I'm a fan of messy kid-art. My husband is not. However, what lessens his anxiety when he sees our daughter squeezing food colouring into play dough or marbleising paper with shaving cream is the fact that her work is mostly contained on serving trays.
My daughter and her friend working on their masterpieces - all contained on serving trays. Photo: Sulmo Kim
Yep, the same type of serving trays that party hosts might use to present a fine selection of cured meats. I've found that they're perfect work areas for most of my kid's projects, whether it's a painting, a chalk drawing, or a necklace made of tiny beads. Whatever messes that happen during the process (and they will happen) can be easily washed away in the sink, dishwasher, or with a wet towel.
The trays we use are from Daiso, AKA "the Japanese two-dollar store". They're big and cheap - I bought extras for when we invite other kids over. If you have a Daiso near you, get yourself there immediately. If you don't, any smooth, dishwasher-safe tray will work fine. I'd avoid boxy trays for drawing and painting, as the edges can get in the way.
Yes, your kids will still make a mess, but now it's more of a corralled mess. And that is something we can deal with - for the sake of art.