Let’s take a look at some of our favorite messy play materials for kids! They’re perfect in conjunction with the hundreds of messy play ideas I have here on Fun-A-Day. These messy supplies can be used with messy sensory play, messy art, and messy science activities.
Yes, young children can turn pretty much any material into a mess. I’m not judging them – sometimes I feel the same way about myself! But all of the messy materials I share below have been used in some of our favorite messy play activities. So I think they’ll give you a great start as you make some messy play plans of your own.
Related: Messy Play Recipes
I can probably put together a list of over 100 messy materials, but instead I’m going to go with the tried-and-true items. That way this post isn’t a million words long! Once you’ve checked everything out, let me know if I’ve left off your students’ favorites. And be sure to save this post for future reference!
Messy Play Materials
I’ve broken the list down into a few categories. That way it’s easier for you to find just what you’re looking for. There are the basic materials . . . the messy play “ingredients” if you will. I’m also including tools for messy play and supplies that can help contain and clean-up all of the messy fun. I have links for items as appropriate, as well as some ideas for using the items.
Please note that not every item will be appropriate for every child. You know the kids in your care best. So choose the materials that make the most sense for the children’s ages, needs, preferences, allergies, etc. For example, children still mouthing things need different items than kids who don’t.
Ingredients for Messy Play
Let’s start with the messy play bases. These are the main ingredients for your messy activities. Again, this is definitely not an exhaustive list. Otherwise we’d be here all week! These messy play materials can be used in so many different combinations to create hundreds of messy play invitations for kids. (I may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.)
- Water and ice
- Shaving cream (or whipped cream as a taste-safe alternative)
- Liquid watercolors
- Water beads (or tapioca pearls as a taste-safe alternative)
- Washable tempera paint
- Play dough
- Dyed dry food items (like corn or chickpeas)
- Baking soda
- Instant snow
- Liquid starch
If you can start a stash of even half of these materials, just imagine all of the messy activities you can set up for the kids! The possibilities are seriously endless.
Activities for Each Material
As promised, here are a couple of ideas to correlate with each of the messy play materials shared above!
- Use water and ice to make a glowing galaxy water bin or some ice castles.
- Break out the shaving cream messy play or get creative with scented shaving cream art.
- Grab the liquid watercolors for tape and watercolor canvas art or to dye white beans for a messy sensory bin.
- Explore winter sensory activities with water beads or sensory play with tapioca pearls.
- Use cornstarch to make sidewalk chalk paint or a dinosaur dig excavation activity.
- Learn how to make fake snow with flour or use flour to create a frog sensory bin.
- Add washable tempera paint to a painting with gears invitation or make homemade window paint with it.
- Make unicorn play dough or set up a robot play dough invitation. Play dough is one of the original messy play materials, right?!
- Learn how to dye corn kernels for sensory play and art, or make a St. Patrick’s Day sensory bin with dyed chickpeas.
- Get some gelatin powder for a messy scratch and sniff name art activity or a jello ocean sensory exploration.
- Use dish soap to make Jell-O soap foam or a soap foam letter painting experience.
- Add baking soda and vinegar to the messy fun with rainbow science or an outdoor color-changing volcano.
- Mix up some instant snow powder for a wintery bear sensory bin or winter terrariums.
- Create liquid starch slime or some tissue paper stained glass art using liquid starch.
- Use dirt as the base for a garden messy play invitation or a preschool mud day!
What are some of YOUR favorite ways to use some of the messy play materials I mentioned?
Messy Play Tools
Now let’s talk about supplies that you can add to the kids’ messy play experiences. They’re definitely not something you have to have on-hand, but I think they’re great to change things up. When combined with the messy play materials above, you have so many messy combinations for the kids.
- Twisty droppers
- Squeeze bottles
- Measuring cups
- Ice cube trays
- Kid-friendly tweezers
- Muffin tins
- Plastic bottles
- Jars with lids
- Toy vehicles
- Toy animals and people
One of the benefits of messy play is that it’s open-ended, allowing kids to get creative and make their own decisions. These additional tools give children the opportunity to play and explore in new and different ways.
Clean Up Supplies
We can’t talk about messy play materials without touching on items that help with clean-up! While I love all things messy play, I also think it’s important to have a plan in place to clean up. This helps the children learn about problem solving and taking care of their classroom. It’s also good for adults who aren’t as into messy play experiences. If you have a clean-up plan, that takes some of the load off your mind.
Here are some of my suggestions for containing the mess, as well as items for cleaning it up:
- Sensory table
- Tarp or floor mat (shower liners work well, too)
- Play trays
- Paper towels, wipes, and/or washable cloths
- Hose (if taking the play outside)
- Play clothes (for kids AND adults)
- Smocks or aprons
- Kid-sized cleaning items (like handheld brooms and dust pans)
Now that I’ve laid out our favorite messy play materials, I’d love to hear from you! Drop me a comment about your favorite messy play tips.
Alphabet Mats for Crafts and Process Art
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Click on the image below to get our ABC mats. They come with ideas for exploring the alphabet with craft materials, process art experiences, and sensory items.
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