A child's hand getting involved in messy play activities.

13 Fun Messy Play Ideas for Toddlers in 2023

Last Updated on 16 March 2023

Have Fun with These Messy Play Ideas

Young children learn a lot from messy play. Not only does it help grow curious and happy minds, it allows little hands to explore different textures, shapes, and sounds.

It’s during the early years of a child’s life that important brain connections are made as they begin to understand the world. Packed with many benefits, these types of activities also help children develop their communication and problem-solving skills.

Ready to get your hands dirty with some messy fun? Get involved with these 13 messy play ideas that’ll keep children entertained for hours.

What Are the Best Messy Play Ideas?

1. Bubble Wrap Stomp Painting

This is a great way for toddlers to move their bodies and develop their gross motor skills. And there’s paint involved. Bubble wrap and painting? What’s not to love with these messy play materials?

What You’ll Need:

  • Bubble wrap to wrap around feet
  • Paint
  • A roll of easel paper
  • Paper plates
  • Scissors
  • Tape

Cut two or three lengths from the easel paper and tape securely to your floor next to each other. 

Choose your paints and squeeze them onto the paper plates. 

Next, cut the required bubble wrap and loosely tape it around your child’s feet. 

While standing on the easel paper, get them to lightly dip their bubble wrap feet into the paint.

All that’s left to do is let the messy play fun begin by painting.

2. Rainbow Spaghetti

Messy play is great fun for young children.

What’s not to love about this messy and sensory play activity? Children can pull and tug on the strands, feel them between their fingers, and, best of all, it’s edible.

What You’ll Need:

  • Spaghetti
  • Food colouring (optional)
  • Water
  • Pot
  • Ziplock bags
  • Colander

Cook the spaghetti based on the cooking instructions on the back of the pack. Once cooked, drain and rinse the spaghetti.

Let the spaghetti cool and separate the strands.

Add the spaghetti to the ziplock bags. You’ll need one zip lock bag for each food colouring you’re using. Add food colouring to each bag along with a few drops of water. 

Next, shake the bags until all the spaghetti is completely covered in the food colouring.

Before the fun can begin, rinse the spaghetti in your colander, so your little one doesn’t get covered in food dye.

3. Moon Sand

Helping to develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination, moon sand is messier than playdough and great fun for babies and toddlers to play with. It’s the perfect messy play experience.

What You’ll Need:

  • Flour
  • Vegetable or sunflower oil
  • Food colouring (optional)

Pour the flour into a bowl and add the oil and food colouring, if you’re using it, stirring the contents together.

Mix until the contents look sandy and there’s no oil left. Add more oil, if the mixture looks too dry or more flour if it’s too soft.

The texture you’re aiming for should be a dry clay that breaks easily.

4. Frozen Dinosaur Eggs

At some point, toddlers go through the stage of loving dinosaurs that can continue later on in life. So why not get them involved in this messy activity that’s a great learning experience for young minds?

What You’ll Need:

  • Balloons
  • Mini dinosaurs
  • Water

Blow up each balloon first to stretch it out, hold it for around 30 seconds and release.

Pop one dinosaur in each balloon and then carefully fill the balloons with water. Tie the ends and place them in your freezer.

Once the balloons are frozen, you may find that the balloon easily peels off to leave the frozen dinosaur egg behind.

Next, melt the eggs to get the dinosaurs back out. Help your toddler develop their motor skills and brain development by using a meat baster or squeeze bottles with warm water to melt the eggs.

Young children will love seeing the dinosaurs reemerge. It’s also a great opportunity to talk about solids and liquids as your children conduct this science experiment.

5. Fizzing Sensory Buckets

Baking powder and vinegar is a great activity that your toddler will want to do again and again.

What You’ll Need:

  • Plastic container
  • Small pots for your food colouring
  • Food colouring
  • Vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Meat baster

Fill your plastic container with baking soda. You’ll want to get good coverage at the bottom of the container.

Add a few drops of food colouring to your small pots and then add the vinegar.

Using the meat baster, help your toddler to suck up some of the colours, if they can’t do it themselves.

Then simply squeeze the meat baster into the container of baking soda and watch the fizzing fun begin.

6. Raised Salt Painting

This simple, but fun, messy play activity will keep children entertained for hours. And all that’s needed is some glue, salt, and watercolours.

What You’ll Need:

  • A choice of either cardboard, watercolour paper or paper plates
  • Bottle of glue
  • Table salt
  • Your choice of watercolours
  • Container for the watercolours
  • Liquid droppers or paintbrushes

Using glue, make a pattern on your choice of card.

Next, sprinkle the table salt onto the glue until it’s completely covered.

Using the containers, pour out your liquid watercolours. Dip your liquid droppers or paintbrushes into the watercolours and gently squeeze the dropper, or brush with the paintbrush, onto the salt.

Then watch as the paint spreads across the salt in this messy play experiment.

7. Finger Painting

What’s not to love about this classic messy play?

What You’ll Need:

  • Paper
  • Washable paints
  • Containers or pots for your paints
  • Painting clothes

Simply set out the paints and the paper and let your toddlers explore and create however they wish. Either play alongside or watch as your little ones play independently.

8. Sensory Soup

Toddlers will love this activity as they explore and make their own special garden soup.

What You’ll Need:

  • Herbs from the garden or dried herbs
  • Flowers and stones
  • Bowls and cups
  • Scissors
  • Ladles
  • Pot of water

Get your toddlers out in the garden and introduce them to the herbs that you find. Which ones smell the nicest? How do they feel? Get them to pick the ones they like the most.

Let them tear, break, and crumble the herbs into their bowls and cups. Add some flowers and introduce your toddlers to these as well. What do they smell like?

Find stones and add them to the soup. Are they smooth? Rough? Big? Small?

Next, add water and watch the concoctions being made before your eyes.

9. Balloon Painting

This is an exciting messy activity that develops spatial awareness and coordination skills. Plus, it’s fun.

What You’ll Need:

  • Balloons
  • Funnel
  • Child-friendly paint
  • Large sheets of paper
  • Safety pins

Begin by filling the balloons with paint using the funnel.

Close each balloon with a simple knot. With the aid of the safety pins, poke a hole in the bottom of the balloon to create a small hole. This will allow the paint to come through when the balloon is squeezed.

Next, with your sheets of paper, let your toddler unleash their creativity as they apply the paint to it.

10. Under the Sea Jelly Adventure

It’ll be hard not to enjoy this playtime activity since there’s jelly and sea life involved. And did we mention it’s squishy?

What You’ll Need:

  • A blue jelly mix to replicate the water
  • Small aquatic animals
  • A container

Follow the jelly mix instructions and pour into your container where the jelly will set.

Before it does, get the aquatic animals and place these in the jelly to set.

Put the jelly to one side to set. Once it has, let the messy play commence as little hands explore the different textures involved.

11. Window Painting Shaving Foam

This ultimate play activity is definitely one that your toddler will love doing. It’s creative, messy, and fun. And there’s no need to worry about your windows either.

What You’ll Need:

  • Cupcake tin
  • Shaving foam
  • Food colouring
  • Paint brushes

Using the cupcake tin, spray shaving cream into each cupcake holder.

Add the required food colouring to the shaving cream and mix.

With paintbrushes or just using your hands, bring your toddler to an outside window and watch as they apply the shaving cream paint to them.

Once they’ve finished, you can rinse the shaving cream off, leaving your windows clean again.

12. Giant Bubbles

This is one activity that’s bound to get the whole family involved. Who isn’t mesmerised by bubbles? Whether you’re a baby in arms or an older family member, bubbles always ignite a smile.

What You’ll Need:

  • A hula hoop
  • Dish soap
  • A tray big enough to fit the hula hoop
  • Water

Fill your tray with water and then add your dish soap, adding as much or little as you require.

Once the water and soap are mixed, add your hula hoop and see who can make the biggest bubbles.

13. Water Rockets

This activity is not only fun, but it teaches your toddler about force and physics. Your toddler will also enjoy making the rocket. What’s not to love?

What You’ll Need:

  • Empty toilet rolls
  • Cellotape
  • Tin foil
  • A plastic top big enough to cover the toilet roll
  • A garden spray hose

Taking each toilet roll, tape the plastic tops to them, making sure that the tops are secure enough that they don’t move too much.

Next, roll the toilet roll with the plastic top attached to a piece of tin foil so that it covers it completely.

Make sure to fold some foil in the inside of the toilet roll, which will help protect your rocket from getting wet.

And now for the fun part. Taking your garden hose, let your toddler shoot their rocket as high into the sky as they can. By the end of it, you may find they have questions about the rocket getting pushed up and then brought back down again.

What Are the Benefits of Messy Play for Your Toddler?

The early years of a toddler’s life are important and messy play encourages language skills and communication while getting children to explore different textures and shapes. Not only is messy play fun, but it also boosts confidence, creativity, and imagination.

Children learn through play and messy activities enable them to develop their curiosity while exploring the world around them. It boosts children’s fine motor skills, and gross motor skills, strengthens muscles, develops hand-eye coordination, and improves body control and balance.

With so many physical benefits to messy play, what’s not to love?

That’s a Wrap!

There you have it. My list of the top 13 messy play activities every toddler should experience.

Have a look through the list of messy play ideas and see which ones you’d like to do with your children, and take the guesswork of figuring out what to do when you’re stuck for ideas to keep your toddler entertained. Have fun!

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