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How to Keep Your Child’s Messy Crafts Under Control

Do you remember the last time you were “pin-spired” enough to clear your dining room table, pull out all the art supplies, and let your budding Picassos go to town?

You probably watched along as they splattered paints, scrawled with markers, and ignored your pleas to stay on the paper.

Then, after uncapping your eightieth marker, you may have been ready to pack it all up and squash any future creativity that might creep up amongst your crew.

You and me both, sister.

I, too, walk the fine line between inspiring my little artist and vetoing any creative burst out of the sheer terror brought by markered walls and glittered everything.

You don’t have to live in fear of messy crafts, though.

Luckily, I have a few tricks up my sleeve that will help contain those sparkly explosions and colorful rainbows drawn everywhere but on the paper; tricks that will help you keep those messy crafts under control.

How to Control Messy Crafts Tip #1:
Don’t Cry over Broken Crayons

Crayons are the most inoffensive of craft supplies, right? Wrong.

  • Maybe you have a breaker and unwrapper like I do, who prefers to split her crayons in two and peel off all the crayon labels.
  • Maybe you have one who can’t quite master not coloring on the walls.
  • Maybe you have your very own Harold and the Purple Crayon.

Whatever your case may be, it’s likely you have a box full of broken crayon nubs, which in their earlier glory were also used to create masterpieces on the walls of your master bedroom.

Crayons don’t have to cause tears, my friend. How about rolling up your creative sleeves and finding ways to extend the life of your broken crayons, while also cleaning up the trail they leave behind?

Sort Broken Crayons

Every once in a while, go through the crayons and pull any that are broken or missing their labels. This can even be a task delegated to your toddler as one of her chores.

Reuse and Recycle

Collect the broken crayons and remove the labels. Once you have a decent stash, follow these easy steps:

  1. Sort by like color (or if you’re feeling bold, make different color combinations!) into a silicone mold like this one, which comes with super cute shapes.
  2. Melt in the oven at 300 degrees for about 8 minutes (keeping a close eye on them so they don’t burn).
  3. Let them cool, pop them out of the mold, and voila! New crayons!

Invest in Magic Erasers

Magic Erasers are my lifeline. Not all crayons are as washable as I think they should be, but Magic Eraser does the trick every time.

Note: Be gentle when scrubbing, or it may erase your paint or finishes, too.

How to Control Messy Crafts Tip #2:
Prepare for Paint

Paint is scary.

Really scary.

It boasts that it’s washable, but the washability really depends on how quickly you wash it. This means your white baseboards are toast if you don’t notice the blue splotches from a paintbrush wielding toddler within a three-second window.

Painting, no matter how scary, is a great project for toddlers. Not only does it provide them a chance to practice fine motor skills, but it’s also a sensory experience: we know all paint projects for kids under four turn into body paint projects.

To embrace your child’s inner Bob Ross, why not try building in some boundaries with each paint project to see if the experience becomes enjoyable and definitely not scary?

Dole Out Perfect Portions

Use egg cartons, paper plates, or these handy paint trays to hold paint. Communicate how many times you plan to refill the tray, and once the tray is used up, it’s time to clean up.

Diversify Your Canvases

Have your little Picasso choose rocks, newspaper, paper plates, or a long sheet of craft paper to paint on. This gives her the freedom to create and get messy without the constraints of coloring book lines.

I love this brand of craft paper. It’s a giant roll, so I never worry that I’m using too much.

Invest in Cover-ups

Special paint smocks like these make clean up a breeze and protect clothes during craft time.

End with a Bath

Painting is going to turn to finger painting, which is going to turn to body painting, no matter how hard you try. Someone always wants to stamp with the fingerprint, and it’s downhill from there.

Plan to bathe your sweet painter after her art project and you may find you’re not as anxious about the green paint in her hair. Better yet, have her paint in the tub! These bathtub paints are super fun and wash on down the drain after paint time is over.

How to Control Messy Crafts Tip #3:
Embrace the Magic of Markers

Do you try really hard to be open-minded and permissive when it comes to coloring? Are you the mom who lets your kids color outside the lines in an effort to encourage their creative side? I try to be, but I have to be honest, I hate markers.

Markers provide all the promise of crayons. They are supposedly washable, very easy to hold, and one would assume they’re easy to use without assistance, much like crayons.

One would be very wrong in this assumption.

Markers turn craft time into “Take this cap off, Mom!” time.

So, what if you spent a few minutes prepping for markers to help them fulfill their “more special than crayons” destiny, without all the marker cap drama?

Make Markers a Special Treat

Keep them tucked away for a rainy day so you don’t have to spend your energy corralling caps every time the coloring books come out.

Protect Your Surfaces

Use a vinyl table cloth like this to protect your table. Stray marker lines will wipe right off (if you even want to bother wiping them off!)

Have an Open-Marker Policy

Uncap every marker before handing them to your kiddos, and then keep the caps in a safe place. This ensures no cap is left behind, and you don’t spend all your time uncapping and recapping markers.

Don’t worry, they won’t dry out in the time you spend coloring.

Create a Special Drawing Place

Use this whiteboard easel or a long piece of your handy craft paper taped to a wall, floor or table. This gives space to be creative and lots of area to color. This works best for older toddlers and preschoolers who can understand the boundary of paper versus floor or wall.

How to Control Messy Crafts Tip #4:
Do Your Best to Contain Glitter

There’s nothing wrong with “a little glitter” other than the fact there is no such thing as “a little glitter.”

Am I right?

We all remember what it was like as kids to get to use the glitter shakers for our homemade popsicle stick picture frames in school: drawing out that perfect line of glue, dusting it with glitter, and tapping the edge on the table until all the glue lines were filled in.

Ahh, the nostalgia.

Glitter now means an iridescent house, and, if you’re a contact wearer like me, scratched corneas. It never truly goes away, and makes a surprise appearance two days later while putting in your contact lenses.

Never fear! Perhaps a few of these tried and true tricks will help keep the glitter from sparkle bombing your dining room.

Pan for Gold

Place any art that is about to get a dusting of glitter on a sheet pan first. The rimmed edges of the pan will keep the glitter contained a little better. You can tap the edge of your project on the pan itself to dust off the extra sparkles, and then pour the runoff glitter back into the container (or the trash) from the corner of the pan.

Utilize Scotch Tape

Cover half of the holes on your glitter shaker with a piece of Scotch tape. This will slow the flow of the glitter and control how much comes out at once.

Less is more, even if your kids disagree!

Pull out the Big (Sticky) Guns

If you have a glitter spill, or just the fun little trail that all glitter leaves behind, try using a super-sticky lint roller like this one. It’s one of the stickiest I’ve found, and it picks up all the glitter off my dining room floors and bench quickly and easily like no other product I’ve found.

The Finished Product:
Messy Crafts Controlled!

Crafts are such an important part of encouraging your child to build his creativity.

  • They provide a great outlet for him to convey his thoughts and feelings.
  • They help him learn about shapes and colors.
  • They give him an opportunity to practice his developing fine motor skills.

With these tips, you can confidently let your petite Monet paint, draw, and glitter his way through craft time without the expense of your sanity.

Even more, when you’re able to keep messy crafts under control, you’ll have the memories of quality time spent creating beautiful art and a fridge full of masterpieces unique to your own personal artists!

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