Explore & Learn
Building, creating, painting and hands-on mess-making are all essential to a child’s development. Here are a few local spots that offer up their space, supplies and patience to give your kid room to explore.
By Melissa Tucker
In the car, in restaurants, at play dates, in the tub — pretty much everywhere kids go, messes follow. They are experts!
Though this can be exasperating, caregivers should try to remember that getting messy is good for a child’s cognitive development. They learn about shapes, colors, size and problem-solving.
They can also develop socially and emotionally, according to an article in Early Childhood News.
“Sensory experiences provide children with the opportunity to feel good about their decision-making skills — they control their actions and experience,” the article said.
“Self-discovery occurs as children become eager scientists. They take pride in their predictions, make observations, and respond to their findings … Pounding, squishing, feeling water through their hands are all ways of staying in contact with feelings while learning to control what he does about them.”
While most parents begrudgingly agree children learn much through messes, they may also be weary of the toll it takes on the household furniture. The good news is, plenty of places are available for kids to explore their creative sides — on other people’s property.
Zig Zag Studio
623A Beechwood, Little Rock
Jeannie Guthrie, owner of Zig Zag Studio in Little Rock, said, “Art that focuses on the process and not the end result helps with problem-solving and engineering, self-expression and self-esteem. It’s an excellent tool no matter the artistic ability.”
Guthrie started out hosting art sessions on her back porch, and her husband playfully called this area the “messatarium” or the “glitter tank.” When Zig Zag opened, she finally had a dedicated space for the mess-making.
Zig Zag offers classes for elementary-age kids as well as open studio on Saturday mornings where, for $20 per child, parents and kids can drop in and spend time creating together.
“All of the projects have a tinkering component,” she said. “Some were essentially my recycling plus hot glue, duct tape, masking tape, etc. When I started teaching, that was an afterthought, but it turned into that’s what the kids wanted to do all the time — take random parts and put them together.”
Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub
204 E. Fourth St., North Little Rock
While children previously needed a membership to attend, this fall the Innovation Hub will offer monthly classes for a drop-in rate. The after-school sessions are offered Tuesdays or Thursdays and organized by age group. Classes have a STEAM focus with pixel art, 3D modeling and printing, ceramics, and even engraving with lasers. Errin Stanger, deputy director of the Innovation Hub, said the classes teach kids STEAM principles but also that it’s OK to fail.
“We have a structure that was made by our 3D printers, and it reads, ‘Failure is an option,’ and it’s filled with failed 3D prints. It looks really beautiful and shows you still can create beauty and learn from your failures.”
The Painted Pig
5611 Kavanaugh Blvd., Little Rock
Open since 2007, the Painted Pig Studio is one of the original artwork destinations for families in the Central Arkansas area. Kids can pick a pottery piece and paint it, learn to make glass or mosaic pieces, or create one-of-a-kind jewelry. One-time classes for kids and adults are also available. Check the schedule on the website for more information.
Painting with a Twist
400 N. Bowman Road, Little Rock
Though Painting with a Twist may be known for grown-up time with paint and wine, children are also welcome to create. Plenty of kid-friendly classes for ages 6 and up can be found on the calendar, typically on Saturday mornings. However, Painting with a Twist has something going on almost every day of the week, so visit the website to find the class that’s right for you.
323 S. Cross St., Little Rock
Though most of Southern Studio is geared toward adults, the Splatter Cave gives kids a canvas and the ability to create splatter paint pieces. The 45-minute sessions in the Cave are available Wednesdays through Saturdays and include a 12-by-16-inch canvas and all necessary supplies for $18. You can book online and then arrive dressed to make a mess.
Arkansas Arts Center
Riverdale Shopping Center, Little Rock (temporary)
Maybe the longest-running place for kids and adults to dip a toe into the world of art, the Arkansas Arts Center’s Museum School has classes in everything from print-making to photography to woodworking. Kids can register for eight-session courses each season in handbuilding, ceramics, drawing, mixed media or painting. Shorter workshops are also available. Parents can also get in on the creation with classes in photography, woodworking, pottery and more. The summer theater program gives kids an intro to stagecraft, while The Children’s Theatre exposes them to live performances of some of their favorite stories. Rotating exhibitions give kids (and adults) a taste of professional art made by regional and national artists.
ArtLab Creative Studio
Pavilion in the Park
8201 Cantrell Road #130, Little Rock
Another place for children to explore process art is at ArtLab in Pavilion in the Park. Kids can take classes or create in the open studio. Materials include painting, Play-Doh, weaving looms, chalk and craft supplies on the “art buffet.” Families can also participate in The Abstract Project, which allows kids to create a custom piece to hang in their home. The kids are guided through the process, and once the project is complete, the Art Lab staff will add the finishing touches.