These messy play recipes are just what you need for tons of messy play ideas with the kids! They’ll have a blast diving into all of the messy sensory and art ideas inspired by these recipes.
Lots of things can be used to create messy play invitations for kids, from 1-ingredient messes to more complex play. But there are some tried-and-true art and sensory play recipes that are musts when it comes to messy play. And I’ve gathered them all in one spot for you!
Below you’ll find recipes for doughs, slimes, paints, and more. Basically, I tried to include the basic recipes for as many messy play invitations as I could think of.
Then I also included ideas based around each of the recipes. That way you have some extension ideas alongside all of the recipes! Not a bad deal, right?! Oh, and be sure to grab the free printable at the bottom of this post so you can have the recipes on-hand easier!
Materials for the Messy Play Recipes
Before I jump into the messy awesomeness, let’s talk supplies. Many of the recipes below don’t require that many materials, which is a bonus. There are some that take a few more than usual, but the bulk don’t fit into that category.
So take a peek at the materials you already have on-hand. Then decide which of the messy play recipes you want to try first. If you’re missing any supplies, go out and grab them before getting into all the fun.
Here are some messy supplies you’ll need for the recipes (I may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post):
- Vegetable oil
- Baby oil
- Corn starch
- Shaving cream
- Liquid watercolors
- Food coloring
- Liquid starch
If you have a stash with those basic ingredients, you’re probably set to go! You can decide later if you want to pick up any additions – those materials that aren’t necessary, but add some extra pizazz. Things like:
- Cookie cutters
- Toy vehicles
- Other small toys
- Sensory tools
Messy Play Recipes
Now it’s time for all of the recipes! For each category below, I share the basic recipe first. After that, I collected some extension activities to go along with it.
How to Make Cloud Dough
Let’s start things off with cloud dough. I’m going with what I refer to as cloud dough (many others do, too). But it’s also called moon dough or moon sand sometimes. Apparently, we all can’t seem to agree on one name for it! No matter what it’s called, it has an amazing texture and keeps the kids engaged.
Here’s the very simple cloud dough recipe:
- 8 cups flour
- 1 cup oil
And that’s it! Just those 2 ingredients. You can use vegetable oil or baby oil, depending on your preference. The vegetable oil is better suited for the younger kids. And here are some variations to try out:
- Coconut Cloud Dough
- How to Color Cloud Dough
- Taste-Safe Play Sand
- Birthday Cake Cloud Dough
- Apple Cider Cloud Dough
- Christmas Cloud Dough
- Cloud Dough Sensory Construction Bin
Cloud dough, like the rest of these messy play recipes, is very much an open-ended activity. You can color it, add all types of sensory tools to it, and incorporate a wide variety of toys into the dough. You can even add scents to make it even more of a multi-sensory experience.
Play Dough Recipes
There are so many great play dough recipes out there! Below are some of my favorite basic play dough recipes, as well as a few others I’ve tried and loved.
My favorite 2-ingredient play dough is sometimes called cloud dough by others. It’s what we used for our unicorn play dough. It’s a mix of:
- 2 cups cornstarch
- 1 cup conditioner
When it comes to more traditional play dough recipes, these are my two favorites:
And here are more play dough ideas we’ve had great luck with:
- Harvest Play Dough Recipe
- Recipe for White Play Dough
- No-Cook Playdough Recipe without Cream of Tartar
- Crayon Play Dough Recipe
- Microwave Play Dough Recipe
- Gluten-Free No Cook Playdough
Just like the cloud dough, you can add all sorts of things to your play dough! Make adjustments based on what you and the kids are learning about right now.
Different Slime Recipes
We can’t talk about messy play recipes without touching on how to make slime, can we?! My favorite basic slime recipe is:
- 5 ounces glue
- 4 ounces warm water (optional)
- 4 ounces liquid starch
Of course there are SO MANY different ways to make slime. On top of that, there are also so many ways you can change things up to make different slime variations. Here are some slime activities to inspire you:
- Gold Slime
- Slime Ribbons Scissors Activity
- Tiger Slime
- Slime Pencil Grasp Activity
- Sight Words Slime
- Slime Monster Counting Activity
- Chalkboard Slime
If your kids are super into all things slimy, be sure to check out my collection of different types of slime from A to Z. Or you can get creative and change the basic slime recipe as you see fit.
How to Make Oobleck
Next up is oobleck! This is another one I just HAD to include in our epic list of messy play recipes. Our favorite non-Newtonian fluid is a must-try for young kids.
The basic oobleck recipe is:
- 2 cups cornstarch
- 1 cup water
Of course, you and the kids can experiment with the measurements of each ingredient. Just until you get the exact consistency you prefer. And here are some oobleck-filled messy ideas to try:
- Wiggly Worm Sensory Play
- Sandy Oobleck Recipe
- Frozen Oobleck
- Chocolate Oobleck
- Fluffy Oobleck Slime
- Dancing Oobleck Experiment
- Color Changing Oobleck
Have fun testing out new versions of oobleck with your students. If you’re feeling super adventurous, maybe you can even try walking on oobleck!
Homemade Paint Recipes
You definitely don’t need to make your own paint, but sometimes it’s fun to try with the kids. When I want a super simple homemade paint, I like to mix warm water with Jell-O powder. It adds a bit of scent to the paint, making it even more fun for the kids.
So if you’re up for making some of your own paints, try these messy play recipes:
- Homemade Paint with Flour
- Sidewalk Chalk Paint
- Homemade Watercolor Paints
- Glossy Skittles Paint
- Taste-Safe Finger Paints
- Homemade Puffy Paint
Which of these recipes do you think your students would enjoy the most? Maybe you can take some time to test out of each of the paints!
How to Make Soap Foam
This is one of the “cleaner” messy play recipes in this collection! But take my word for it, the foam can get everywhere. Here’s the very basic soap foam recipe:
- 1/4 cup of water
- 3 to 4 tablespoons soap
You can experiment with the amounts of water versus soap. Some people like to use bubble bath or body wash, but I tend to fall back on using dish soap. Corn starch can be added to the basic recipe to help keep things a little thicker. But, honestly, I forget about that most of the time!
Here are more soap foam recipes and activities to try with the kids:
- Jell-O Soap Foam
- Bubble Trucks Sensory Bin
- Calming Soap Foam
- Watermelon Soap Foam
- Pink Lemonade Soap Foam
- Ocean Soap Foam Sensory Bin
Depending on the ages of your students, they can even help you use a mixer to make the soap foam.
Foam Dough Ideas
You definitely need to add foam dough to your messy play recipes! The basic recipe just needs 2 ingredients, and it’s easily adjusted for any theme or topic. The base foam dough recipe is:
- 1 cup shaving cream
- 1 cup cornstarch
As I’ve said with many of the other recipes here, you can test out the proportions of the ingredients. For example, sometimes we use more shaving cream . . . closer to 1 1/2 to 2 cups instead.
Here are even more foam dough ideas:
- Toddler Taste-Safe Foam Dough
- Shamrock Foam Dough
- Soap Foam Dough
- Raspberry Foam Dough
- Foam Dough Cupcake Making Station
- Rainbow Foam Dough
- Foam Dough with Literacy and Math
As with the other messy play recipes, foam dough is open-ended and very customizable!
Even More Messy Play Recipes
There are a few “recipes” that didn’t fit into the above categories. But I still wanted you to have them, so I’m tacking them on at the end:
Now the only question is . . . which of these awesome messy play recipes will you try first?! Be sure to pin this post for future reference.
Done-For-You Preschool Resources
Let Preschool Teacher 101 make your teaching life easier with fully-developed preschool resources. We have over 100 lesson plan packs, as well as digital games, dramatic play activities, STEM challenges, math resources, circle time songs, and more.
Click on the images below to check out some of our resources:
Get the Messy Play Recipes Printable Reference
By popular demand, I’ve put together a printable reference of the messy play fun for you! It has the basic recipes shared above, as well as directions and tips. I’ve also included links to related activities just in case.
This printable is available to members of Fun-A-Day’s (free!) email community. If that’s you, please enter your email in the form below to have the printable link sent to your inbox. If you’re not a member yet, you can join us by entering your information in the same form below! You’ll receive the printable as a welcome gift.
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Would love a PDF of all of this with like a chart of recipes please!
Mary Catherine says
Thanks, Mel! It’s in the works – I’ll try and email you to let you know when it’s ready to go. 🙂
Amazing list! So many great ideas! Thank you so much for including our fun play at Crayonbox Chronicles!
Mary Catherine says
I love each and every one of these ideas – we’ve tried yours and the kids loved them!