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Homeschool Art For The Child Who Hates The Mess

Do you love the idea of chalk pastels, but know that your child struggles with getting messy? You are not alone. These are helpful tips and solutions to homeschool art for the child who hates mess!


My son has always had a love/hate relationship with messy projects.

I remember picking him up from his little preschool one day, and the teacher explaining that finger painting did not go well. I wasn’t surprised. I saw it when we tried to do crafts at home or played outside.

When we began homeschooling, it was even more apparent.

I would excitedly create all kinds of hands-on learning activities only to have it end in total resistance and even tears. Nowhere was his avoidance more clear than in art lessons.

homeschool art for the child who hates mess

If your child hates messy projects as much as mine, you understand. This can be a real barrier to learning and to finding enjoyment in activities intended to be fun.

The good news is, there are ways to help your child engage with art activities, even when they struggle with the mess.

Homeschool Art For The Child Who Hates The Mess

Why Is Your Child Struggling With The Mess?

The first place to start is to try to figure out what specifically is causing the resistance. For example, my child struggles with the sensory experience of having chalk or paint on his hands. My sweet friend’s daughter avoids art because she feels pressure to keep the table and her clothes clean.

Getting to the bottom of your child’s real concern allows you to figure out what to do next.

Homeschool Art For The Child Who Hates The Mess

Homeschool Art For The Child Who Hates The Mess

Knowing your child’s specific concern then allows you to accommodate the need, while still experiencing the learning associated with the activity. I know for my son, he desperately wants to engage in the enjoyment of art. He just needs a little extra help to overcome the sensory issues associated with it.

Many kids are the same way.

Determining modifications and accommodations that help access the learning makes all the difference for the child who struggles. It gives them the ability to enjoy creating without stress, anxiety, and frustration.

Tips And Tricks For Homeschool Art Without The Mess

Using chalk pastels with You ARE An Artist in our homeschool has made a significant difference in our learning. My son loves this medium in particular because it is much more forgiving than paint or line drawings (helpful for the child who is also a perfectionist!). He loves the outcome, but struggles with the feeling of the chalk on his hands and in his workspace.

Here are my favorite tips for helping my child engage in learning with You ARE An Artist lessons, despite his avoidance of the mess.

1. Latex Gloves

Because my child struggles with the sensory experience of getting things on his hands, we have a box latex gloves available for messy projects ( I also use them for handling raw meat. Win-Win!).

Introducing the gloves was a game-changer for my son. When he has the gloves on, he feels the freedom to focus on the art lesson, instead of how his hands are feeling.

It also makes for super easy clean-up.

Homeschool Art For The Child Who Hates The Mess

2. Poster Boards

In addition to wanting to keep his hands clean, my child also struggles with the chalk dust spreading off his paper and onto the table.

My solution? I have a large poster board on hand that we put down on the table first. This way, the chalk dust can blow off and still be easily cleaned.

(This is purely for my son’s benefit, as I find chalk pastels easy to wipe up, but it certainly does simplify my clean-up as well.)

Homeschool Art For The Child Who Hates The Mess

3. A Wet Cloth

With any art project, it helps to have a wet wash cloth or paper towel close by. I think this is doubly true for a child who is struggling with the mess.

Easily being able to wipe off the table, the laptop, hands, faces – anything that might come into contact with chalk dust – eases the stress and allows my son to relax and engage in the lesson.

Homeschool Art For The Child Who Hates The Mess

4. Chalk Pastel Pencils

If your child struggles with gloves or is simply not able to feel comfortable with the mess, another option is to switch to chalk pastel pencils.

These look like regular color pencils, but give you the same results as traditional chalk pastels. With these pencils, there is no need to touch the chalk itself and there is a lot less dust.

The Value Of Homeschool Art (even when your child hates the mess)

Our homeschool has benefitted greatly from adding art with You ARE An Artist.

It is an instant way to add hands-on, multisensory learning for my child who needs it most. Taking the time to figure out what he really needs in order to engage in the lessons and enjoy the activities was well worth it!

Homeschool Art For The Child Who Hates The Mess

Just look at all the lessons we’ve completed so far:

Middle School History/Geography

  • American History
  • American Landmarks
  • Ancient History
  • World Maps
  • World Landmarks

Science With You ARE An Artist

  • Inventors
  • Moon Missions
  • Solar System
  • Space Exploration

Literature And Language Arts

  • Harry Potter (one of my son’s absolute favorites!)
  • Stopping By The Woods – Robert Frost
  • The Hobbit
  • Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

My son has learned so much with You ARE An Artist, despite the mess. It is my hope that these ideas will allow your family to do the same!

Shawna Wingert

Shawna Wingert is a special education teacher turned writer, speaker and consultant. She is also a homeschooling mom of two brilliant boys with differences and special needs.  Shawna has written four books for parents – Everyday Autism, Special Education at Home, Parenting Chaos and her latest, Homeschooling Your Child With Special Needs. She helps parents of children with learning differences, behavioral challenges and special needs every day at DifferentByDesignLearning.com.