Creative Kids: Waste Not! – How To Turn Your Child’s Mess into a Masterpiece

Tanya1This week’s Creative Kids guest blogger is the incredibly gifted Tanya Mariadross.

Kids. Messy little blighters, aren’t they? I feel like I spend about 95% of my time cleaning up after my 10 month and 2 year old. Every single toy purchased (far too many – none of them played with for longer than 30 seconds) strewn haphazardly ready for me to break my neck on. Food up the walls. Sticky finger marks (what is that?) on the French doors. Toilet-roll mapped across our floors like giant spider webs. Don’t even get me started on the time when my two and half year old managed to open the talcum powder in our lounge….

Rainy days stuck indoors with a restless toddler can be an almighty hell. Especially on a weekend or school break when soft play and indoor activities are heaving and you’re faced with a room full of screaming, feral children (I mean, angels. *Ahem*). I avoid big crowds like the plague on such occasions – for my sanity mostly. And my children’s safety. But mainly my sanity.

Tanya4So how do you pass the time with your children when stuck indoors and at a loss for what to do? When Iggle-bloody- Piggle and Bing-cocking- Bunny have finally lost their appeal? TV pacifies only for so long (shut up. We all do it). Hide and seek indoors loses it glory after 5 minutes in our household – but then we do live in the world’s smallest house. Perhaps you have hundreds of acres of space for your kids to run around in – because let’s face it, under-four- year-olds are essentially like greyhounds – they need to burn-that- s**t-off. If you do, you’re all set. In which case, my advice would be to throw them outside with their wellies and brollies and shut the door, retreating quickly to the drinks cabinet. Alas, most of us don’t have such luxuries. Acres of space, that is. Not drinks cabinets. We’ve ALL got one of those *tsk*.

When I was pregnant with my son, I found myself spending a lot of time indoors with my toddler. The summer was hot and muggy and I couldn’t face long walks to the park every day heaving the buggy around. Winter came and I couldn’t face the wind, rain and cold, heaving the buggy around. In fact, I seem to recall spending quite a lot of time driving the car those 9 months. This is my parenting ‘if all else fails’. The car wash and a packet of Quavers (shut up – we all do it) are a saving grace sometimes.  But you can’t spend your life eating junk food at the car wash *sigh*. The only other activity I found that would really cut the mustard with my 2 year old daughter was getting really messy with paint, paper, pencils, pens, crayons and pastels. Nothing gives her greater pleasure than to run amock with these tools (in a controlled environment, I must add. Don’t forget the controlled environment. PLEASE for love of all things sacred, the controlled environment is PARAMOUNT to you getting your rental deposit back). I found it to be one of the only activities, which when set up, I had to do very little to keep her entertained. She was off! Pollock on a high. But before you embark on this activity – here are the essentials you need to know:

Tanya21 – Get a BIG mother-fudging plastic play mat. The biggest one you can find. It will save your floors and carpets and you will treasure that piece of plastic as much as the platinum on your finger. Believe.

2 – Overalls. Naked. Or clothes that you don’t care will get TRASHED. You will NEVER get ANYTHING out of the materials your child is wearing during these sessions.

3 – Forget piddly A4. Go wild. Invest an extra few quid on one of those enormous A1 flip chart pads – your child will love you for it and you won’t spend every thirty seconds meeting the diva demands of a child who needs ‘a new page’ as their one stroke of colour is now ‘finished’.

Ceci and I could eaily spend hours splashing, dabbing, doodling, scribbling, splodging, squirting, dunking, flicking and brushing these materials across pages and pages and pages of paper. The thing is – you only have so much wall space, right? I mean, I’m artistic and I love me a good amount of abstract toddler art on my walls, but even I admit – there’s a limit. So what do you do with all these colourful creations?  Stuff them in a drawer only to throw them out a few months later? Maybe shove them in a ‘scrap book’ that you plan to make that actually never gets made? Straight in the bin? Straight in the bin?!- Harsh!

I would look at these mountains of paper and could never quite bring myself to throw them out, but I was determined not to just put them away and forget about them either. So I decided to dig out my mother’s old sewing scissors and started to cut up these piece of paper to see what the outcome might be if I tried to then re-fashion them in to something else. And blow me down if the results weren’t quite spectacular.  And let me tell you something else – cutting stuff up is cathartic. Got stress? Cut up paper for ten minutes and I bet you’ll feel better. Something about the blade slicing through paper whilst imagining (insert appropriate human name here) head probably helps. Yes, that helps a lot actually.

The really funny thing is, once I started doing this, I couldn’t stop. So delighted was I by the shapes and forms these new pieces of painted paper could take when stuck on another piece of paper or card with a bit of glue, that each day became a competition to see what character or creation I could form next. The care-free brush strokes of my child had created immediate depth and texture that brought a picture to life.

What followed was a creative splurge of paper cutting in the months leading up to the birth of my son. I made cards and pictures followed by more cards and pictures. I would send them to just about anyone who would take them. I literally covered our playroom walls with these creations. My friends joked that it felt as if I was saying goodbye to them before giving birth as I had written to them all individually with a handmade paper cutting card telling them all how much I loved them. Sod waiting for birthdays and Christmas. I’ve always thought one of the nicest pleasures in life is to receive an unexpected card or letter with some heart-felt words from a friend (that and good, strong coffee. It used to be Vodka. But not with kids. No siree. Hangovers and childcare go together like ethanol and matches). And let’s be real here folks – most store-bought greetings cards end up in the bin. My mother (a bit of scrooge when it came to Christmas, I must add) would hang a paper bag from our fireplace mantle with the words ‘Christmas Cards’ scrawled across it. Almost every card was consigned to the bag over the festive period. She wasn’t going to let any old tat litter our mantle.  Only the chosen few would get a coveted position up top – and those were the handmade ones.

Tanya3So what’s my point? Don’t get consigned to the brown bag, people! Get creative and start making your own darn cards from the off-cuts of your sprogs! Even the least creatively-inclined of adults are guaranteed to get some good results – how hard is it to cut a few petals and leaves? Don’t like flowers? (Seriously, who doesn’t like flowers? What kind of human are you?) Then just stick some odd bits together and see what happens.  You might just find you’re delighted by the results. And if anyone asks what it is, just say ‘contemporary’ or ‘abstract’.

For me, what turned out as a way to pass time then became a hobby – which then became a business I started last year. I had no intention of ever doing this. It just happened. I suddenly found I had an artistic streak in me, that given the right tools and setting, truly took flight. I practised and harnessed that skill to the best of my ability and continue to do so – but the wonderful thing was, that once I started doing this, suddenly people were asking for the pieces I was creating. Friends would ask for a picture of an animal. A neighbour commissioned me to make one for her Grandson.  And so I decided to take a punt and put some of this online and set up as shop on Etsy. I now make all sorts of creative things out of the off-cuts (amongst other things) and doodlings of my children. You can see some of this here:

It has been one of the most fulfilling and liberating chapters of my life so far. When I’m feeling truly (insert appropriate expletive here), sitting at a desk after my children are in bed, with the radio for company, whilst snippety-snipping away at odds and sods can be one of the most therapeutic things in the world. It untangles my mind and gives me clarity. And failing that, there’s always Vodka.

And here’s the tick-list of things to get if you, like me, are really up for giving this a good bash:

– Invest in some really good, sharp, well made scissors – or even better – scalpels. It will change your life. I promise.

– Spray mount is a beautiful invention. Save yourself hours. With a quick spray of this adhesive you can stick your work together effortlessly and can even move it a few times if you’re a perfectionist that’s never happy (like me).

VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: Don’t forget to use Spray Mount either outdoors or on a surface you don’t mind rendering completely useless for anything else other than spraying Spray Mount. Like I said – plastic mat – golden.

And if you’re looking for additional inspiration and something to aspire to – then also check out the Hari and Deepti website:  It will blow your mind

That’s about it really. Go!

Blogger Bio

With a background in sales and marketing, Tanja is now a Writer and Artist living in South West London and full-time mother to two young children.

You can fine Tanya’s writers website here, buy her amazing creations here or follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Have you done a creative project with your kids that you’d like to share?  Do you have a brilliant messy play task?  If you’d like to write a guest blog post around getting arty, crafty or messy with kids please email me at  Find out more about the series here.  

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3 comments on “Creative Kids: Waste Not! – How To Turn Your Child’s Mess into a Masterpiece

  1. Wow, that’s wonderful! And I feel so guilty after reading this article 🙁 Sometimes I just can’t help shouting at my kids as they usually make messes while playing…Thank you so much for sharing your precious experience with us.

    1. Hi Elizabeth, I’m so sorry it had taken me so long to reply to you! I completely neglected to check in with this feed! Thank you for your comments. And don’t feel guilty about losing your cool with the kids during messy play – we all do! Cleaning up after kids can feel like an eternal battle! Summer helps – naked garden play in open spaces – no mess there! Unless they’re not potty trained of course

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