They may be growing up oh-so-fast, but our elementary-school aged kids are more than happy to get as messy as their toddler selves used to, especially when it’s all in good fun. Our tip: Every so often, it’s okay to get messy. So throw on the play clothes, hold your breath, and get ready for them to get head-to-toe covered in paint, mud, or whatever ooey, gooey substance you have on hand.
If all this talk about messy play makes you feel a little squeamish, then remember that the nice weather of spring and summer make the perfect time to take that mess outside. Hey, we don’t want to have to clean up the house anymore than we already do already either.
Related: 11 Messy Projects for Preschoolers
And since bigger kids make bigger messes, we’re really happy to have all free clear as the perfect sponsor for this three-part series on messy play. After all, they know a thing or two about getting the “messy” out of clothing. Plus, we’re all for irritant-free, allergen-free laundry detergent, fabric softener, and dryer sheets that do the job on clothes, but are easy on sensitive skin. They’re even dermatologist recommended and have received the National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance.
In other words, instead of worrying about how you’ll clean up their clothes after these 12 fun, messy projects and games for kids, you can worry about how to get all that paint out of their hair.
1. Kid-sized Mud Run (via AKA Jane Random)
If you’re the “go big or go home” type, check out the amazing kid-sized Mud Run created by AKA Jane Random. With several different messy obstacles, like a slippery mud slide and a goo-filled kiddie pool, we can see a whole lot of kids having a blast getting really, really dirty. Visit the site for lots of fun ideas for a messy birthday party.
2. Messy Science Experiments (via Serving Up the Skinny)
Our curious kids won’t turn up their noses to a little weekend science when it’s as entertaining, mess-making, and sometimes explosive, as shown in the hilarious photo from Serving Up the Skinny. From the infamous “Mentos and Diet Soda” experiment shown above, to the is-it-a-solid-or-a-liquid? duality of Oobleck, your kids will be asking to do Summer School if it’s this fun.
Also, check out Education.com which is one of our favorite resources to keep kids busy learning in the most fun ways possible.
3. Create Shaving Cream Art (via The Root Children)
Playing with shaving cream is a messy activity that kids of many ages will be eager to do, though we love seeing how the older kids at The Root Children turned sensory play into an art project. Just add paint and lots of imagination and see what they sculpt out of shaving cream.
4. Host a Mud Party (via Meg and Andy)
Don’t underestimate the fun kids will have with just some dirt and water, as evidenced in the birthday mud party put on by the intrepid Meg and Andy. And this isn’t just for suburbanites! We love that they were able to create this much mess in a small city backyard, and you can too, proving you don’t need much space to get a group of kids really, really muddy. And really, really happy.
5. Painting in a Box (via Picklebums)
A large box becomes an art canvas, and a sort of “mess container” with this clever idea from Picklebums. Our older kids would enjoy painting patterns or a giant picture in the box, though we’re pretty sure even the most serious artists will end up rolling around in the paint by the end. Hey, it does look pretty irresistible. Check out the site for all the details.
6. Summer Snowball Fight (via Play Create Explore)
Those of us in the northeast have had quite enough snow this year, thankyouverymuch, but even we have to admit that Play Create Explore’s idea for making faux snowballs is pretty great. Let your kids decide if they want to keep them white or add some color for other-worldly purple and green snowballs. But trust us: Do this one outside.
Make cleanup a little less of a headache with these tips:
- Take advantage of the nicer weather of spring and summer and take the messy play out of doors.
- Put down a tarp or drop cloth in the areas that are going to get the messiest.
- Set up a hose or sprinkler for cleanup when playtime is done.
- Dress kids in darker-colored play clothes to prevent any stubborn stains from settling in.
- Consider smocks to keep paint, mud, or shaving cream (mostly) off clothes.
- Make cleanup part of the playtime with a hose, some sponges, and trash bags on hand.
- When it’s all over, use a detergent like all free clear which gets even the most stubborn stains out, without you having to worry about harmful chemicals irritating your kids’ sensitive skin.
7. Do Some Chalk Painting (via Let’s Lasso the Moon)
Those little nubs of chalk at the bottom of the chalk bin make the perfect crushable chalk paint with a little water added. Give the kids a driveway or sidewalk and see what they create! Though, don’t expect the chalk to stay on their hands only. Once they discover that it makes a pretty vibrant body paint, it’s going there too.
8. Make a Colorful Slip-n-Slide (via Creative Capital B)
By the tenth hot day of summer, our kids may not be quite as excited to set up the slippery vinyl slide in the yard, so here’s a great idea to mix things up a bit from Creative Capital B. Generous squirts of washable paint or even shaving cream turn each slide into a bit of a challenge. (Exactly how much of their bodies can they get covered on a single run?) Then, just be sure to hose them off before you let them back into the house. Yeah, definitely don’t forget that part.
9. Do Some Mud Cake Decorating (via Craftberry Bush)
If you are going to host a Mud Tea Party you’ll need to serve snacks, and we think our kids will have a blast trying to turn sticky black mud into pretty mud cakes. Send the kids out to gather decorations, from small flowers, to pretty rocks and colorful leaves while you raid the pantry for some extra cupcake holders and leftover sugar sprinkles. This is a great project when your kids don’t want to get head-to-toe dirty, or would just prefer a quieter outdoor activity in the shade when the temperature climbs.
10. Create a Human Sized Art Canvas (via Studio DIY)
Hang an old sheet or white drop cloth in the backyard and hand the kids spray bottles of paint to decorate a one-of-a-kind giant art canvas. Visit the site for a full tutorial.No promises that all the paint will stay on the canvas; in fact, the most colorful works of art may end up being the painters themselves.
11. Have a Paint Battle with Water Pistols (via dcorr_88)
We love this amazingly creative idea to dip water pistols into paint for a memorable, and colorful, backyard battle. This was part of a Minecraft party, so the paints were green and orange, though you could use any color combo you’d like. Think of this as a kinder, gentler, DIY paintball match. And maybe award a special prize to the child who is covered the most in paint. (Also, maybe tell the parents that this is the plan for the day, lest kids show up in their finest party clothes.)
12. Host a Food Fight Party (via Beyond Deweyville)
We are in awe of this California mom who somehow covered enough of her home to allow for a no-holds-barred food fight to take place indoors for her son’s most-memorable fifth birthday party. It didn’t take much preparation at all — not counting the deep yoga breathing we’d need to do to prepare. If you’re up for this, we recommend you make this an outside activity, or read her instructions for how she did it… and lived to tell about it.
Thanks so much to our sponsor all free clear for giving us the opportunity to put together this super fun series for you all! Also check out our first post in this series: 11 messy projects for preschoolers that let you be The Fun Parent.
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.
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