7 Ways to Let Your Kids Make a Mess While Maintaining Your Sanity
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.
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).
Shower curtain liners, who knew?!
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.
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.
Make Your Own
Sand & Water Tables
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.
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.