Messy Moments, and Why They’re Helping Your Child Grow

For over a decade, it’s fair to say that Philly Art Center has dealt with more than a few messy moments.

Oil pastels have been crushed under chair legs, marker tips have gone off the edge of the mirror board (this is so easy to clean!) and onto the floor board (this is not!), india ink and glue have been spilled and cups of paint water have been tipped.

Through it all, we smile, we accept the “mistakes” as part of the job, we clean up and we move on! But before all that, we try capturing the creative process at its finest.

Here are just a few of our favorite messes caught on camera, and some reminders about why we don’t stress the mess.



First and foremost, we’re an Art Center! We’re introducing kids to new materials and developing creative thinkers. Our #1 rule is to have fun, and what’s more fun than having the freedom to explore and express yourself in an environment that accepts and expects messes and “mistakes”?



“What happens if…” is a question best answered by experimenting. Whether children are curious about digging a tunnel to the opposite end of the Earth through your backyard, or want to challenge themselves by mixing every color of the rainbow just using primaries, they’re bound to get messy on the joyous road of exploration. But trust us, a few extra minutes during bathtime is worth the learning experience!



If you’ve heard of the Color Run, an un-timed marathon where runners start in white and finish doused in what looks like an exploded box of crayons, you might already know that wearing color (aside from the fabric of your clothes) is truly a sensory spectacle. It can set you apart from the crowd and show others that you’re not afraid of a little mess. How you get there matters too — by focusing on the experience, and not the end result, you’ll be rewarded just for your participation! It’s fun, it feels good, and it looks pretty cool, too!



This might hurt your ears, but hear us out. Sometimes getting messy is just more efficient! When you’re in the middle of cutting and collaging, painting, or throwing clay, pausing to clean up after yourself can really throw a wrench in your groove. It’s better to finish out the task at hand and worry about the clean-up when you’re feeling finished!



Finger painting helps strengthen those tiny hand muscles, you know, the ones they’ll use to tie a knot, button their shirts, and write their names. Art making helps develop fine motor skills and also improves hand eye control and coordination!



There are learning benefits to getting messy, like self exploration and imagination. Studies show that a little mess can promote new ideas and stimulate creative thinking, even in toddlers and babies. These are vital traits in growing artists and creative development.



Children should wear their messes like a badge of honor, because we all know how satisfying it is to accomplish something using your own two hands. Yet there’s a time and a place where being caught red-handed (literally) is a good thing, so it’s okay to set up boundaries for messes.

At Philly Art Center, we work with (mostly) washable materials, we wear aprons, we have giant sink and really cool, textured soap, and all the kiddos work together in a huge clean up to get everything back in order. We don’t even call it “getting messy”, we simply refer to it as “getting arty”, because a little mess really is part of the essence being an artists!


Philly Art Center has been cultivating creative genius in kids and adults since 2004. We inspire every student to create, play, laugh and learn! Learn More.