Let Them Make a Mess

There is a disturbing trend in children’s art supplies. It appears to be a movement toward “no mess” art. This is so wrong. Children need to make mess. They must touch things, smear things, taste things, experience things in order to learn.

Children learn through their five senses. In constructivist theory, the learner takes an active role in constructing his own understanding rather than receiving it from someone who knows. If a child doesn’t experience paint dripping, how will they know that paint doesn’t stay where you put it? Piaget explained how learning builds on experience. According to Kolb, who described learning as a cycle of stages, a child, or a person, really, must learn learn from experience. How will a child move along those stages of learning if they don’t have experiences?

In early childhood, art is a medium for math and science – knowing what happens when you mix red and blue or creating shapes that lead into early writing.

What is a child learning from this?

Crayola Mess Free Color Wonder drawing paper
Color Wonder paper keeps the color on the paper and nowhere else

The colors magically appear on the magic paper. There is no way to color outside of the lines, to scribble, to make a mistake.

Or this?

CraZ Art No Mess Coloring
Again art that predetermines what the child will do.

Same thing. No chance to branch out and do what you want. This is taking coloring in a coloring book one step farther. Did you know that in child care we are not supposed to use coloring book pages because it limits the child’s creativity? I think coloring books are awesome and serve a purpose: relaxation, control of the crayon, practice holding a writing utensil. But what purpose do the no-mess art pages serve?

Check out this one:

Crayola mess free color wonder magic light brush

Again, this takes the science and math out of painting. No need to practice how to load the paint brush or control your drips. No child will turn this into brown mud. No, each picture will be a perfect image of what you see on the box.

Our children are already sensory deprived. The lack of tactile stimulation can lead to further problems. Caregivers today must also worry about children being nature deprived. Are we also going to deprive them from learning experiences that enrich their understanding of the world around them and cause them to ask questions?

There is a Doctor Who episode where he tells the human journalist, “Ask questions.” Well, our children need to ask questions of the world around them, and try things. Art is one way for them to do that. Don’t take away the experimenting from them.

By Trulybst

Pursuing life to its fullest. A woman, a mom, wife, and struggling teacher who knows the importance of treating myself right.

8 replies on “Let Them Make a Mess”

I like the mess-free stuff for certain situations. I got my daughter a no-mess coloring pad today to take with us on vacation next week; I need activities for her to do on two 1.5 hour car rides and a 3 hour flight and regular markers would be a disaster to try to clean off the tray table and rental car. My main beef with the Color Wonder stuff is that you HAVE to buy their special (i.e. expensive) paper instead of just grabbing a $1 coloring book or a sheet of printer paper for the kid to doodle on. (And heaven help you if you run out and your kid’s feeling crafty!)

I used it like you do, Hillary, it’s handy when en route somewhere, or when you go somewhere that a mess wouldn’t be welcome. If my kids were at my friend’s house with a theme of “cream and white” with nar a child or pet in sight, the mess-free products were the best bet.

I purposefully sent my kids to preschool where they were instructed to wear “play clothes” because they’d be getting dirty. And they did. :)

Agreed on most points, but a note on some of the marker sets (but not all).

They sell the blank pads for the “magic” pad/markers. What those actually are is an updated version of the markers we had at one point where you would draw with one marker, and another marker had the chemical that made the colors happen. (some of the sets the colors happened, but when you used the “magic” marker it changed colors. Oh 90s!) The chemical that did the revealing is now in that paper instead of having to guess about it with the old ones. (The old ones were a pain- you had to doodle with a clear marker that you couldn’t really tell where you’ve been, and then color over it with the color you wanted. Pain. In. The. Ass. ) Basically, it’s like having crayons/markers that can’t color on the table/walls/other children, and isn’t paint at all. (And I get kinda mad when they market it as paint. NOT PAINT. DOESN’T USE THE SAME COGNITIVE OR MOTOR SKILLS AS PAINT. STOP MARKETING IT TO PEOPLE AS PAINT, SILLY COMPANIES. )

On the other hand, I agree whole heartedly about the coloring books that you just run the marker/light over to make it happen. Where’s the effort or creative practice in that???? And I’m totally with you about the importance of being able to practice loading a brush and mixing paint and stuff. Paint, actual (non-toxic) paint, is something that totally should be available to small children. I agree with your point, just noticed that one of the products listed didn’t fit the point I guess?

Er…the Kim Knight article argues that abortion is tied to sexual repression, and that cultures that see abortion as normal are more likely to support capital punishment and war.

That was kind of a punch in the stomach.

I’m also kind of skeptical about some of its claims, and I dislike the fact that it’s basically saying “if you don’t parent like this, you aren’t giving your child the ‘best start in life’.”

But, I think some of its main points are good.

And I also agree with this post.

Yeah, there’s a lot of fuckery in that article. Lexie required medical intervention at birth, so I wasn’t able to hold her until she was 5 hours old, and then she went back into the NICU for a couple days after barely 12 hours of being in the room with me. She isn’t sensory-deprived or resistant to touch because of that; she’d be glued to me 24/7 if I let her.

That’s what got me, too. Mess-free art supplies mean kids don’t make messes, which means they don’t learn the consequences of messes (i.e., having to clean them up). Not having to deal with the consequences of coloring the walls means that the first time real-world consequences happen, kids will be so thrown. Plus, if a child is used to mess-free markers, they won’t know HOW to clean up regular markers (or paint or whatever) or how to prevent messes.

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