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7 Ways to Let Your Kids Make a Mess While Maintaining Your Sanity

Updated on March 25, 2012

Most kids love to play with anything that makes a mess. Admittedly, messy toys and games are pretty fun. The downside is that the kids have all the fun and you get to clean up the mess. Here are seven ways to let your kids have some messy fun while keeping the time you will need to spend cleaning to a minimum.

Our shower curtain table cover is used for all crafts great and small. The kids know where to find it and they know to cover the table before they begin any project.
Our shower curtain table cover is used for all crafts great and small. The kids know where to find it and they know to cover the table before they begin any project.

1. Cover the play area.

Use a shower curtain liner to cover their play area. It only costs around three dollars and it can be used over and over. The one we have has lasted through countless crafts during the past three years and is still in great shape. The kids can color on it, spill on it, or paint on it and as long a they don't cut it, all you need to do is wipe it down (or hose it off in the yard).

2. Cover the kids.

Instead of getting an expensive smock or spending time trying to cut holes in trash bags, I just put the kids in their raincoats. Those raincoats only get used for rain a few days out of the year and they are already the perfect size. Everything they spill wipes off in a second and they get a kick out of wearing them when it’s not raining.

3. If it’s going to be really messy, think disposable.

My kids love to play with shaving cream and every once in a while I let them. We get on the raincoat smocks and I cover a large tray or a small table with an inside out garbage bag. I load up the shaving cream and let them go to town. When they are done I am right there to wipe off most of the mess with paper towels and then they rinse in the sink. I pile the towels on the shaving cream and when it’s all cleaned up I simply turn the trash bag right side out, capturing all the mess in the middle. I’m not a big fan of creating extra waste, so we try to conserve when possible. However, if it’s just going to be crazy messy, I’ll go the disposable route.

Shaving cream for all! The table has been covered with a trash bag and the kids have been covered with raincoats instead of smocks.
Shaving cream for all! The table has been covered with a trash bag and the kids have been covered with raincoats instead of smocks.

4. Substitute the substrate in your sand and water table.

Does anyone want a table filled with sand and water in their house? Considering that sand makes a longer lasting mess on carpet than Easter grass, probably not. Of course, you can just put put it outside, but what happens when the weather doesn't cooperate? Try filling your sand and water table with beans, noodles, buttons, or large beads. They are just as fun to play with and much easier to scoop up off the floor.

Don't have a sand and water table? Get a dish pan or a couple of aluminum turkey roasting pans and attach them to a table that is kid height. Tada! If you use storage bins with lids to you can cover them with playtime is over.

5. Play with water.

If you haven’t tried the Aquadoodle toys, give them a try. Kids love them and you all you have to do is fill them with water. The kids can play as long as they want and then you just leave everything out to dry. For a less expensive version, try cutting up some sponges into fun shapes to form stamps. Fill a bucket with water and decorate the sidewalk or patio.

6. Draw with sidewalk chalk.

As long as we’re decorating the sidewalk, why not add some color with sidewalk chalk? Kids love to free draw with the chalk or you can create some activities like hopscotch and four-square. You can also play Pictionary, make a maze, or create a sidewalk chalk activity course. If you want the chalk to have a stronger color and stay on longer, wet the ground first, then draw, and let it dry. To clean, simply rinse the sidewalk with a hose and pat the kids down with a damp washcloth.

Looks like there is more than one way to play with sidewalk chalk. My daughter says this is a chalk house.
Looks like there is more than one way to play with sidewalk chalk. My daughter says this is a chalk house.

7. Don’t forget the bubbles.

Bubbles are not particularly fancy, but they are a sanity saver. Made with just soap and water, you can buy them or make your own. I always have some on hand, but I usually hold them in reserve for the days when I get that important phone call, or when the kids missed nap and it’s that time of the afternoon when they are way too tired, and it’s still too early to put them to bed. I’m not sure how, but bubbles just make everything better. I try to avoid the scented ones as they often contain a color that can stain.

Bubbles make every day brighter.
Bubbles make every day brighter.

Comments: Were these tips helpful? What's your favorite way to have fun and contain the mess?

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    • leahlefler profile image

      Leah Lefler 5 years ago from Western New York

      We made our own - cornstarch, food coloring, and dishwashing soap (don't let them get it in their eyes). I bet the same recipe would work if you used baby bath (tear-free) instead of the dishwashing soap!

    • afterschoolspring profile image
      Author

      Camille Diaz 5 years ago from Oklahoma

      leahlefler: I love it! Do you recommend a particular brand of bathtub paints? I've heard that some kinds can stain the tub.

    • leahlefler profile image

      Leah Lefler 5 years ago from Western New York

      We occasionally make bathtub paints so our kids can get completely messy... and then wash everything off when they're done! Love these ideas!

    • profile image

      Dilania 5 years ago

      Wow, great tips! Sometimes I let my kids step in the mop bucket (before it gets dirty) with their socks on and slip and slide all over the room. They have a blast, it gets a bit messy with the water but it cleans the floor at the same time. Thanks for sharing. vote up!

    • trimar7 profile image

      trimar7 5 years ago from New York

      Let them make a mess while they are little. Too soon your children will be grown and out of the house and you will miss these times.