Embracing Mess: 3 Reasons to Let Mess In (Paper Mache USA)

Embracing Mess: Three Great Reasons to Let Mess In

Despite the fact that I am a homeschooling mom to two, and therefore I am surrounded by my kids all day, I cannot stand chaos and mess. I just do not do well. My son has never been overly interested in crafts projects. He likes building projects and reading and putting things together, but he too does not like mess.

My daughter is a different story. She wants to try it all!

So, when I read Recipes for Play a few weeks ago (reviewed on Rebecca Reads), I started feeling the urge to try something messy and drastically different. I saved some newsprint and bought paints. We were going to make a three-dimensional paper mache model of the United States. I learned to let mess in, and I learned about teaching in the process! 

We started with scraps of newsprint, ripped up, and a piece of cardboard.

Then, we added layer on layer of the paper using the paper mache recipe as the book directed. (I’m sure you can find it online, too.) It was remarkably easy! We had to estimate where the mountains would be since we had not yet painted. Raisin referenced the map of the USA in our Atlas very often as we built it. Then, we let it dry for a few days on the counter.

Finally, it was painting day. Raisin loved this! We did water and a basic land layer first. Then, we painted on the mountains and added rivers and lakes.

Paper Mache USA


We really enjoyed this project. (I’m sorry that I do not have pictures of the various stages: I did take picture as we made the map and decorated it, but my phone camera was somehow restarted, and I lost the internal pictures I’d taken!)

Here are the three main things that I, a “mess-phobic” person, learned from this project:

1. Making a mess gets the kids interested in the learning material. Raisin was invested in this project. He wanted it to be accurate and correct, and the big mess that resulted made it extra fun for him. I understand better how a “hands on” lesson is more memorable then a simple one.

2. The mess does not last forever. It’s true that I do not like to see my kitchen table in such a gross state. But, since I used washable paints and we carefully cleaned up after our project, it was exciting to see how quickly the table returned to it’s normal state. All this time I’ve been afraid of huge craft messes, but really, it is very simple to undo most of it.

3. Messes actually are fun! There was something delightful about smoshing my hands in the glue and laying the strips down on our map. The painting was also so much fun. My son was excited to mix the primary colors to get just the right shade of green, and I almost wished we had more to paint by the time the map was done! It was so satisfying for me and my son to show off our map once we were done with it. It satisfying and fun in many ways.

I don’t believe that I am going to turn in to a daring crafty person overnight, but I was once again reminded how making a mess is not the end of the world, and how adding messes into our school day actually encourage learning. It was quite satisfying for my son. Now he wants to make a globe of the whole world!

Have you ever tried paper mache in your homeschool or classroom? Are you mess-averse too?

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