If you find yourself saying Don’t make a mess! to your curious, imaginative, and, yeah, messy preschooler more times than you care to count, we’re going to challenge you to say Let’s make a mess for a change. Wait til you see how good that feels.

Oh sure, we couldn’t do this every day, but sometimes it’s fun to let loose and be the fun parent who doesn’t really care how dirty, sticky, painty, or glittery our kids get during no-holds-barred play. Especially as the weather gets warmer, and sending them to hose off outside is one viable option.

 11 messy projects for preschoolers that let you be the fun parent


Remember, clean-up time can actually be tolerable when you’ve got the right products on hand. Which is why we’re pleased to introduce our newest partner all free clear, which is sponsoring a new three-part “messy” series that we’re having the best time putting together for you all!

The genius of all free clear is that it inspires confidence when cleaning up after these crazy craft projects, with an irritant-free, allergen-free laundry detergent that’s strong on stains, but not on kids. In fact, their detergent, fabric softener, and dryer sheets are dermatologist recommended, and have even received the National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance — which is a huge deal for parents of kids with super-sensitive skin.

So on their behalf, we’re excited to present the first of a new three-part “messy” series on Cool Mom Picks.

Our hope is to get you to embrace your inner Pigpen, and check out these 11 fun ways to get messy with your preschoolers, so you can be that fun, mess-loving parent. Even just for one day.


Messy play with kids: Colorful oobleck by Train up a Child

1.  DIY Slime Craft for kids (from Train Up a Child at Creative with Kids)

Place cornstarch and water into a kiddie pool, add child, and let them stir themselves into a gooey oobleck frenzy — which you might better know as slime, or goop — with this full-body messy craft idea. You can find all the instructions at  Creative with Kids. Slime always feels so cool squishing through fingers, it must be even more fun squishing through toes. So says our inner five-year-olds. And our actual five-year-olds.


Messy play for kids: Mud tea party by The Golden Gleam

2. Host a princess Mud Tea Party (The Golden Gleam)

Our princesses (and princes) aren’t so prim and proper all the time. Or really, most of the time. So they’d think an outdoor mud tea party, while in full royal attire, would be a hilariously good time. We think the huge smile on this adorable princess says it all.


Messy play for kids: Edible finger paint by Hands On As We Grow

3. Edible Finger Paint Craft for Kids (recipe/image via Hands on as we Grow)

The post for edible finger paints that we shared a while back may have been written with babies in mind, but we think older kids will dig right in to these yummy tasting finger paints too. After all, preschoolers are now at an age where we tell them not to play with their food, right? So being able to paint with their food should be quite a treat.


Messy play for kids: Muddy DIY car wash by A Boy Named Parker

4. DIY Car Wash for Ride-On Toys (A Boy Named Parker)

Whether you build an amazing kid-sized car wash from PVC pipes, or just stick out a hose and a bucket of soap, we think your kids’ favorite part of their DIY Car Wash will be getting their vehicle nice and dirty first. After all, what’s the use of cleaning it off if it isn’t a filthy mess to begin with? Consider it good practice for when we add “wash the family car” to their chore lists when they’re a little older.


 Try to reduce cleanup headaches with some of our tried-and-true tips that won’t stifle kids’ enthusiasm while they go to town on messy projects:

-Do it outside.
-Have a hose or outdoor shower nearby.
-Take bathroom breaks before everyone gets dirty.
-Use drop cloths or sheets in the messiest areas.
-Have clean rags or towels nearby.
-Wear shoes you know can be tossed in the laundry.
-Toss everything in the laundry with with all free clear  laundry products as soon as you’re done.

-Try to relax and accept the mess. Kids will feel your hesitation if you have any. In fact, why not get in there and do it with them? When’s the last time you had a good old-fashioned mud pie party with them?



Messy activities for kids: Flubber slime by Kiwi Crate

5. DIY Flubber Slime Baskets (recipe, Kiwi Crate)

Sticky and gooey, flubber is fun to play with on its own, but we love Kiwi Crate’s idea to let it pour through a plastic basket onto arms, and even heads, below. This is a great idea for kids who may not want to be muddy or dirty, but still like the sensation of squishing this stuff through their fingers and getting goop on their bodies.


DIY Mud Slide idea for Messy Play at Growing a Jeweled Rose

6. DIY Mud Slide for Kids (Growing a Jeweled Rose)

Are you ready to get them really, really messy? Got an inflatable kiddie pool and some space outdoors? Take a deep breath and check out the incredibly fun muddy play ideas from Growing a Jeweled Rose, who threw an entire Play in the Mud party for her kids! Consider us impressed. Click over for ideas including this slippery mud slide. Our kids would be in heaven.


Messy play for kids: Tree painting by Two-Daloo

7. Rainbow Bubble Wrap Tree Painting Project (tutorial, Two-Daloo)

We think all kids love bubble wrap, and all kids love finger painting. So this idea from Two Daloo which combines the two, is sure to be a winner. We love that a tree forms the base for a colorful design and makes it such an interesting sensory experience for kids — and maybe the adult who too is powerless against the lure of bubble wrap.


Messy play for kids: Chocolate Goop by Paging Fun Mums

8. DIY Chocolate Goop Recipe for Messy Play (recipe, Paging Fun Mums)

Seems that everything does go better with chocolate, including gooey, elastic, mushy goop. Paging Fun Mums’ clever twist on a classic recipe looks almost like chocolate taffy and must smell amazing. At least a lot more amazing than mud. This is one we wouldn’t mind trying ourselves.


You know your child best, and not every child is comfortable getting head-to-toe messy, so let their body language, smile, and eagerness lead the way. Make sure they know that mud, paint, and food on their clothes and body is totally okay with you, and then see how far they take it. We know kids who will go all-in (no pun intended) and get themselves fully immersed in mud or goop in sixty seconds flat; while others will get a single hand dirty and feel like they really made a mess. It’s all okay!


Messy play for kids: Mud puddle hopping by Fireflies and Mudpies

9. Say Yes to Mud Puddle Splashing  (photo, Fireflies and Mudpies)

April, May, or June showers may have your little ones clamouring to check out the deepest and murkiest of mud puddles. So pop on some rain boots and see who can make the biggest splash. Also be sure to check out the other wonderful ideas at Fireflies and Mudpies for how to enjoy those muddy puddles.


Messy play for kids: Mud paint by Learn Play Imagine

10. DIY Colorful Mud Paint for Kids (recipe, Learn Play Imagine)

We never knew mud could be so vibrant until we saw Learn Play Imagine’s recipe for colorful mud paint. So fun! Mix up a batch of colors and let your little Mondrian or Jackson Pollack use it to paint rocks, the sidewalk, or just plain sheets of paper. Probably their arms and legs too.


Messy play for kids: Painting with bottle from Mummy Musings and Mahem

11. DIY Recycled Bottle Paint Squirters Project for Messy Play (details at Mummy Musings and Mayhem)

Don’t throw out those used squirty food bottles for jelly, ketchup, chocolate syrup or mayo! They can become easy homemade paint squirters with this cute, though super messy idea from Mummy Musings and Mahem. We’d suggest you pick a sunny day and don’t look back, since those squirters are as likely to squirt onto your kids as their “artwork.”  But, oh, what fun it is.

all free clear laundry products make you #freetobe as messy as you'd like

Thanks so much to our sponsor all free clear for giving us the opportunity to put together a super fun series for you all! Be sure to like the all free clear Facebook page for sweepstakes, coupons, giveaways, laundry tips (which we always need), and lots more.

Also, check out the #FreetoBe hashtag on Twitter for stories and ideas from other parents about creating mess without the worry.

If you’d like to take a short survey after reading this post, please click here. Now go forth and be messy!