Do you have a favorite apron for messy art projects or dress-up play?
When my kids get messy, we have an arsenal of possibilities for keeping us clean (or not). Yesterday was hot, hot, hot and my kids stripped down to barely anything when we painted outside. But depending on weather, moods, and projects, they might choose their play clothes, wear a sturdy water-resistant apron, a frilly apron, or a cast-off daddy t-shirt.
Since there are so many ways to go about the job, I thought it could be fun (and potentially useful) to dig into some of the ways kids can cover up when the messy stuff comes out.
To make this even more useful, I’m excited to share the apron vs. no apron skinny from some of my favorite kid-blogger friends. I have three categories to share: Favorite Aprons, DIY Upcycled Aprons, and No Aprons at All.
- Wipeable Material: My favorite aprons for wet activities (bottom left) are from Mimi the Sardine. They’re made from organic cotton with a water-based acrylic coating that repels water. They tie on nicely, are adjustable to fit a toddler or preschooler (ages 2-6), and they’re lead and PVC free (Rachelle, Tinkerlab). Cathy of Nurture Store says “We love aprons made from wipeable plastic-coated fabric. We’ve had (ours) for 7 years and it’s still going strong, It’s easy for the kids to put on, covers up their body without being so big is gets in the way, and it’s easy to clean.” And if the apron is too big, “pop the apron on and loop the waist tie through the neck loop before you knot it. Great for aprons that are just a little too big for little ones.”
- Hand-made by moms: Buy your apron from a small mom-owned business. My friend Stacy and her mother-in-law run an Etsy shop, She and Me Designs, that specializes in really cute one-of-a-kind aprons.
- Look at your local market: “We use art smocks/aprons purchased from Whole Foods made out of re-purposed reusable Whole Foods grocery bags. We actually buy them in large quantities to give as gifts at birthday parties with art supplies.” (Patricia, Critters and Crayons).
- Use what you have: “I actually have huge collection of aprons. They are all frilly and lacy, but they are all I have so my son gets to wear them (top right) when we do art. He doesn’t mind now, but he may in the future.” (Kristin, Sense of Wonder).
Do you like to upcycle cast-offs into something fabulous? I’m in love with these mom and preschool teacher-tested ideas…
- Turn old overalls into aprons, without sewing: Turn old shortalls into a no-sew apron (top right). You could do the same with overalls. Brilliant, right? (Esther, CraftoArt), also shared this clever idea for making a paper art smock.
- Upcycle an old apron into something cute: Make these whimsical owl aprons (bottom right), using a free Home Depot kids’ apron as the base. So clever. (The Educator’s Spin on it)
- Turn old denim into sturdy aprons: repurposed denim aprons (bottom left) are stylish aprons and go on easily with velcro. (Happy Hooligans.)
- Find a good pattern: Carla (Small and Friendly) and Cerys (Rainy Day Mum) both recommend Sew liberated for her FREE apron patterns. The site has a few options and they’re all super cute. Carla also recommends using daddy’s t-shirt, bunched up at the back with a hair tie. Smart!
This is by far the most popular category. Many of the moms and teachers I talked with started out by saying, “I love X apron, but my child usually prefers to wear nothing.” Sound familiar?
- Wear Play Clothes: Jamie (Hands on: As we Grow) , Rebekah (The Golden Gleam, top right) and MaryAnne (Mama Smiles) don’t use anything special — they just use regular play clothes and make sure that the materials are washable.
- Use Stain Remover: Melissa (The Chocolate Muffin Tree) uses old shirts or nothing. She just makes “sure to have ‘Shout’ stain remover on hand and throw it in the wash!” Crystal (Growing a Jeweled Rose) says, “We also rarely use a smock or cover up. I am amazed by how fantastically washable art supplies wash out of clothing!”
- Go Naked: Aleacia (Dilly Daly Art, bottom left) gives us all confidence that we, too, strip our kids down and let them have at it with paint: Belly Prints and Body Painting
- Get messy in the bath: “We do our messiest crafts on bath days — have a blast, and then suds up for awhile afterwards. Bonus points if they are so messy they can change the color of the bath water :)” (Stacy from Kids Stuff World)
- Old men’s button-down shirts: “I’m a huge fan of this strategy. Men’s button-down shirts go on backwards, button up the back, and do an amazing job covering just about everything.”(Jill, A Mom with a Lesson Plan) These aren’t great for watery messes, but we use these often when we use acrylic paint. (Rachelle, Tinkelab)
- Old T-shirts: “My girls wear old t-shirts that are just too worn out to donate. They usually just put them on over their clothes, but if we’re doing an exceptionally messy project, I’ll have them take their clothes off first. I also have an old sheet I drape over the table to protect it. It’s perfect because I don’t care if it gets stained and it’s easy to throw in the washer if it gets too messy!” (Terri, Creative Family Fun)
- Wear something old: “We typically don’t worry about it and hope everything comes out in the wash. We have play clothes though and if I know something is going to be incredibly messy or potentially stain, I just have him wearing something that has seen better days anyways. His favorite way to go down a slide is on his knees. His pants are covered with grass stains. He rolls around on the ground. Art supplies are pretty much the least of our messy worries. Haha. I shrug it off and keep out some “nice” clothes for when he needs to look like he hasn’t spent all day playing. (Joyce, Childhood Beckons). “We paint in our ‘painting clothes,’ which are just our stained, older clothes. For us, there’s no sense in containing the mess or trying to stay clean because it will NEVER happen :-)” (Chrissy, The Outlaw Mom).
Do you have a favorite apron or a favorite way to cover up when the messy stuff comes out? Or do your kids strip down to nothing? Maybe it depends on the weather or the project. I’d love to hear more thoughts on this topic since there are so many ways to do this.
Super post! Thanks for including our denim aprons. 🙂 So many great ideas here! Using old over-alls is brilliant, and I love the paper aprons. Great for those who need a quick apron in a pinch! Off to share on my page now. 🙂
Thanks, Jackie! I’m always happy to see people smartly repurposing old things.
Most of the Crayola stuff is incredibly washable, so I don’t worry about what they wear — other brands of liquid watercolors, tempera paints, and a few other things? Not so much. Usually, my kids will wear “spaghetti clothes” (got the name because they also wear them when we eat spaghetti. I can never manage to get sauce stains out of good clothes) or very very little when they do messy art. The clothes changing is a bit of a hassle, though. One of these days, I want to figure out how to make some long sleeve smocks out of heavy, waterproof fabric where the sleeves are cinched at the wrists, but maybe also roll up. The smocks could also be long enough to cover most of their pants. I want them to be free to explore and have fun without worrying a bit about their clothes or the mess.
Ha! Spaghetti clothes is a great term for that. The other day my 1-year old was wearing a beautiful WHITE dress, and my MIL was dishing up spaghetti and blackberries for dinner. It made my heart skip a beat. I’ve seen long-sleeve smocks like the one you describe in the water area of the San Jose Children’s Discovery Museum. Hmmm, I wonder where they get them from? Must look into it!
There’s nothing more powerful than someone telling you to put on an apron… it’s like permission to creativity. Thanks for sharing our Owl Apron that Amanda created for her little one for our Little Hands that Cook with Books class.
I never thought of it that way before, Kim. 🙂
we’re a mimi the sardine family here, too. great post! 😉
I know, I know! I didn’t link to you because I wasn’t sure if you wanted people linking to your blog since you’re on hiatus. I’ll change that in the post 🙂
Now I am very curious to check out the Mimi the Sardine aprons! I know, though, that it’d be something I thought was really cute and useable, but the kids would cast off in a second. I think they enjoy having nothing between them and their creations/messes! Nice roundup of ideas 🙂
What a cool post, Rachelle! Thank you for including me in it! I have a mild addiction to cute aprons. I cannot tell you how many we have. I stuff them all into a huge bag and we use a different one each time. They are just too fun and functional!
I agree, Tricia. Now that you have me thinking about it, we have 3 kid-size aprons, 2 grown-up aprons, and a bunch of messy clothes for everyone. Aprons are so darn cute.
Fantastic post – I love the range of ideas for all parenting styles!
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