When it comes to messy play ideas, you can’t forget all the messy art fun, right?! Because art is definitely a fun experience for the kids, and art that’s messy can be even MORE fun sometimes.
Don’t let the term “messy” scare you off! Art with children, in and of itself, has the potential to be a bit messier with kids in the equation. To me, that just means they’re really getting into the projects and fully exploring their creativity.
All that being said, I’ve put together a collection of some seriously engaging messy art ideas for you. These are some of the best art projects to get the kids experimenting with a variety of art techniques.
The mess allows the the children to explore the art with multiple senses, taking it all to another level. So encourage them to go all-in with the ideas you choose!
And go into it with a plan to handle the mess before, during, and after all the art fun. This way, you’ll keep things at a level that you’re comfortable with.
To get the most out of this list, read through all the ideas. Then go back and click on each link to go to a more in-depth description of each project. The toughest choice you’ll face is deciding which one to start with.
What is Messy Art and Why is Messy Art Important?
First, let’s touch on what messy art even is. This is one of those situations where the definition is right there in the term. To put it simply, messy art is art that’s messy (or has the possibility of being messy).
But when you delve a bit further, there’s a bit more to it. Messy art allows children the freedom to get really excited and engaged with their art. They can test out new techniques, or use well-loved ideas, without the fear of making a “mistake” somehow. This really takes a lot of pressure off the children as they create, especially those who might lean towards perfectionism.
On top of that, messy art adds a deeper level of sensory input for the kids. They’re allowed (encouraged, even!) to get their hands (or feet or elbows) into different textures. And this type of art also really focuses on the process of creating, rather than overly focusing on how art “should” look. With my love of process art, it’s not a far jump to say I adore art that brings messiness into play.
In case you’re wondering, I put together a list of some things messier art supports:
- Vocabulary development
- Sensory exploration
- Conversation skills
Okay, I stopped at 10. Otherwise the list might have gone on a lot longer. Needless to say, there are many benefits to incorporating the messy into your art projects.
Messy Art Supplies
Now it’s time to chart materials! I’m a big believer in using the supplies you have on-hand as much as possible. Of course, I’m also someone who has curated a large stash of supplies over the 2+ decades I’ve been in early childhood education. It’s a balance, right?
Don’t feel like you HAVE to rush out and buy tons of new supplies for all your messy art fun. Take a stroll through the amazing ideas below, pick a few favorites, and then decide what materials you’d like to grab. You might already have some in your own stash!
Here are some of the materials used in the art ideas I collected for you (I may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post):
- Washable tempera paint
- Liquid watercolors
- Acrylic paint
- Crepe paper
- Shaving cream
- Bubble wrap
- Watercolor paper
- Air dry clay
And the great thing about the above list? Most of those materials can be used for tons of art activities. Open-ended art supplies are a good thing!
How to Clean Up Messy Art
Before we jump into the creative messy play, you need a plan. Specifically, you need a clean-up plan. Especially if you’re a little hesitant to break out the art supplies because of the mess. So here are a few tips to help you plan for the mess:
- Use washable materials.
- If possible, plan to use things you can wash after the art’s all done.
- This includes washable paints , as well as tools that are easy to clean.
- Have a way to contain the mess.
- This could mean a tarp, a sheet, a tray, or a large container.
- Cover those clothes.
- Smocks are your friend!
- And help kids with long hair tie it back.
- Keep wipes nearby.
- Have some wet wipes and/or paper towels on-hand for spills and such.
- Teach the kids to clean up.
- It’s such an important life skill, and more hands to clean up isn’t a bad thing.
When you’ve prepped for all the arty, messy play you’ll be able to enjoy the process a lot more.
Now let’s get to the really good stuff! I’ve got 25 amazing art-focused messy ideas for you to check out!
Catapult painting is an incredibly fun amalgamation of art and science.
The possibilities are endless with the classic pulled string art project.
Use some of the kids’ favorite toys for gear painting process art.
Mirror painting gets your little artists engaged with a different art surface.
Good, old-fashioned splat art is a must in your messy art collection.
Movement and texture abound in bubble wrap roller printing.
Make a nature smash painting using a variety of natural items.
Balloon painting is crazy fun, and definitely meets the messy art requirements.
Once the kids try slinky painting, they might not want to stop!
Go on a circle hunt around the classroom, and then try a circle painting activity.
Building with wood makes for some fun 3D art for kids.
Cool down on a hot day while creating awesome art using frozen paint cubes.
Fine motor muscles get a workout with clay resist art.
Bubble wrap stomp painting – need I say more?!
More science and art with oil and water droplet painting.
If your kids are big building center fans, printmaking with blocks will be a hit.
Break out the bubbles for soap foam printing!
Pour painting on rocks yields sweet paperweight gifts.
Use slightly different tools with a funnel painting art invitation.
These stacked cardboard sculptures are referred to as “epic,” which seems appropriate.
Explore broad and short strokes while squeegee painting.
Shaving cream drip art yields some colorful creations.
Head outside with a shower curtain and homemade gel paint for some messy sensory art.
Crepe paper canvas art gives the kids new textures to work with while creating.
And finally, spin art using a bike is definitely an amazing (and messy!) art experience!
Be sure to pin this post for all your future messy art adventures!
If you and the kids loved the messy art ideas, you’ll likely get a kick out of the following books. They’re chock full of art to try with kids of all ages:
- Action Art by MaryAnn Kohl
- Art Starts by Rachelle Doorley
- Play, Make, Create by Meri Cherry
- The Artful Parent by Jean Van’t Hul
- Wonder Art Workshop by Sally Haughey
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