Famous Artists Messy Play Kit Guide

Famous Artists Messy Play Kit Guide

Famous Artists Messy Play Kit

Ready to dig into your Famous Artists Messy Play Kit? On this page you'll find detailed step-by-step instructions, ideas to extend the learning, and some links to other resources. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions about your kit. Now go get messy!

Jump To:
Michelangelo: Painting
Picasso and Mondrian: Crayon resist
Calder: Mobiles
Rodin: Scuplting
Additional Resources
More Messy Play Kits

When working on art projects with young children, it's important to focus on the process instead of the product. In this Messy Play Kit we practice making art like famous artists, but with the understanding that a three year old child is not going to make a masterpiece like Michelangelo or Rodin. We don't expect them to! We do expect them to explore the materials fully, learning about the process of making art, what the materials feel like and how they interact. What the final result looks like isn't as important as what happens in the process. Learn more from this article from NAEYC.

Michelangelo: Painting 

Learn more about Michelangelo here.

1. Find a table in your house that is low enough to the ground that you can comfortably lie on the ground under it and reach the underside. If you don’t have one that low, try finding a table you can sit under.

2. Use the tape to attach the large paper backdrop to the underside of the table, making sure it is securely attached. Do the same to attach a piece of the art paper in the middle.

Paint Like Michelangelo with Famous Artists Messy Play Kit

3. Lay the plastic dropcloth on the ground under the table, and secure to the ground if necessary.

4. Add one tablespoon of water to each of the four containers of powdered color, replace the lids, and shake until mixed.

5. You are now ready to paint! Lay or sit down under the table, and place the paints next to you on the ground (or on a tray). Use the paintbrush to paint on the small paper you taped to the underside of the table, being careful not to drip on yourself! A pillow will make this more comfortable.

Paint Like Michelangelo with Famous Artists Messy Play KitPaint Like Michelangelo with Famous Artists Messy Play Kit

6. There is enough paper to do this activity three times. Just replace the art paper with a new sheet, and continue the painting!

 TIP: This paint is washable, but will be easier to clean when it’s wet. If you drip on the floor or get any on the table, wipe it up before it dries to make clean up easier!

What are they learning?

  • Fine Motor Control: Holding a paintbrush, peeling and sticking tape. These help build the small muscles in their hands and help them learn to control their movements.
  • Creativity: Creating their own design gives them a sense of power and ownership. Remember to comment on what they draw rather than offer them empty praise. Read more about that here.
  • Science: Color mixing and blending.
  • Gross Motor: Arm movement above their head, crossing the midline of their body helps build coordination.

Picasso and Mondrian: Crayon Resist

Learn more about Pablo Picasso here, and Piet Mondrian here.

1. Take one sheet of art paper and lay it on a flat surface with an edge, like a baking tray or large plate.

Picasso and Mondrian Crayon resist art with Famous Artists Messy Play Kit

2. Use the crayon to make thick lines on the paper.

Picasso and Mondrian Crayon resist art with Famous Artists Messy Play Kit

Picasso made both straight and curved lines, while Mondrian often made straight lines that were perpendicular like a grid. This is a sample Mondrian painting:


3. When you’re done with your lines, cut the tips off the larger pipettes of liquid watercolors and drip them slowly on the paper. Watch the colors bleed and spread, but what happens when it gets to the crayon lines you made?

Picasso and Mondrian Crayon resist art with Famous Artists Messy Play Kit

4. Drip colors until you are satisfied, using the paintbrush to spread the colors around more if you want. Use all the colors, or only one. It’s your artwork so you get to decide!

5. There is enough art paper to do this three times. Remember to start with the crayon before dripping the watercolors on top!

Why does the crayon stop the liquid watercolors from spreading? The crayon is made of wax, which is a material that water cannot pass through. When you color with the crayon, you are covering that part of the paper with wax, so the liquid is unable to pass through it. What happens if you use the liquid first and then the crayon?


What are they learning?

  • Fine Motor: Squeezing pipettes and being controlling the amount of liquid released take a lot of control!
  • Science: Material properties and how they interact (crayon wax resists the liquid and blocks it from spreading- why?)
  • Creativity and Problem Solving: They choose what design to make and how, which gives them a sense of empowerment and pride.
  • Science: Color mixing

Calder: Mobiles

Learn more about Alexander Calder here.

1. Empty the packet of gelatin onto the plastic plate.

2. Carefully, with an adult's help, add 4 teaspoons of hot water and mix until the gelatin has dissolved.

3. Cut the tips off the small pipettes of liquid watercolors and squeeze a few drops onto the gelatin. Use a spoon to swirl them around. You can add a few different colors to make a marble effect, or mix one color partly, or mix them entirely.

Make Calder mobiles with Famous Artists Messy Play Kit

4. Let the plate sit in a corner until it dries. This may happen overnight, or it may take a few days. Leaving it alone in a well-ventilated area will help.

Make Calder mobiles with Famous Artists Messy Play Kit

5. When the gelatin has completely hardened, remove it from the plate. Carefully cut it into a few pieces of any shape.

Make Calder mobiles with Famous Artists Messy Play Kit

6. With an adult’s help, use the pushpin to poke one hole in each piece you made, thread with string, and hang from the dowel.

 TIP: Use caution with the scissors and the pushpin.

Make Calder mobiles with Famous Artists Messy Play Kit

7. Hang the dowel near a window to show off the colors in the gelatin. You made a mobile suncatcher!

Make Calder mobiles with Famous Artists Messy Play Kit

What are they learning?

  • Science: They learn about material properties and how they change (gelatin dries to become hard).
  • Science: Color mixing, again!
  • Fine Motor Control: Squeezing the pipettes, mixing the colors
  • Problem-solving: As they choose what size to cut the gelatin pieces and how to hang them, they learn about balance and design, and will have to work through the issues that may arise.

Rodin: Scuplting

Learn more about Auguste Rodin here.

1. Take the playdough out of the container. If needed, protect your workspace with the plastic dropcloth.

2. Squish and shape the playdough into various shapes, sculpting it. Can you make an object you see in front of you? Can you make an object you can play with? Can you sculpt the playdough into the shape of something you eat (but don’t eat it!)

Rodin is famous for making many different sculptures. Some photos are shown below. Can you shape the playdough into objects resembling some of his works? Look at the shapes you see in his pieces- is the sculpture tall and thin? Short and round? Flat with markings carved in? Try to make shapes like his, using different tools if you need (a spoon to carve, a fork to make lines, and so on).

La Cathédrale
Le Penseur
(The Thinker)
La Porte de l’Enfer
(The Gates of Hell)



What are they learning?

  • Fine Motor: Squeezing and manipulating the playdough is one of the best ways to strengthen the muscles in the hand.
  • Creativity: They can create whatever designs from the dough they want.
  • Abstract Thought: It's hard to create a design of something that’s not directly in front of you! This takes a lot of cognitive skills, such as abstract thoughts and memory.
  • Emotion Regulation and Positive Stress: Children may get frustrated if they can’t make the playdough look the way they want it to. However, small amounts of frustration are manageable and help them learn to deal with negative emotions and cope.Let them take a break and try again later, or offer other solutions that make you feel better when you’re frustrated.

More Famous Artists!

There are so many ways to continue playing with and learning about artists and styles of creating art. Here are some of my favorites.

  • Jackson Pollock: Drip Painting. Pollock is famous for dripping paint onto canvasses to create an intricate mixture of colors, lines and textures. Try dripping paint onto paper by standing (carefully!) on a chair above the paper and dripping paint below you, or by splatter painting onto paper (the bathtub is a great place to do platter painting- everything washed down the drain for easy clean up!). Line your workspace with a dropcloth first!
  • Georges-Pierre Seurat: Pointillism. Seurat used a series of small dots to make up his artwork, using a technique called "pointillism." Try doing this as well by using the back of a paintbrush, a cotton swab, or another rounded object. Dip it in various colored paints and see if you can make a picture appear through the dots!
  • Go to a local art museum to see artwork up close. Be sure to look at the paintings as well as sculptures to learn about various mediums. Remember that music is a form of art as well, so listen to a variety of music with your children, from classical to folk to blues to pop.
  • Check out this web article about talking with children about art. "Information is not important. What’s important is helping children find ways to describe what they see."
  • This article from NAEYC describes what "process art" is and why it's important for young children. They also have links to other resources and ideas as well!



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