We may look at our tweens and teens and think, How did they get so big so fast? But you only have to scratch the surface to find a playful kid hiding in there, and ready to come out. So, it wasn’t hard to come up with a whole bunch of messy projects for our older kids, like we’ve done for our preschoolers and grade-school-age kids.

In fact, some of these ideas would be a blast for any age, whether or not your kids are in the double-digit age bracket yet.

[top image: Hello Whimzy]

Related: 12 messy projects for Kids. Trust us, they’ll love you.

Tonsof ideas for fun messy projects and activities for big kids | brought to you by all free clear

 9 fun ways to get our tweens and teens messy.

Hey, we can still be the “fun parent,” even when our kids are getting too old to hold our mud-covered hands in public (sniff).


Messy play for teens: Paint fight by Happy Thoughts

1. Host a Paint War

(via Hello Whimzy)

A free-for-all paint war (shown above and at top) is such a fun way to get a bunch of teens to run around the yard screaming and laughing. Check out how Hello Whimzy added paint-filled balloons, sponges, and other items to their arsenal for the most paint complete paint coverage. And make sure you take lots of pictures. Ideally with a zoom lens.


Messy play for teens: Grass Sledding by Planting Dandelions

2. Go Grass Sledding

(via Planting Dandelions)

The snow may long be gone for the year (thank goodness, sighs everyone in snow country), but that doesn’t mean the sledding has to stop. Kids will need to find a steep, grassy hill and a cardboard box to flatten out, but there’s no need to dig out the snowpants to whoosh down the slope. And once they’ve shredded their “sled,” they can perfect their log roll down the hill technique until they are too dizzy to continue.


Messy play for teens: Dancing Oobleck by Housing a Forest

3. Make a Dancing Oobleck Science Project

(via Housing a Forest)

It’s all about the bass (heh) with this idea for Dancing Oobleck — that’s slime, as you might know it — from Housing a Forest. With just a couple of ingredients and some loud sounds, this is one fun, gooey activity that also teaches kids about sound waves in a way that even our teens will think is very, very cool. And maybe after watching the oobleck jump around, they’ll listen to you the next time you ask them to turn down their headphones just a wee bit.


Messy play for teens: Color fight by Oh Happy Day

4. Have a Color Fight

(via Oh Happy Day; photo by Paul Ferney)

Turn all your kids’ friends into human rainbows by hosting an incredibly messy but incredibly fun color fight in your backyard. Oh Happy Day’s pictorial shows how much fun this can be for all ages, and she links to a great source for non-toxic, hypoallergenic HOLI colors made of natural ingredients. That’s definitely something you want to check out. Just make sure you look all the doors to the house before a group of rainbow powder-covered playful teens decides to take the battle inside.


Messy play for teens: Tie Dye party from I Love to Create

5. Celebrate with a Tie-Dye Crafting Party

(via I Love to Create )

Turn up the 70’s tunes, grab a bunch of white tees, and throw an outdoor tie-dye party for a group of tweens or teens. This step-by-step tutorial also includes ideas for other items the kids can dye with great results. Let the kids try out different techniques and get really creative with their dyeing. Then send them home with their finished products. And colored fingers. Because we always love party activities that double as take-home goodie bag favors.


Messy play for teens: Foam race © Christina Refford

6. Participate in a Messy Race, Together

(ROC Run pictured above)

Our associate editor, Christina, did a “messy” 5K with her tween and some friends last year and discovered that spending an hour crawling, sliding, slipping, and getting head-to-toe covered in foam and mud was a brilliant way to bond. And with fun, non-competitive messy races popping up all over the country, many of which are open to kids as young as 14, there are lots of options for getting a little exercise while you are both getting covered in foam, mud, or any combination of goo.


Playing in the mud via Riekes Nature Awareness

7. Play in the Mud

(via Riekes Nature Awareness)

This is not for the faint of heart, but letting your bigger kids jump and slide into a massive patch of mud is sure to create a memory they won’t soon forget. After all, some of them may look like adults, but they’re still kids. Though we give huge props to Riekes Nature Awareness for taking her mud-caked teens into town afterwards! The photos are hilarious. And she probably convinced a few more people to try this the next time they came upon a mud puddle.


Messy play for teens: Paint Twister game from A Diva's Dabbles

8. Twister with a Twist

(via A Diva’s Dabbles)

We all grew up playing Twister, though this “twist,” which adds paint to the game, gets things downright sloppy. It’s so fun for a party game or break-the-ice summer camp activity, since the slippery paint will make a hard game even harder. Just make sure you’ve got a pond or hose nearby for easy cleanup.



Messy play for teens: Messy party by Click the Good News

9. Host a Get Messy Party

(via Click the Good News – link via cache)

A giant tarp makes such a great canvas on which to host a messy party because, it keeps the mess semi-contained, plus it acts as a giant slip-and-slide as things get wetter and soapier and muddier. She adds shaving cream, whipped cream, water, mud, oatmeal and more to the mess to make it extra gooey.

Just make sure you set a few ground rules, like making sure everyone stays on their knees as they tackle and grab, helps to insure the party is all play, no pain. Somehow? These kids don’t look very pained to us.


*Tips for messy play with tweens and teens*

* Make sure all people involved show up wearing play clothing and shoes, but have a few old tee shirts and shorts set aside for those who forget. If possible, let the kids go barefoot so that a nice, new pair of sneakers or sandals can stay nice and new.

* It’s more fun with friends: Unlike toddlers and young kids who may be perfectly happy getting messy by themselves or just with you, older kids will have a better time when their friends join them.

* Prevent an expensive mishap followed by an epic meltdown by making sure cell phones and other electronics are stashed somewhere safe and dry before they get muddy, wet, or both. Same goes for jewelry and other accessories. You can also put an individual device in a plastic baggie, labeled with the owner’s name, so they can keep their precious phones within eyesight, only protected.

*Ask each guest to bring along change of clothes. That way, you can put their messy ones into the wash with a good stain-fighting detergent like all free clear after the main event and before they head home. Their parents will thank you profusely.

* Don’t roll your eyes if your tween or teen doesn’t want to get her hair dirty or seems a bit self-conscious about the whole activity. There’s no wrong way to get messy. Plus, remember how much work our own hairstyles were back in the day? Forgive them.

* Though it may look like so much fun that you want to join in, read your child’s cues before you jump in and get messy with them. Some kids will think it’s hilarious to see Mom or Dad participating in the paint fight, while others will be thinking…eh, not so cool. Better to wait for them to call you into the fray instead of barging in on their fun.


For more fun posts in this series:

11 messy projects for preschoolers that let you be The Fun Parent
12 fantastically messy projects for kids that let you be That Fun Parent.