10 Tips to Keep Messy Play Clean

ParentingAll Ages31 Comments

Some tips for keeping it clean while having lots of messy play fun from Growing a Jeweled Rose. A messy way to play in the new year!

Hello, my name is Crystal, writer and creator of the play based website Growing A Jeweled Rose.

We share lots of sensory and messy play activities on Growing A Jeweled Rose and have come up with all sorts of ways to contain the mess and make clean up easier. Today I am sharing 10 tips for keeping messy play clean!

10 Tips for Keeping Messy Play Clean

10 easy tips to keep messy play - CLEAN!

Many moms have expressed concern for the messiness of some projects.  While some activities do get very messy regardless of preventive measures, these 10 tips will help alleviate much of the mess, and for some activities, all of it.

Cover the Play Space Prior to Messy Play

One simple way to keep messy play clean is to cover the messy play space. You can easily do this using a drop cloth, table cloth, or even a shower curtain liner purchased from The Dollar Tree. We use seasonal table cloths from holidays past and they work great! They can be wiped clean too!

Pumpkin scented cloud dough

Take Messy Play Outside

As long as it is warm enough we do all of our messy play outside.  Then, once we are done, we either hose the play space off or sweep any mess up depending on what we played with that day!

Use the Bath as a Vessel for Messy Play

During the colder months we do almost all of our messy activities in the bath. Using the bath as a vessel is a great way to contain the mess and the surrounding surfaces easily wipe clean. Once play time is over simply turn on the water and all the mess will wash right down the drain.

Our Creative Art Bath Station is a perfect example. I set this up for my girls on a rainy day and it kept them busy for over an hour. All the mess was contained and easy to clean too!

Turn Bath Time into Messy Play Time

Not only can you use the bath as a vessel but you can also turn bath time into the messy play activity.

We share lots of sensory bath activities on Growing A Jeweled Rose, and even started a new site just for bath time fun.

One of the best examples of a messy play bath I could give would be our Themed Ocean Bath.

The girls had so much fun exploring with the seaweed pasta, and once bath was over, the pasta was easily gathered, and all other remnants of play washed straight away.

Use Washable Art Supplies

This is probably the best tip I have to offer. Moms often ask me how I keep the girls clothes from getting stained during all of these activities. The answer- washable art supplies! We use washable liquid watercolors in place of food coloring, washable paint, markers, and more!

My favorite line of washable art supplies is Colorations. We use it exclusively and have never had a problem with stains.

Cover Them Up for Messy Play

We definitely still do activities that could stain clothing. Also, sometimes you may still want to take your children out later in the day and don’t want their clothes to be covered in paint, even if it will wash out later. Cover them up using an old shirt or a store bought art smock (affiliate link).

Seal Up Messy Play

If you are a parent who just doesn’t want to deal with the mess on any level there are other options. I consider my self a lover of messy play and there are still plenty of days when I don’t want to bother with the mess.

Sensory Bags are a great way to allow children to explore messy materials with NO MESS! They are inexpensive and very easy to make too! We have made a variety and used them in so many ways!

sensory bags
Turn the Messy Play into a Clean up Activity

One messy play activity my girls love is also the most simple – A bucket of soapy water and a couple of sponges keep them entertained for quite a while. They love splashing around in the water and wiping down the cabinets and other kitchen surfaces. The best part – once they are done I pull out a dry mop and use the spilled water to quick clean the floor. You can also include cleaning up as part of the activity!

Limit Materials during Messy Play

I am not one to limit the materials I give my children to use during the creative process. What I do instead is give them materials in tiny amounts. I give them a small amount of paint and then replenish their supply during the activity as they need it. This really helps cut down on the mess! They don’t go crazy this way and even if they do they only have a little paint to go crazy with.

Keep Messy Play Simple

There are lots of simple ways to keep potentially messy activities clean. Play dough at the kitchen table is a perfect example. On or near carpet play dough could be trouble but if given to a child to explore while seated at the table it is actually not a messy activity at all. The same rule applies for markers or crayons. If given to a free child the walls or floors could become a canvas. But if seated at the table these materials are not messy at all. If you are worried about the table becoming part of the art work, cover it with butcher paper. We buy ours from The Dollar Tree.

Have Fun

If things are going to get a little messy at least try to relax and have fun! If you are worried about the mess the whole time you won’t very much enjoy the activity or the time with your little one. Dive into the play! I love the messy stuff and not just for my kids. I love goop and I can’t keep my hands out of water beads. Play alongside your little one and make the most of the messy play time!

I hope you find these messy play tips helpful!  For lots more messy and sensory play activities be sure to pop over to Growing A Jeweled Rose!

Crystal is the writer and creator of Growing A Jeweled Rose, a play based website packed full of fun and creative playtimes for children.  Crystal is currently staying home with her two small children, Jewel and Rosie, and strives to make the most of her time with them by providing fun and enriching activities!  She strongly believes in the value and importance of play and that childhood should be a magical time in life.  Drop by Growing A Jeweled Rose for tons of fun and educational activities for kids or  connect through Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, or Google+.

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  1. Lori says

    Great tips; thanks! Question: I have an 18-mo. old who has some sensory issues, particularly with food. He has recently begun seeing a therapist who’s working with him to get him interested in exploring new foods and textures, as he seems to have trouble getting past the “ick” factor of anything squishy, goopy, wet, cold, etc feeling. Other than wet pasta, what types of activities for a child this age would you recommend as far as exploring different strange textures? If you have links to previously published posts, linking instead of repeating yourself is wonderful–I am just new to your site. Thanks so much!


  2. Vindi says

    Thank you so much for sharing these fun activities. I run a school and we have 30 kids all of them are in the age range of 1year to 5years. I am planning to do some fun activities with the toddlers. I reckon that i can share these activites with the young toddlers as well under close supervision:) thank you once again.

  3. says

    A colorful waterproof child’s apron can also add to the fun. Putting on the apron can become part of the routine for getting ready for a messy, fun time.

  4. Brocho says

    I managed to keep toy mess to a smaller mess. I got rid of the buckets that toys containing many pieces have, such as building toys, lego, matchbox cars, and more. I purchased wider, flatter containers and had a rule, “no turning over the container!”. We own lots of Lego, so I used more than one container so it shouldn’t be so tedious to play. (In fact, we have a smaller size container for all the people and their accessories and “try” to keep them in there.)

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