I was reading a blog post wherein the author asked her readers to answer the following question: What do you like and dislike about creating art with your children? The answer to the second half of the question was invariably, "the mess."
Am I the only one who doesn't worry about the messes?
Making a mess is part of the creative process. As we grow, we learn to make the mess for art's sake, as opposed to making art because it gives us an excuse to make a really good mess. If it's a mess you're after, playing in the mud yields better results!
I taught first grade for seven years. Every year would begin much in the same way. We would cut and snip and paper would inevitably end up on the floor, paint would spatter the tables, and glue... Well, let's just say glue can be used for a host of things other than adhering pieces of paper to other pieces of paper. (Fake fingerprints come to mind.) Every year I would begin the process of teaching the children to clean up after themselves until it became a habit.
When I became a mom, we did the same thing. After we walked through paint to make footprints on butcher paper, we walked through warm soapy water and cleaned our toes. We learned that markers write on paper - not walls. We learned that although playdough is edible, it doesn't really taste that great. We learned to clean up after ourselves. Now that they are older and have shown me they're responsible enough, we even store all kinds of art supplies in their rooms. I want them to be able to create at will.
I figure if they helped make the mess, they can help clean it up. It is a process similar to learning to read or ride a bike. A three-year-old can't wipe down the kitchen table or sweep and mop the floor. But my eight-year-old can be trusted in a room by herself with paint and I don't have to worry about the inappropriate use of art materials because as she learned to paint, she learned to clean it up.