Getting messy is a part of being a child, and art activities tend to be messy. By making art activities a time when it’s okay to make a mess, you allow your kids the chance to really get creative.
Messy art activities give children a chance to explore art for arts sake, and they can enjoy the process of creating, rather than being caught up in the end product. They learn so many skills about mixing colours, consistency and texture simply by playing, and without even knowing it they transfer those skills to other types of art and craft. Ask any 4 year old what happens when you mix 4 colours of fingerpaint together, and they will be able to tell you straight away. Any more than 3 primary colours makes mud!
If the idea of mess and muck leaves you in a cold sweat, then consider making one special day a month where your child can enjoy some messy art activities. Set up a tarpaulin in the backyard, and take out plenty of buckets, water and towels for wiping them clean. You could invite all their friends around and really make a morning of it. After all, if you’re going to get messy, you might as well make the most of it.
Here are some great messy art activities to get you started.
The night before your messy play day, lay toothpicks in an ice cube tray, and fill the tray with heavily coloured water. (Food colouring does the trick, or you can add a teaspoon or two of powdered dye.) Once the water is frozen you have miniature paint blocks, and the toothpick acts as a handle. As your child ‘paints’ with their block, the water slowly melts and the paint block disappears.
Icky foam is a great way to have some messy, icky, squishy fun, without actually making a mess. Simply 2/3 fill a zip-lock bag with shaving foam, add a tablespoon of paint, and seal the top. Your child can squish the paint and foam together (through the bag) to make cool patterns and designs, and slowly the white foam turns to colour.
If you are worried about young children eating the shaving foam, you can make your own foam by whipping up soap flakes. Simply place 2-3 cups of soap flakes into a bowl, and just cover them with hot water. Use an electric beater to whip the flakes until they turn into a soft, fluffy foam.
This foam is non-toxic, so children can play with it outside of a bag. Give them a big flat surface to scoop it onto, and let them go to it. You can make various colours of foam by simply adding food colouring to the mix before you whip it.
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There are lots of ways to make paper, but some methods need all sorts of trays, racks and special tools. This easy-to-make recipe makes lots of mess, but can be made using everyday tools and materials from around the home.
Start by ripping up lots of tissue paper, serviettes, newspaper or gift wrap. Kids (and dare I say it – boys!) love the ripping up part, but you may need to go along behind them and make their pieces a little smaller (about half the size of a business card). Keep ripping until you have an ice cream container full of paper.
Cover the paper with water, and set it aside to soak. If you have used tissue paper or serviettes, you only need to leave it for a few minutes, but gift wrap and newspaper will need to be left overnight.
Once the paper is completely soft, use a blender to ‘mush’ it up. A stick blender works fine, however you will splatter the mix everywhere if you don’t cover the bowl. Try cutting a hole in a piece of paper, and use that as a lid to poke the blender through.
When the paper has turned to pulp, scoop it out and pat it onto a clean tea towel or rag. Place another rag on top of the mix and press it down firmly to soak up some of the excess water. Keep repeating the process with new rags, until most of the water has been removed. Finish by ironing the paper through a dry rag, and set it aside to dry properly over night.
Once you have the hang of making plain paper, you can start adding glitter, petals, thread and other exciting treasures to your page. When the paper is properly dry, your child can use it in their other art and craft activities.
Gloop is such a fun formula for children to play with. It starts as a material that can be picked up, and then like magic it dissolves and runs through their fingers.
To make gloop, simply place 2 cups of cornflour into a bowl, and slowly add cold water while you stir constantly. Stop when the water is barely absorbed by the cornflour (about 1 cup of water is about right), and that’s all there is to it.
Kids can simply play with it, or drizzle it over black paper to make patterns. As the gloop dries it turns into a chalk like material.
Nothing says ‘Messy Art Activity’ like finger paint, and kids love it. You will need a big, smooth surface for them to paint on, so hunt out your old oven trays, or pick up some melamine trays from an emporium type store.
Make up a few different colours of paint, and put them in separate bowls on the table. Kids then scoop up paint from each bowl, and use their fingers to play and ‘paint’ a design on their tray. If you want a permanent copy of their design, you can lay a piece off paper over the top of the painting, and press it down to take a print. Peel off the paper and wallah – instant artwork.
To make finger paint take 2 cups of cornflour and 1 cup of cold water, and whisk them together until the cornflour is smooth and ‘dissolved’. Add approximately 4 cups of boiling water and mix quickly until the mixture ‘grabs’ – (you’ll know what this means when it happens!). Stir in a tablespoon of paint or food colouring and mix well.
Remember, there is no mess that can’t be fixed, so relax and enjoy.