She crafts and cuts and sews and staples and markers and molds and paints and braids all over my house.
And it drives me crazy. Because her art stuff is everywhere.
I have a far higher tolerance for mess than some, but even so, she tests that tolerance to its absolute limit.
When I’m scrubbing tempera paint off the corners of my kitchen table just moments before a friend stops by for a lunch date, I call to mind the wise words of Pablo Picasso that I first heard early in my teacher pre-service training:
“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”
I ponder this as I consider how to best manage the monstrous mess my artist leaves in her wake.
I want to encourage this passion in my little lady’s life, but I also want to live in my home without stepping on Perler Beads on my way to the pantry or picking molding clay out of my living room carpet.
So I tell myself, “Let her be messy. Remember what Picasso said.”
But darn it, Picasso, did you live with your mother when you painted Three Musicians? And if so, did she let you use the kitchen table as your studio? Did she embrace your art occupying the same kitchen table she needed to serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner?
I doubt it.
In the interest of fostering her creativity and desire to create while maintaining my sanity as the primary housekeeper in our home, I’ve embraced the following–
Five Rules for Art in the House:
1. Consider the Location
My husband and I still have the hand-me-down laminate table we inherited from my parents when we moved to Iowa. We have no plans of upgrading anytime soon because it’s very easy to wipe the creativity off this kid-friendly surface. The mess is real, but we kind of love seeing our girl perched on her haunches in a kitchen chair, tongue out ever-so-slightly while she colors her newest masterpiece.
2. Provide Simple Replacements
Our table is a great space, but I have learned that some messes are just too daunting to clean up two, three, or four times a day. So I discovered some less messy replacements.
Permanent markers were the first to go in favor of washable markers. I replaced traditional paints with these amazing Kwik Stix. Have you tried these? They are clean, allow for full creativity, and she adores using them.
Finally, my pseudo-scientific research has concluded that homemade playdough is far less messy than its store-bought alternative. It’s also it’s a lot cheaper and well-worth the tiny bit of extra work. (I’m pretty lucky because my mother-in-law whips up a fresh batch every time she comes for a visit.)
Cora’s daily chores include cleaning and wiping down the kitchen table before and after meals. It’s only fair that she be the one to clean up the messes that she makes. She knows she is allowed to leave her in-progress creations on the high counter to return to later, but she has to give back the table for meals.
4. Give Good Gifts
Instead of small toys for minor holidays, I buy replacement sketch pads. Her grandparents send freshly sharpened colored pencils and new stencils in their care packages. My husband recycles his computer paper that is only printed on one side by allowing Cora to draw on the back.
5. Close the Door
Cora’s supplies reside in what we affectionately refer to as the art closet. It’s really just an unused coat closet that is inconveniently located in our kitchen, but she fills it with every type of art media imaginable. The best part is the door closes to hide the mess.
Someday, when I’m standing in a prestigious art gallery viewing the Cora Todd collection, I will lean over to the docent and whisper, “We always knew she was a born artist.” Then I will go home, make myself a cup of tea, and sit—with a sigh of satisfaction—at my brand new, paint-free, squeaky clean kitchen table.
What are your best tips for surviving an artistic child?