5 Messy and Creative Activities for You and Your Toddler

Most toddlers love to get messy. You might not like that if you’re a neat freak, but toddlers need to be allowed to explore material freely. 

It’s good for their imagination, confidence, fine motor skills, and cognitive development to experiment and see first-hand how things work.

If you don’t want your child to get flour all over your kitchen or living room, you can easily do these activities outside in your front yard, balcony, or at a park.

Free Painting

Get a bunch of child-safe, washable paint, different-sized brushes, bottles, and large sheets of paper. Set up a painting station. When I had this indoors, I covered the walls and floor with paper so my students could paint anywhere they wanted. Outdoors, you can have paper on the floor and have them also paint a large cardboard box.

Allow your toddler to paint anything they want, including themselves and you! If they feel a little timid about getting messy, paint your hands to show them how fun it is and they will copy you.

Colorful Spaghetti 

Make a large batch of spaghetti, split it into different bowls, and add food coloring to make spaghetti that’s different colors. Have as many colors as you can. Your child will have a lot of fun mixing them up.

Have them pretend to cook and serve the spaghetti using their toy dishes or real ones as long as it’s child-safe.

I always used food coloring, which is very hard to wash off, so this is super messy. You can use washable paint instead, but for me, the color is not as vibrant.

Making Play-Dough

Making play-dough is really easy and fun… toddlers can even do it themselves.

Put cooking oil, warm water, salt, flour, and cream of tartar in separate bowls or cups. Add spoons for each ingredient for your child to mix in a bowl. Don’t worry about measurements, have your child throw in whatever they want, you can fix it by adding more flour or water. You also can make your own batch alongside your child.

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When they’re ready to play with play dough instead of making sludge, you can have it ready for them. Having your child add food coloring or washable paint will also prolong the activity.

Playing With Slime

Homemade slime is a lot of fun to make and is safer and cheaper than store-bought slime. 

Here is my favorite slime recipe:

You can add food coloring and eco-friendly glitter for more fun. You can give your child some cups, bowls, and spoons to try to scoop out the slime and pour it into different containers.

Baking Soda Volcanoes

Your toddler will have so much fun scooping and pouring baking soda, vinegar, and either food coloring or paint into little cups or bowls. I did this for Halloween a few times and had my students pour baking soda and vinegar into little plastic pumpkins and skulls.

Toddlers really love pouring, scooping, and mixing, so having different things to scoop with and different containers will keep them entertained for a while.

As you can see, you don’t need much to keep a toddler entertained. They love to explore and get messy. Allow your child to explore materials freely, and they will surprise you with everything they do with the stuff you give them. It will also keep them entertained for a good amount of time!

Tracy Lowe

Tracy is a writer and filmmaker from Los Angeles, but Thailand has been her primary home for over a decade. She has more than 13 years of experience teaching young children and is a major proponent of the Reggio Emilia approach to learning.

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