Kids’ art should be—well, like child’s play. Right? But, between the tools, materials, set-up, clean-up and everything else that goes along with creative crafting, I bet that you could use a break. At the very least you could use a hack—an art hack. We’ve all seen life hacks that are meant to make everyday living a little easier. They are the ridiculously simple, yet oddly brilliant, creations that seem to make everything from doing your laundry to gardening just a pinch less challenging.
Here are some of my favorite art hacks. These aren’t just from my experience as a mom, but also from year after year of teaching children’s art program at a museum’s studio.
What kid doesn’t adore sparkles? And, what mom doesn’t want to pull her hair out as the teeny, tiny shiny morsels seem to magically spread out all over the house. Here’s the scenario: Your 4-year-old throws a splash of glitter here and a fistful of sparkles there. She’s aiming for the glue on her paper, but it’s just not easy to get it on that little zig-zagging line. Make a glitter carry-all that doubles as an easy aim releaser. Poke a hole in the bottom of a cardboard egg carton compartment (poke a hole in each segment if you’re using multiple colors). Cover the hole with a piece of blue painter’s tape. Fill the compartment with glitter—it’s a caddy! When your child is ready to work, release the tape and let the glitter sprinkle out of the bottom onto her artwork. You can also use this idea for craft sand as well.
Tissue Paper Colors
You gladly wrapped your sister’s birthday present in royal purple tissue paper. It rained. You walked to your car (present in hand) and suddenly your paws were purple too. You curse the bleeding tissue. Even though non color-fast tissue sucks when the color spreads in an unwelcome situation, it’s pretty great when you’re talking about your child’s art-making.
Are you out of water colors? Does your child wish that her white modeling clay was pink? Use tissue paper to add a rainbow! The trick is—you can only use non color-fast tissue. When bright, bold and dark colors get wet (or you soak them in a cup of water), the pigment releases. For example, toss some green paper into a cup of water and you’ll get lime-hued paint.
The art process is over, and now your kitchen table looks like a rainbow unicorn threw up on it. There’s glitter everywhere – EVERYWHERE! What do you do? Certainly you can use a sponge and some paper towels. But, you can also run some white modeling clay or Model Magic over the sparkles. The stickiness of the clay compound will pick up the glitter. Don’t toss the clay when you’re done cleaning. Save it in a plastic zipper bag for your child to make a sparkly sculpture later on.
Your child wants to mix and blend her paints, but they seem to be stuck in those little plastic bottles. She can mix them on her paper. Or, you can make your own palette out of a plastic-ware lid. Instead of buying a pricey version at the arts and crafts supply store, take one of those missing-its-mate lids (you know you have a few dozens of those) and use it as a make-shift palette. Take a look at the edges. They have a little ridge that will keep the paint from pouring over. The slick surface is super-easy to clean too!
If your child just can’t stand the thought of her pink paint touching the purple, split them up into bottle and jar caps. Save spaghetti sauce jar lids or wide-mouthed bottle caps. Pour one color into each.
Less Mess Finger Paint
Finger paint is messy. There’s no way around it. When I taught an art-making in the galleries (yes, galleries—with one-of-a-kind works by the likes of Monet and Van Gogh) for preschoolers, I got constant complaints from the parents that their children needed to paint, and this class didn’t allow them to. Duh. There was no way that 3- to 5-year-olds were painting in the art galleries. To solve this dilemma, I gave the kids small balls of modeling clay to “finger paint” with clay on cardboard. Much less mess, but they still get the same fine motor motion and can even blend the colors.
It’s raining. It’s snowing. It’s super-hot outside. If it seems like Mother Nature is working against the idea of the kids having fun, take another look. Collect a cup of rain water to use when painting, set tissue paper on a piece of paper in the rain to make a colorful print, bring snow inside and use it to make a melting water color painting or put a cup of crayons or oil pastels out in the hot summer until they are mushy enough to use as finger paints.
Now that you can make your child's crafting easier, are you looking for some imaginative art activities? Check out and follow my Pinterest board for ideas!