DisclosureThere are some affiliate links in this post. If you decide to make a purchase, at not additional cost to you, I make a small commission.
Between my sick toddler and the huge “blizzard” (not so much in our neighborhood) we have been stuck inside for the past few days.
We are starting to go a little stir-crazy.
So, I’ve been hitting up Pinterest trying to come up with activities to keep W entertained and happy, despite his nose dripping like a faucet.
I have discovered that Messy Play activities are the ones that keep W the most occupied.
I have also discovered the Messy Play activities are, well, messy.
I don’t mind a little mess here or there. I did grow up with three brothers after all. I just don’t want the clean up to take more time than the actual play time itself.
Here are my favorite ways to keep messy play not so messy.
How to Keep Messy Play Not So Messy
1. Wear Smocks
Should you go out and buy professional smocks so your kid doesn’t make a mess? Well, I guess you could, but it’s really not necessary. Just throw one your (or grab your spouse’s) old t-shirts on your child and call it a day.
- You’ll definitely need a smock with this edible paint recipe from Learn Play Imagine.
2. Go Nude
What’s even easier than wearing an old t-shirt? NO t-shirt! Strip your toddler down to their diaper and don’t worry about any laundry.
- There are so many messy play ideas from Nurture Store.
3. Keep the floor covered
Plastic, throw-away table cloths are wonderful for keeping your carpet/floors protected from the mess. You can even use painter’s tape to tape down the edges so they don’t go anywhere when you toddler inevitably starts moving around.
- LalyMom has some colorful sensory activities for toddlers. We’ve tried pasta and rice, but rainbow oats are genius!
4. Contain the Mess in the High Chair
Awhile back I let W play with a container of popcorn kernels. I assumed he would sit nicely scooping and pouring. Oh, I was wrong. He thought scattering them until they covered extra square inch of the living room was way more fun. So, if I want to ensure an easy clean up, I plop him right in his high chair. Throw the table cloth down, put the high chair on top, and clean up will be a breeze.
- Here’s a list of over 100 play dough recipes from Kids Activities Blog. I think I want to try the Easy and Calming Play dough.
5. Contain the Mess in the Bath Tub
Some things are SO messy it’s best to keep it contained to a place that can be hosed down after. There are lots of fun ideas for painting in the bath tub or switch up your routine and give a bubble bath during the day. Add colors and toys to make it even more fun!
- The Jenny Evolution shared the smart idea of using pool noodles in the bathtub. I have to get my hands on some of them!
- Find a bathtub paint recipe over at The Artful Parent.
6. Contain the Mess in a Baby Pool
We had some of W’s little friends over the other day for some sensory play with water beads. Since we only have one high chair, I pulled out W’s inflatable baby pool so all three of the toddlers could sit in and play together.
- For your toddlers that like to eat everything, cough… W… cough, here’s an amazing list of edible sensory play ideas. Rice Krispies are such a great idea!
7. Have towels Ready
I know once W decides he is done with something… he is DONE. To prevent a wet, paint-soaked toddler running around the house ruining all of your furniture, be sure to keep a towel nearby.
- You are going to want a towel if you bring the snow inside like this idea from Umbrella Tree Cafe.
8. Use containers with Lids
I have invested in a ton of tuber ware containers– nice, wide, but shallow ones that have lids. The beauty of putting messy play in a tuber ware container is that it can be easily stored for another messy play time. I made water beads with basil seeds. It was great getting a few play times out of one batch.
- Find the water bead recipe over at Fun at Home with Kids. We tried both chia seeds and basil seeds. I definitely recommending placing an order for basil seeds since they work better and don’t need to sit overnight to make.
9. Take it Outside
Okay, this is the ideal location to have a messy play activity. Though it can be tough to get outside during the winter months. It takes an hour just to put on all the winter weather gear. There are some fun things you can still do outside during the winter months, especially in the snow.
- How We Learn has some great activities to do in the snow. I can’t wait to try making frozen bubbles!
- Or, find some snow play ideas over at Queen of the Land of Twigs & Berries.
10. Try “Pretend” Messy Play
Okay, this is my favorite type of messy play because it’s really not messy at all! There are these amazing things called sensory bags that you can use again and again. Sensory bags are ziplock bags filled with shaving cream/hair gel/food coloring/small toys/glitter/etc.. It’s just like messy, sensory play without the mess!
- Here’s a wonderful collection of sensory bag ideas from Growing A Jeweled Rose.
- I also love this idea of adding water beads to water balloons from Learn, Play, Imagine. Your child can still enjoy the fun without the choking hazard.
For more messy play ideas, follow my Messy Play/Sensory Play for Toddlers Board on Pinterest.
These are such great tips for mothers looking to let their little ones explore arts and crafts AND keep the house looking decent! I’ve learned the hard way and really love the idea of using the high chair or bath tub whenever possible! My son loves bath time so I should take advantage of that while I can :)!
Ana recently posted…Aluminum Foil Moon Craft
Some great ideas here! I am always seeing fun things on Pinterest that I shy away from because it will end up being such a pain to clean up after!!
Wow! So many great ideas!! Not only for keeping clean, but for messy play! My kids love messy play, but as you said, it sometimes takes longer to clean than the time the kids take to play. Pinning this for sure! Thanks!!
Tarynn Playle recently posted…A Few Sweet Moments…
good ideas. my strategy has always been – do all messy stuff at pre-school! ha!
nicole recently posted…Mommy Budget 101!
Great ideas! Those water beads look like fun. I always try to keep some of those plastic table cloths around for art projects. My kids love to paint.
Melissa Matters recently posted…5 Things to Teach Your Children About Love
All great ideas! I hate too much cleanup too. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’ve also seen huge plastic wrap material in home stores that you can put on the floor. They stay put, like the saran wrap that you use for your food storage.
Ai recently posted…Ways to Encourage Communication at the Dinner Table
Great tips! I never thought I would be “that mom” that got all squeamish when her kids had good messy fun.. but then we bought our first house. *facepalm* I’m trying not to let my desire for a clean house overwhelm my daughters play time.. so these tips are golden! <3 – http://www.domesticgeekgirl.com
Gingi recently posted…Building a Backyard Goat Fence for Our Nigerian Dwarfs
Great tips! We put shower curtain liners from the Dollar Tree on the floor…and use daddy’s old button downs backwards as smocks! Whatever works…and keeps the house clean which keeps mom happy! Stay warm!
Kristen recently posted…One New Food – Vega One Giveaway
Great tips! It seems like no matter what steps I take we still end up in a mess because my son loves to THROW! I love using old tee shirts as smocks!
Rachel B recently posted…5 Tips for Having a Relaxing Morning!
A smock is good, but when my kids were real little nude was the best.
Simple Hacks Living recently posted…Velvet Cakes
These are great tips. The kids love to be messy, but momma does not!
Reesa Lewandowski recently posted…Thrilling Thursdays Giveaway Link-Up!
SO much fun!!… and this is the answer to all my prayer! I hate messes!!!
lindsey recently posted…I’ll NEVER Be That Parent
Love your idea of the “pretend messy play!”
Amanda @ queenofthelandoftwigsnberries recently posted…Fight The Winter Blues by Reconnecting
We’re well beyond this stage, but I HATE messes, lol. You have some great tips.
I love ideas to keep things less messy for kids: all the experience and fun– less clean up!!
Gina recently posted…Valentine’s Day the SUPER-hero way
What great tips! My boys love to be naked so if they are going to get dirty I should make it easier on myself and let them play with the messy stuff nude. I also LOVE sensory bags! I hope the weather clears up for you soon.
Sydney @ Tastefully Frugal recently posted…15 Minute Tomato, Macaroni & Bean Soup
Well aren’t you a genius! I’m so hesitant to let my kids do fun creative things because I HATE the mess. Thanks for some great ideas!
Jen recently posted…Valentine’s Day Brunch: Liege Waffles