7 messy play ideas for kids

What is it with mess when you’re little? It’s not so much a by-product of fun but an end in itself – something to aim for as often as possible. The messier, the better. As parents, on the other hand, we often take the attitude that when the mess arrives, the stress won’t be far behind.

That’s why at Wet Ones we’re proud to do our bit to make parents’ lives easier, keeping the fun in mess and keeping stress down to a minimum. With instant freshness in your pocket when soap isn’t at hand, you know that cleanups are quick and easy, and that your little ones are safe – with dermatologically tested wipes that are gentle on skin and kill 99.9% of bacteria.

Messy play is important for kids’ physical and sensory development, so getting hands-on shouldn’t be discouraged. What’s more, Wet Ones are perfect for children with sensory issues who don’t necessarily like the feeling of soapy water.

Whichever of our fully biodegradable wipes is your favourite, when you’re armed with a trusty pack of Wet Ones, there’s no reason getting clean shouldn’t be as fun as getting messy – and vice versa! With that in mind, here are some easy and engaging ideas for messy play…

  1. Making slime

    What child doesn’t love slime? It’s the craze that shows no signs of slowing down, but unlike most things children tend to fix their hearts on, it doesn’t cost the earth. Not only can little ones have hours of messy fun and smiles with just a ball of slime and a vivid imagination, but they can help you make it too!

    The great thing about slime is that it can be anything – alien gloop, unicorn poop, the possibilities are endless – with just a dash of food colouring. This recipe from BBC Good Food shows you how to make brilliant sensory slime with just a few bits from your kitchen and craft cupboards.

  2. Rainbow worms

    With just spaghetti and food colouring you can create squishy, colourful sensory play that’s really adaptable. Just cook and cool the spaghetti before putting it into a few separate bowls of water, each with a drop of different food colouring. Put them all together to create a squiggle of rainbows that kids will love.

    The great thing about this idea is that you can hide different things inside the spaghetti to create new games – why not try a counting game or a memory game to see how many hidden objects they can remember? And if the pile of spaghetti starts to get too sticky and stodgy in little hands, just throw a splash of water over it.

  3. Edible finger paints

    The only thing toddlers love more than painting is putting things into their mouths that they shouldn’t. So rather than stress over whether they’re going to help themselves to a mouthful of paint the moment you turn your back, simply combine the two hobbies.

    By mixing cornflour, water and a few different food colourings you can create a bright, exciting paint for little ones – so set out a few big bits of paper on the floor (make sure it’s not on the carpet!) and let them get creative! You could even try painting with other household food items like yoghurt or ketchup (with enough Wet Ones on hand, that is)…

  4. Bath time balloons

    If you’re willing to let bath time get messy (have a few towels ready on the floor!) then filling up coloured balloons with water is a brilliantly simple way to create memorable sensory play. Putting a different amount of air and water into each will mean some sink, some float, and all are squishy – so kids will love splashing around and twisting them into different shapes.

    Sensory play is designed not only to develop fine motor skills and help kids explore their sense of touch, but to give them the chance to learn some new words too. Can they describe the ways the different balloons feel?

  5. Chocolatey mud

    For a simple, squeezable and endlessly fun play dough that little ones will love, just mix flour, vegetable oil and cocoa powder and encourage green-fingered kids to pretend they’ve got their very own patch of ground to plant things in. They’ll love crumbling it and moulding it between their fingers.

    The great thing about creating sensory play materials like this is that if you’ve got an empty plastic paddling pool (not an inflatable one) you can throw plenty in and let them get really hands-on – and if it’s in the garden the cleanup will be minimal!

  6. Fizzy dough

    Any type of dough is a surefire sensory play hit, and this extra-exciting variety stimulates sight and hearing at the same time. Just make up some regular play dough with flour, vegetable oil and water (and your choice of food colouring), and let your little ones enjoy moulding it between their fingers before adding a dash of vinegar.

    Kids will love watching, hearing and feeling it fizz, and for slightly older children you can add a little baking soda too to really get it bubbling up. We recommend doing this one in the bathroom to keep cleaning easy afterwards.

  7. Painting windows with shaving foam

    Watching your children douse your polished panes of glass in thick, multicoloured liquid might go against your every instinct, but shaving foam is just about the easiest thing in the world to clean off. It’s made all the more exciting when mixed with a little colour (but then what isn’t?), so simply squirt some shaving foam into a bowl and add a couple of drops of food colouring. Kids will love the feeling of it squished between their fingers.

    Give them a few colours and let their imaginations run wild on the patio doors with just their hands – and when they’ve finished creating their masterpiece, simply throw plenty of water at it and it’ll be like it was never there!