Both my children are creatively inclined, and I wouldn’t be surprised if one, if not both, grows up to have an artistic profession. My oldest writes stories, sketches dress designs, and has a distinct sense of style. She received her first set of finger paints when she was about two. The set only had four colors, the three primaries plus green. I sat her at the dining room table, and using a paper plate as a palette, I carefully put a quarter size dollop of each color on the plate. I used a dish towel as a paint smock, pinning it with a clothes pin behind her neck. She had a big sheet of paper, probably about 12 x 15, taped down in front of her. I watched as she gingerly dipped the tip of her index finger in a color and carefully swirled it on the paper. I named the colors as she tried them and smugly patted myself on the back for being such a good mommy. After she tried each color a time or two, she paused, obviously considering her next move. The little bit of paint I’d given her hadn’t covered much area; so I added more to the plate. Then, I made a couple of suggestions. “How about drawing a sun?” She just looked at me. “Would you like mommy to show you how to draw a flower?” She grinned. I thought the flower was the winner. As I stood up to come around the table, she suddenly plunged both hands onto the plate and slapped them on the paper. Little paint splatters hit the table. She giggled and did it again. I thought, “No big deal. That will clean up easily.” Then, she smeared both hands with paint and started clapping. The paint was flying. It hit the floor. She grabbed the blue bottle and squirted more on the plate, as I made a grab for the bottle saying, “No, no, you have plenty. You don’t want to use it all at once.” She swirled the blue into the red and surveyed her hands. She brought her hands up to her face and dragged them down from her forehead to her chin, leaving the tracks of her fingers over her eyes. Next, she bent down and painted the tops of her feet. I laughed and grabbed the camera. Suffice it to say, by the time she was done, she needed a bath, and I had to mop the kitchen. And thus my daughter discovered her greatest creative outlet…the mess!
One day, not too long after the finger painting, we received a package. I don’t remember what was in it, but the box was full of styrofoam packing peanuts. “Breanna” dragged the box into her room and started hiding toys in the peanuts and then discovering them a few minutes later. After tiring of that game, she decided to pretend the peanuts were snow. She threw them over her head and danced around as the “flakes” fluttered down. I left her to play and went to make lunch. When I went back to get her, I discovered shredded styrofoam all over the room. She’d torn and stomped the peanuts into tiny bits scattering them everywhere. I think that made a worse mess than the paint. I soon realized I would have to assess the mess-making potential of anything I gave her.
Over the next year Breanna colored on walls, made glitter bombs, and on one occasion “painted” her room with a dubious substance that shall remain nameless. I called in professionals for that one and tried to forget it. Unfortunately, I still have nightmares. Just for the record, the glitter was for one of my projects, and I thought I’d put it where she wouldn’t find it.
Then, the next summer we agreed to dog sit my mom’s whippet for a couple of weeks. The dog, Lacy, was completely white. One afternoon, I decided it was time for my monthly chore of washing out the fridge. Breanna was playing with her doll house in her room. I was well into the project when I realized I didn’t know where the dog was. I went looking for her. I looked everywhere and finally ended up outside my daughter’s closed bedroom door. I could hear Breanna giggling. The moment I opened the door, a rainbow smeared blob shot out past me. I entered the room and found my child and her room covered in finger paint. It was splattered everywhere! I turned around and bolted for the living room, suddenly very afraid of what that rainbow colored blur had been. Too late. The dog was covered from nose to tail and had proceeded to shake all over the room trying to dislodge the wet paint. I took pictures of the paint splattered dog and my daughter. After bathing them both, I gave Breanna a sponge. It took the rest of the day for us to get up the majority of the paint, and I kept finding spots of it right up until the day we moved. My mistake had been leaving the paints in a plastic bin in my daughter’s closet. I learned to keep such things well out of reach after that and invested in drop cloths.
These days my children have an “art nook.” I turned the small breakfast nook, formerly the butler’s pantry (It’s an old house.), into an art space for the kids. Then I bought stock in vinyl tablecloths.