Why is it that kids love glitter – especially girls!  I hate glitter – and I don’t use the ‘hate’ word very often!!  Glitter, to me epitomises the mess that hands on projects make.  Having young kids be creative – regardless of what medium you use will always create clutter and chaos.   And yet, it is too important for our kids to be creative to be held back by our concern for mess – we must get over the mess!

Here are some thoughts that have helped me when my kids were young:


Be convinced hands on activities are right (and necessary)

I know in my head that hands on activities are what my children need and yet I hold back because of the inconvenience.

  • Messy activities need supervision (my time).
  • Messy activities need cleaning up (my effort).
  • Messy activities need materials (my resources).


This is not a good attitude to have! My job, as mum, is to train my children in every facet of their life and this includes their creative bents. We need to have an atmosphere which encourages their creativity,


Though we often see Talents in terms of creativity, hands on activities have other benefits as well:

  • the development of fine motor skills
  • the opportunity to grow in social skills
  • learning takes place (some children receive information better if hands are involved
  • the habit of relaxing is established

We need to know in our hearts that hands on activities need to happen in our home. When we are convinced of this, we will find ways to deal with our hesitations.

Think outside the box

Just because schools paint indoors does not mean we have to! We started painting (a very messy activity) during the Dry Season which is the time of the year it is pleasant to be outside. The easel went out on the grass and then the kids were hosed off. No mess inside! As my children have got older paint has come inside but going outside to paint is still a lovely way to spend the afternoon.


When my older two were young we did a lot of activities outside – playdough, painting, building with junk boxes, sand models, collages etc.


And maybe you can think inside the box too – I read of one lady who had a big big box where her toddler sat to do his cutting and pasting. It was contained and he spent hours in there making and doing! His own little office.

A home for everything

I have my art cupboard set up as “Kits”. Each kit is in a box. Not a big box but big enough to hold the materials that are needed for any one activity. I’ve used cardboard boxes you get free from the supermarket, archive boxes from Office Supply stores and plastic storage boxes.


Kits help my children choose what art activity to do. This helps to eliminates mess as well, as they have purposefully chosen an activity, seeing all the options, they then have to stick to the activity till they are finished a project. It stops the jumping from one activity to another. Kits also help with the packing up. Everything has a place, it is all confined and limited options.


I have had a painting box, a drawing box, a collage box, playdough box, a femo box, a Junk box, a science box, a math box, rubber stamp kit, beading kit, a nature kit, a scrapbooking kit and so forth. A home for everything and everything in its home – boxes are the way to go!

A place to keep unfinished projects

Having a place for the children to keep unfinished projects also brings order into the creative sphere. If you are continually moving an unfinished creation from your dining table, back and forth as you want to have a family meal, you are going to be frustrated and wonder about the worth of it all. If you tuck it away your children then loose motivation for completing it.


To find the balance we have a home for unfinished projects and time planned in our week to continue hands on, creative activities. This teamed with the “kits” where the children know materials are quick to pull out again, keeps motivation going on their projects.


We also limit how many projects a child can have on the go at any one time. When children are little they tend to finish their painting or playdough and you can pack it away but as they get older and their projects become more involved it may take more than one session. It is a good opportunity to develop the character traits of perseverance or thriftiness as you encourage your children to complete their projects. A shelf or a box where they can put their project away, but keep it safe will encourage your children that you value their work and it is worth finishing.

Teach the kids to use the tools/materials properly

One of my very first lessons I learnt as a homeschool mum was to teach the children to use tools and materials properly. This by no means reduces their creativity but gives them some boundaries, especially to respect the equipment, and their surroundings.


When rubber stamping I taught them to press carefully on the ink pad, press carefully on the paper, wipe their stamp and put it face up ready to dry off and move onto the next one.


When we painted I taught the kids to load the paintbrush in gentle strokes or circles and to paint gently not to squish the paintbrush on the paper. Of course, they always squished the paintbrush in the early years but they soon grew out of that and had the proper skill.

Glue! Aghhh I really don’t like glue with young kids but when they are taught to respect it, it really isn’t a problem.

Get over the mess!

When Daniel was little a local lady, who is a highly respected Kindergarten Teacher’s Aide came around to help me with finding activities for Daniel:  he was 5yo, very active, and had limited focus and limited fine motor skills. She gave me so many suggestions that morning. Every art activity or hands-on activity she suggested that morning I either had the materials in my cupboard, or had planned to do with Daniel but hadn’t done it because of the mess.

After hours of encouraging me her final advice was “Belinda, Get over it!” And she was right. I had to, for Daniel’s sake “get over the mess”.


Do you have issues with mess?  How have you ‘got over it?

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