Creating a mess free homeschool art area

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As a follow up to my last post I thought I would talk a little bit on the dreaded topic of homeschool art messiness. Art is so important to a homeschool education because it fosters creativity and gives kids a great non-verbal way to express themselves. At the same time it is no secret that parents hate mess. Art messes in particular are often damaging messes that stain carpets and clothes. How do you provide a safe homeschool art area for kids to explore their creativity?

This is not a fancy post with pictures of gorgeous decorated art studios created just for homeschool. Rather, this post is about real life families who are struggling to find the room just for homeschool books not to mention art supplies. I am a real life homeschooler currently living in a three room cabin in Alaska, so trust me– I feel your pain.

First, find a spot…

If you have the room it’s ideal to have a dedicated homeschool art area. Alternatively, for those without space you can create a portable art studio. It’s still important though to identify where in your home you can set kids up when they want to do something creative.

Things to consider in finding an art space….

  • Lighting: You want a place where there is adequate natural light, but not one where the sunset is going to blind kids.
  • Surface: Your child will need a firm smooth surface on which to work. It’s best if it’s a surface that is easy to wash as spills and marks are likely to occur.
  • Traffic: Be sure to find a place somewhat out of the way so that everyone isn’t tripping over them when they walk by.
  • Water source: Kids will need water for clean up and for painting so be sure they won’t need to drag it far. This will make clean up easier and prevent spills all over the house.
  • Comfort: Kids are smaller than adults so be sure your homeschool art area has a comfortable chair and table surface for your child’s size.
  • Flooring: Ideally your art area will be over an easy to clean surface– not carpet. If there is any question about it just be sure to put down a floor cloth of some sort or include a washable mat in your portable art kit.

Creating Rules for Your Homeschool Art Area

I’m a big fan of creating rules directly with your kids. Involving them in the process helps them understand that there are reasons behind rules. Have a conversation and come up with a list together. Involved them, but at the same time remember you are the parent so definitely direct the conversation.

Start by asking what can happen if there aren’t rules for an art area and direct the conversation to get your child to realize:

  • Carpets can get ruined
  • Younger Siblings/Pets can ingest art supplies
  • Materials are expensive so you don’t want to waste them
  • Kids can get hurt with things like scissors and staplers
  • Messes can migrate around the house
  • Etc.

Then work with your child to write a list of rules that will help mitigate the potential issues with an art area. COnsider the following:

  • Some supplies should only be used with an adult (list them and keep them separate)
  • Other supplies should be available at all times (you can have different lists for each child depending on age)
  • Finally you should make a list of supplies that can be used independently with permission
  • Scissors should only be used while sitting down.
  • The child should clean everything up immediately when they are done
  • Smocks are required
  • Etc.

Write the rules down even if your child is too young to read. In the beginning you can review the list every time you see your child doing art.

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Art Supplies for a Homeschool Art Area

This is not an exhaustive list. These are just some the items my kids love. You can add or take away depending on availability and your child’s interests.

  • Gel crayons: These are super smooth and have vibrant colors.
  • Liquid watercolors: There are so many ways you can use liquid watercolors. They are much easier to work with than the pan watercolors.
  • Watercolor tray paints: Although the liquid watercolors are much better, you should have a watercolor tray for kids to use independently and save the liquids for when you can supervise them.
  • Colored pencils: I am a big fan of the Crayola Twistables. They are strong and easy to use and they don’t need sharpening.
  • Washable paint: Get red, yellow and blue as well as black and white.
  • Construction paper: I like the large size, but just be sure to teach your child how to limit waste.
  • Scissors: I like Fiskars brand. Get your child one pair of high quality scissors and teach them to use it properly.
  • Tape, glue, stapler: Just the basics here, but be sure to get your child their own so they don’t steal yours!
  • Watercolor paper: This is good for not only watercolor, but any other type of wet media.
  • White paper: Just grab a stack of your printer paper.
  • Pencils: If your child is into drawing you may wish to get high quality drawing pencils, but for most kids just a regular pencil will do.
  • Googly eyes: Kids love googly eyes. What can I say?
  • Paint Palette: These really come in handy for much more than just paint. Get extra!
  • Paintbrushes: A nice assortment of sizes and even some sponge brushes works well.
  • Smock: An oversized men’s tee shirt works wonders on preserving clothes.
  • Floor mat and/or table cover: Just use an old sheet or table cloth.
  • Paper towel and toilet paper tubes, packing peanuts and anything else you ordinarily may throw away that might be recycled into an art masterpiece!
  • Water container: An old jar is perfect.

Again, you don’t need all of that to create a homeschool art area. Start with the basics and build from there. There also may be some things your child will love that is not on the list.

Pro Tip: If your child has a favorite color get an additional pack of construction paper just that color.

Setting up

Now that you have all your supplies you are ready to set up. If you have a permanent space use paper dividers, old jars and other desk organizers to make the space neat. The key to a consistent clean up is to be sure everything has a place so your child knows where things go.

If you are using a portable options consider getting a small cart to keep supplies organized. We use this one from IKEA, but Target and Walmart will also have inexpensive small carts you can use. Check out the bathroom storage areas!

Before Letting Your Child Use the Art Area

  • Review the rules
  • Demonstrate setting up
  • Take a picture of the area all cleaned up and post it on the wall
  • Let them create!

Final Thoughts

Creativity is so important for young kids. Try to integrate art into all of your subject areas. Discuss art history along with your social studies. Offer opportunities to discuss art in science. (A bridge should be both strong AND pretty) Follow my easy to implement art curriculum guide. Art should not only be part of your regular homeschool curriculum, but kids should be able to express themselves artistically on their own. With your mess free homeschool art area your kids will grow up to be independent creative problem solvers!

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About Mary

Mary Stephens holds a degree in international affairs from Georgetown University and a Masters in Teaching from the American University. Mary spent almost twenty years homeschooling her four children and is now navigating post homeschool life in Alaska. She offers personal insights, recipes, homeschooling tips and tricks and travel advice on her website Mary also owns Christopher Travel, a luxury travel company specializing in exquisite vacations around the globe.

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