Every child makes tie-dye shirts, macaroni necklaces, playdough volcanoes, and some sort of handprint art when exploring art in their classes. There is nothing wrong with these sort of activities because they are fun to kids, but why settles for small scale activities when you can help kids explore art on a larger scale and see all of art’s possibilities!

The Big Messy* Art Book *But Easy to Clean Up by MaryAnn F. Kohl is filled with art experiences that may take a bit more time to set up, might make a splatter or two on the floor, and leave a sticky bucket to rinse out, but the the creative process and artistic experiences far outweigh the extra effort. Young artists will dive into the big, messy experiences with enthusiasm and energy. Just to see how much kids will love the monumental activities in this book, here are two sample activities for you to try out with kids!

Foot Sponge Painting

Sponge painting with a new twist that’s bound to cause tons of laughter and great big art all at once. Strap big sponges on your feet, step in the paint, and go paint walking.

Materials

  • Big butcher paper
  • Masking tape
  • Tempera paint
  • Sturdy, shallow pans
  • Big sponges
  • Velcro straps (from sporting, bike, and hardware stores)
  • A plastic dish tub of warm, soapy water
  • Old towels

Process

  1. Place long sheets of butcher paper on the floor. Tape the pieces down for safety.
  2. Put tempera paint in two shallow pans, one color for each pan. Make more pans of paint if you want more than two colors. Place the pans next to the paper.
  3. Take off shoes and socks. Strap a sponge to each foot with Velcro straps. With adult help, step in two pans of paint—one color for each foot. Hint: This is a slippery activity; one or two adults should support the artist.
  4. With adult assistance, walk across the paper, creating sponge designs.
  5. After removing straps, rinse bare feet in a tub of warm, soapy water. Use old towels to dry. More soap and scrubbing may be needed in the shower or bathtub.

Variations

  • Start with only one foot strapped with a sponge before trying both.
  • Cut sponges into shapes.
  • Tape three or four sheets of paper together creating a “skating rink” and skate on some pastel blue paint with adult help.
  • Spray the paper with water and step into powdered tempera paint.
  • Instead of sponges, try dust mops or scrub brushes attached to feet.
  • Make sock paintings, feet paintings, boot paintings, and so on.

Mops and Brooms Painting

Mops and brooms can be extraordinary paintbrushes for artwork that will sweep you away! Using child-sized cleaning tools, paint a mural on a long sheet of paper stretched out on the floor.

Materials

  • Tempera paint
  • Plastic dishpans
  • Butcher paper or craft paper
  • Newspaper
  • Tape
  • Child-sized mops and brooms
  • Buckets of clear water

Process

  1. Pour several different colors of paint into separate plastic dishpans to about ½’’ (1.5 cm) deep. Refill the tubs as needed.
  2. Spread out large sheets of paper onto the ground. If working indoors, spread lots of newspaper out first to protect the floor, and be sure to tape the paper down so it won't wiggle.
  3. Dip a mop or broom into the paint and then paint with it on the paper. Hint: Adult-sized mops and brooms work well too, but they are harder to handle.
  4. Repeat the dipping and sweeping steps until satisfied with the painting.
  5. Have more paper on hand to make a second or third painting when each is complete.
  6. When done, allow the painting to dry where it is or move it to a spot where it will be out of the way. Meanwhile, swish mops and brooms in buckets of clear water to rinse.

Variations

  • Paint with other unusual brush-type tools, including:
    • Dishwashing sponges on a plastic handle  
    • Dishwashing brushes
    • Long-handled squeegees
    • Adult-sized brooms or mops with shortened handles
    • Any variety of scrub brushes
    • Whisk brooms
  • Tape paper to a wall, fence, or garage door instead of spreading it on the ground.