Posted: Aug 07, 2013 10:00 AM
Do you cringe when you think of messy play ideas? Summer is the perfect time to bring out these messy play recipes because they're simple, inexpensive and — most importantly — can be played with outside! The benefits of messy play are many, so dig in and let go — let's get messy!

Little hands love to be busy — and messy — and with good reason: Sensory play is both fun and relaxing! Katie Hurley, LCSW child and adolescent psychotherapist and parenting expert, says that activities that stimulate the senses "improve fine motor skills and hand eye coordination, provide an outlet for creativity and reduce stress."

The only problem with these relaxing activities is that they tend to be messy which can be hard on moms. This is why summer is the perfect time to break out these sensory-rich activities. Keep your little ones learning, happy and messy — outside! Each of these sensory play activities is simple and inexpensive to make and ridiculously fun to play. So roll up your sleeves, Mama — we have some playing to do!

Messy play- soap clouds

Soap clouds

What you'll need:

  • 1 bar Ivory soap

What you'll do:

Place the unwrapped bar of soap in the microwave for two minutes — you may not need the whole time.

play Tips^Watch the bar grow into a cloud, take it outside and explore. It hardens and crumbles between fingers and bubbles when water is added.

Messy play- Kool-Aid play doh

Kool-Aid play dough

What you'll need:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1 packet Kool-Aid
  • 2/3 cup boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

What you'll do:

  1. Stir the flour, salt and Kool-Aid together in a bowl.
  2. Stir the water and vegetable oil together in a measuring cup.
  3. Pour half of the water and oil mixture into the dry ingredients and stir thoroughly with a spatula.
  4. Add more of the water mixture as needed until the consistency feels like play dough.
  5. Allow the dough to cool before playing, and store it in a zip top bag or Tupperware container.

play Tips^Kool-Aid play dough is soft and smooth to the touch and has a sweet, fragrant smell. Break out the play dough toys and see what fun creations you can make with your little one!

Messy play- Edible play doh

Edible play dough

What you'll need:

  • Equal parts peanut butter, honey and powdered milk

What you'll do:

Mix the ingredients together thoroughly, adding a bit of flour if it feels too sticky to play with

play Tips^Edible play dough is fun to play with using plastic silverware and kitchen utensils such as a pair of scissors, a strawberry slicer or a garlic press. And, of course, it makes a great snack!

Messy play- Pudding finger painting

Pudding finger painting

What you'll need:

  • Instant pudding made to package directions
  • Paper

What you'll do:

Make pudding in plastic containers, take them outside, finger paint and have a snack at the same time!

play Tips^This is a great activity to do in swimsuits. Whatever pudding ends up on little arms and legs will easily wash off in the sprinkler or the hose.

Messy play- Oobleck


What you'll need:

  • 1-1/2 cups cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Optional add-ins include food coloring and extracts to add sensory fun

What you'll do:

  1. Carefully and gently stir the cornstarch and water together with a fork.
  2. If you stir too quickly, the mixture won't come together — it can be finicky!
  3. Once mixed, you can add food coloring and flavor extract to stimulate sight and smell.

play Tips^Oobleck is firm and crumbly when mixed, touched or "hit" quickly, but soft and liquid-like when touched slowly. Oobleck washes away simply and easily with just water!

Messy play- Painting with shaving cream

Painting with shaving cream

What you'll need:

  • 1 can shaving cream
  • Paint brushes

What you'll do:

Teach your children how to squirt and spray the shaving cream, and then invite them to "paint" the deck, the patio table, the driveway and whatever else they'd like.

play Tips^ Shaving cream holds its shape so it's very fun to form, move and use as paint. It smells lovely and washes away with water leaving every surface fresh and clean!

More creative play ideas

How to make cloud dough
6 Outdoor activities for kids at night
Make your own sidewalk chalk