If you are a mother of a toddler reading this, I know what you are likely thinking; “Why on earth would I like to purposefully help my toddler make a mess when all I do all day, every day, is clean up messes?!” Good question… Well first off, if you help make the mess and it has a purpose, you feel slightly better about picking it up! (Just slightly though… I’m not making any promises.) Second, kids need to make messes; it is how they learn, explore, grow, and discover who they are and how the world works around them. Growing up is a messy process. Third, we have already established you are going to be picking up messes anyway, so why not have a memento for your hard work? And lastly, it’s fun! (Really, it is… I wouldn’t lie to you.)
So we started out with a timeless classic… finger painting! (No need to reinvent the wheel here folks! If you are like me though, you often try to for no good reason other than to overcomplicate things… yep, not a good idea.)
So the basics:
- Work in an area or on a surface that will not matter if it gets messy, because it will. We worked in the kitchen on the laminate floor and even took it one step further and pulled out an old cardboard box to lay down under the baby (because if you can save yourself from doing a little extra work later, why not!?)
- You’ll need a canvas, sturdy paper, wood, cardboard, or other surface on which to paint (we used some old canvas I had lying around.)
- Be sure to use non-toxic paint (we used acrylic paint I had on hand.)
- Get out any fun tools your little one might like to paint with such as sponges, brushes, cookie cutters, or other randomness (we used brushes because, again, that’s what we already owned. Do you see a theme here?? You’ll find I am all about making do with what you have on hand.)
- Finally, make sure your little one and yourself are dressed accordingly knowing that mess is in your foreseeable future. When at all possible, we like to just get the baby down to a diaper for projects. Again, less clean up and baby is much more easily transferred immediately into a bath. (Ask me how I discovered this is the best method…)
An optional step that we added was I used discarded bottle caps as a paint palette. We have a retro bottle cap opener attached to the side of our kitchen cabinet with a metal casing that covers the opener and catches all the loose bottle caps; pretty awesome, right?! My son agrees. He is constantly ripping the case off the wall and playing with all the bottle caps that spill out all over my floor. While watching him do this one day I discovered that those bottle caps are the perfect size for his little fingers (as well as his little mouth…) so when it came time for this project I came up with a clever idea on how to store the paint he would use.
- Establish how many colors of paint you will supply your child with.
- Get out the corresponding amount of bottle caps to paint colors. (We chose 7 colors, so we had 7 bottle caps.)
- Being careful of sharp edges, take the bottle caps and hot glue them to a small piece of cardboard. (The reasoning for this being that I kept envisioning paint filled bottle caps flying across my kitchen.)
- Fill the bottle caps with paint and there you go… a bottle cap paint palette perfect for little hands that happens to be really cute and quite resourceful (one of the traits I treasure most!)
As all projects begin around our house, the first order of business is to establish whether or not this project is edible.
So with a little guidance from Daddy, we determine the real purpose of this project… (according to a toddler) to make a mess!! And this is where I know I have my little one’s interest… His goals in life are either consumption or destruction.
So now that we have established what we are doing, just let them at it! Let them use whatever colors they want, make as much or as little of a mess as they want (who are we kidding), let their inner artist guide them…
Try to keep the panic and desire to keep the inevitable mess from happening to a minimum… they are only this little once. Messes can be easily cleaned but making the most out of this period of time is an opportunity you only get once. The experiences and memories you and your little one will get from making the mess far outweigh the hassle of cleaning it up.
And it will be right when you begin to think, “wow this is going so well, why don’t we do this more often?!” that inevitably your child will get up (covered in paint though barely made a dent on his beautiful masterpiece) to start walking away.
Before the thought changes quickly to, “why did we do this? I set up for 20 minutes so he would paint for 1 whole minute?!” get your fun tools out and offer them to your child to convince… er, I mean… encourage them to continue along their artistic path.
I honestly thought I was kidding myself when I got the paint brushes out. I didn’t think he would have an interest in them, let alone want to or actually be able to use them effectively. When offered one he immediately grabbed it and got all “Bob Ross” on us, as though he had been painting for 20 years… it was quite entertaining.
And by the end of it you will be one proud Mama (or Daddy) with a beautiful masterpiece to display in your home, with one very messy baby, possibly some good photos, and another good memory to add to the plethora you are bound to have as a parent!