When it Comes to Art, Messy is Good!

The tables are covered, the smocks are on, and the brush is loaded and ready to go. What happens next? Even with all the precautions, within seconds there is more paint on the ground than on the paper. We’ve all been there!

Our instincts are to clean up the mess before continuing, and to bring attention to the fact that paint is for the paper, not our hands. Yet many studies have shown that allowing children to be messy is more beneficial than we realize, and it is perhaps more important to hold off on the order while creativity is at play.

Studies from the NAEA (National Art Education Association) show that the development of skills for problem solving, sensory and spatial awareness are built when we allow messes to be made.

When a child is at artistic play, they have the opportunity to explore textures and shapes in a free environment that benefits their understanding of everyday objects. The comprehension of solids vs. liquids, for example, can become easier when materials are not contained.

To see how much a blob of paint can move, you must be able to push it around without borders. The next time the child squeezes out some toothpaste, they may have an easier time understanding how the little bit on the toothbrush can do so much!

In the same realm, being messy can be helpful in understanding physical capabilities, when you see first hand how long your arm can stretch and how hard can you actually press that crayon, and the possibilities in between.

Using modeling clay can be a wonderful way to find out how something can be both solid and malleable, and further direct understanding of weight, fragility, and other factors of real world objects.

When the mess hits the wall, it reinforces the understanding of the environments we’re surrounded by. Although it may take some restraint, watching the paint drip down from a table can show how liquids operate, etc.

In addition to the benefits of being messy during creating, having a bigger clean up can actually be more valuable than cleaning as you go, because problem solving skills are at play!

When surrounded by one big mess rather than constant small messes being cleaned up, it is easy to see how things can go back in their place.

Searching for the correct marker caps, wiping down surfaces, figuring out how to organize materials in a bin or drawer are all ways to develop fine motor skills, while reinforcing the importance of a big clean up.

Parents and teachers are always determined to show children the importance of taking risks, and reinforcing the benefits of exploration. Through being messy during creative play, positive habits are formed, and there is more time for parent and child to explore together.

Besides, what’s more exciting than bath time?


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