Make Art Time With Kids Calmer With This Clever Trick

Why don’t parents like to do art with their children at home? Did you just blurt out the answer without any hesitation? You got it.


The Mess.


Are you sweating yet? Just thinking about paint spilling onto your nice carpet, messy hands wiping along your new sofa (or, heck, old sofa for that matter), crayons or markers adding extra abstract lines to your walls…It’s enough to make a parent cringe, curl into a ball, and hide.

We know. We have the same anxieties about kids and art too (and this is our job!). The only way we got past it was breathing deeply (wait, what?!) We know what you are thinking…just hang in there for a second, some simple adjustments to our approach, including some deep breathing, really helped us relax before opening the paint jars, and we think you will find this helpful too.

You might be rolling your eyes (and if you are still reading this post high five!) we know, we know. Asking you to get into “alignment” or “centered” before an art-making session with your children sounds ludicrous.

messy toddler art sensory play

 Here’s The Deal:

The more we grownups settle those BIG feelings (aka stress) we have around mess,  the calmer and more smoothly our art sessions, of any type, will go for us and our children. We love this article by Alice G. Walton in Forbe’s Magazine where she shares the research about parents’ stress-levels and what messages our stressed-out ways may transmit to our children. The more opportunities we create that promote peace and calm for our children to interact in, ultimately more love our children will feel. Transmitting the feeling of peace in our lives helps our children feel all those feels associated with love: feeling cared for, attended too, valued, and free to explore their environments without worry. Creating a time to get creative with your kids can be relaxing...not stressing for you or them. 

mini maker messy art

Let Go Of The Stress

Okay, so how do we let go of all that stress, especially if we feel giving paint to a child is like handing them a detonated bomb? We have found great success in envisioning the experience we are about to embark upon; complete with all the negative and positive aspects. Visioning is a lot like “yoga for our brains” as Courtney Helgoe states in her article See It, Believe It. Athletes use this skill to reach their top performances, and we view parenting an awful lot like a contact sport, so visioning might as well be part of it.

Try your hand at visioning your next art experience with your children. Before you get started, a quick note on how, and when, to do visioning. Gurus might tell you to find a comfy location to sit with your body in excellent posture.

Are you laughing yet? We are.

We know you need this type of encouragement the  most when you are hustling your children out the door with a cup of hot joe in one hand, car keys dangling from your mouth, and jackets and bags slung off your shoulders as if you were a Sherpa about to embark on Mt. Everest. Start your visioning at any point, any time (except while driving...visioning is like texting not advised to do so in a moving vehicle), and just take a few moments to picture what you want, no need, to have happen in your next situation.

In the case of art experiences with your children we have found the following to work exceptionally well.

Take a Deep Breath:

This sounds cliché, because, well, it is. But, take a moment and breathe deeply as you think about offering your  child a bottle of paint. Can you see all the chaos that is about to ensue? We have a little visioning game for you to play along with. We promise this will help:

Take a deep breath in, close your eyes, and picture  your child spilling paint.

The paint  get’s everywhere.

As you exhale let in acceptance:

Of that spilling.

Of the mess

It’s okay. You are okay. Your home, your furniture, your vision of your life…are all okay. See you and your children cleaning the mess together.

Take a deep breath in again. Keep your eyes closed, and picture your art session neatly set-up.

The paint.

The brushes.

The paper.

All neatly organized on your work table

As you exhale:

Let in a sense of calm. A feeling of grounding. Feel yourself filled with strength and acceptance for what is about to occur. Welcome your children into the art space. Let the calm permeate through you. See yourself happily painting alongside your children.

You are smiling.

They are smiling.

You are all feeling peaceful, relaxed, and connected.

Say out loud: I am the source of calm. I am okay when the paint spills. I am okay with the mess. When mess happens we will clean it up.

How was that? Do you feel a little silly? Maybe a little relieved? Maybe a little of both?


You have just accomplished the first step in welcoming more creative flow into your life by shifting the cultural concept we have constructed that art with children must, and always will be, messy. The mess isn’t the problem. It’s how we respond to it. How we allow it to dictate our personal internal landscapes. By envisioning a peaceful art experience we are welcoming in more time to connect and enjoy our children and their childhoods too.

Keep Breathing!


Feeling stuck? Need some creative inspiration? Check out the weekly #kidartlit challenge on the @kidartlit Instagram account. Each week there is a new theme, new guest judge, and fresh inspiration just for you. Go say hi!