 3 pieces out of the 6-piece collection:

  • Munch-Room- a mushroom painted in the style of Edvard Munchsummer art camp nj
  • Straw-Dali – a strawberry painted in the style of Salvador Dalifine art class nj
  • Peppered like Pollack- a pepper painted in the style of Jackson Pollackartist harvest the messy artist

Here is where you come in! Because we want to get even our youngest artists involved in this public art project, children will be invited to help us complete the Peppered like Pollack.  The display will start at 10am with the pepper in plaster ready for paint and we will end our display at 1pm with a work of art thanks to our many visitors who will pick up a brush and splatter away.   Please consider joining us, and dress for the mess!

Here’s a slideshow of The Artist Harvest Project as it has progressed. Students and staff have been working together to create the giant fruits and vegetables:

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To learn more about Livingston’s Youth Appreciation Week go to http://www.youthappreciationweek.org/

To learn more about Food Day go to www.foodday.org and to learn more about Livingston’s efforts, email Stacey Rubinstein at staceyrubinstein@gmail.com or like the Livingston Food Day Facebook page at www.facebook.com/LivingstonFoodDay.

hello sand on sandpaper!

the messy artist new jerseyAs we move though our session exploring texture, our sand on sandpaper artworks get the kids immersed in sand’s gritty characteristics. This project is lots of fun and turns out beautifully; sometimes the sand has an almost dreamy screen-print appearance.

Age Level: 2.5 – 6


  • Exploring the texture of sand
  • Following directions
  • Learning about glue

art lesson plan with sandMaterials:

  • Sandpaper – we use 60 -100 grit (coarse to medium so the texture is readily felt)
  • Glue in squeeze bottles
  • Colored sand, 2 or more colors
  • Salt shakers   (Note: We spent a lot of time finding just the right shakers to use for the sand. We learned through trial and error that some have holes that are too big, while others we tried have a shaker half and a pour half that kids like to open and dump. Good old-fashioned salt shakers are just right on all accounts: they’re the perfect size for little hands, are easy to fill, and the holes allow the sand to sprinkle out in the correct amount. At first we were a concerned because they are glass, but the glass is so thick that it’s not a problem.)
  • Trays with edges
  • Labels

Teacher Preparation:

  • Cut sandpaper to 5 x 7 “ if not already that size
  • Put sand into shakers
  • Write each child’s name on a label and put on back of piece of sandpaper, then place in tray. This makes it easy to hand out the pre-labeled sandpaper to each child, and keeping the project confined to a tray makes for quicker cleanup.

art project 4 year oldProcedures:

Talk to the children about sand – where they may have seen it before (beach, sandbox) and then discuss its texture. Ask them for words to describe it.

Explain that the sandpaper already has sand on it, but they are going to be adding more, in a special design that they create.

art studio for kidsDemonstrate squeezing the glue onto the sandpaper by holding the bottle close to the sandpaper, not high in the air.

art party for kids njThen they will sprinkle sand onto the sandpaper by using the sand shakers, mixing the colors if they want.

best art class for kids new jerseyNext they will pick up the sandpaper with both hands, shake it back and forth so the sand covers all the glue, and then finally tip the sand off onto the tray. The only sand left will be stuck to the sandpaper.

fine art classes for children nj art class and camp njIf the students want, they can add more glue and shake sand again onto their artworks.

art lesson planThese artworks take overnight to dry and we send them home the next time the class meets.

Hello JCC MetroWest!

jcc logoWeʼre growing! Starting this summer, we are expanding our class locations to include the JCC MetroWest in West Orange. Weʼre thrilled about this partnership that will allow us to bring our early art education classes to a wider audience. Our 7 week classes this summer will be Picasso (age 18 month – 3 year with caregiver) and Chagalls (3 -5 year olds, drop off).

To kick things off, we will be hosting a free open house at the JCC on Wednesday May 6. This will give families a chance to check out the classroom, see our unique station play set up, and meet the staff. Donna Bernstein, owner and creator of The Messy Artist, will be leading the open house and happy to provide information about the program. Please RSVP so we know to expect you!5 and under strip

Wednesday May 6
10 am – 12 pm
 * Free *
ages 18 months – 5 years
JCC MetroWest
760 Northfield Ave
West Orange, NJ 07052
Please RSVP to Katy Strulson, kstrulson@jccmetrowest.org or 973-530-3915


What can we expect at the open house and Messy Artist classes at the JCC?

The same things we bring to our classes at our regular studios! For the open house, children and parents will experience our program first hand and enjoy creative play time together. Students can explore different activities, including our sensory box full of colorful beans, our messy station featuring our stretchy, sticky and gooey goop, painting with odd objects, and a collage project.the messy artist fine art classes for kids

What should my child wear?

We will provide smocks , but sometimes things can get messy, so it’s best to wear clothes that can get dirty.flower ptg 3 chagalls logo

Do we have to be Jewish to attend?

No – all are welcome to attend the Messy Artist open house – as well as any activities – at the JCC.

fine art class childrenHow do I register?

Please RSVP to Katy Strulson, kstrulson@jccmetrowest.org or call 973-530-3915.