Whether you have white walls or a beige couch, there’s always a threat that art activities for kids will be messy. But not all crafts require paint smocks and newspaper-covered tables. “While we’re not afraid to get messy, it’s nice to not have to clean up after every single crafting session,” says Valerie Deenan, creator of craft blog Inner Child Fun.
Clean crafting comes down to the materials you choose, says Deanna Robinson, the creator of the craft site From Wine to Whine. “My go-to items include contact paper, tissue paper, construction paper, scissors, tape and string. Add a bit of imagination, and that mess-free pile can easily turn into a sun catcher, windsock or a handprint cutout!”
Brandi Jordan, the creator of Mama Teaches and a former elementary school teacher, agrees. “When you’re trying to avoid the mess, opt for materials that are easy to contain. Crayons and washable markers are great for doodling and coloring … if you need to use glue, choose a glue stick over a bottle.”
These eight art activities for kids are simple ways to let children create masterpieces — without the mess.
1. Squish paint
Not only is this no-mess marbled painting from Inner Child Fun a unique way to create, it will keep little ones busy for hours. Simply fill a plastic baggie with baby oil and water-soluble paint (use a few colors!) — you can even add glitter to give the paint some sparkle before sealing the bag (you might want to tape the sealed edge for extra anti-leak protection). To create a masterpiece, little ones just squish the paint around with their fingers!
2. Experiment with dot art
If you’ve ever held a yard sale, you probably have a bunch of those colorful circle stickers lying around. Instead of letting them collect dust, repurpose them into a fun art project. Hand over the stickers and let the kids create a work of art using only dots. Use them to practice letters and numbers or as an introduction to the pointillism technique of painting.
3. Make a village
Kids can have fun with washi tape by using the patterned tape to create a whole town. Have kids use leftover cardboard as the base for these houses in this cute washi tape village from Delphine Doreau. Then, they can use different colors and patterns of tape to decorate the houses however they choose.
4. Create a collage
Not only is this craft project mess-free, it’s also inexpensive — all you need is a roll of sticky-backed contact paper and things from around the house. Let kids cut out pictures from magazines, grab paper scraps from another art project, feathers, sequins or anything else that’s lightweight and flat. Once they have all of their supplies gathered, have them make this easy no-glue collage from Lessons Learnt Journal. When they’re done, cut another strip of contact paper and seal their work.
5. Use your hands
There are a lot of art activities out there that involve handprints and paint, but they don’t have to. “Instead of painting your child’s hand, try tracing it with colored pencils and creating artwork that way,” says Jordan. Create animals out of their prints or something more intricate, like this paper strip handprint keepsake from Mama Papa Bubba.
6. Paint with marbles
This is a fun and creative way to paint without getting messy. Cut a piece of cardstock the same size as the inside of a cookie sheet or aluminum tray. Next, pour a few dollops of different colored paint on a paper plate and add a marble (or bead). Use a spoon to to remove each marble and let kids roll them around the sheet or pan! When they are done, remove the cardstock and view their creation.
7. Make flowers
Bring the outdoors in with these tissue paper flowers from Mama Teaches. Simply fold and trim tissue paper before attaching with pipe cleaners. Make a whole bouquet to brighten up the room, or craft one giant flower that will never wilt.
8. Repurpose sandpaper
This is another easy activity for your kids. Take that leftover sandpaper in your garage and scraps of yarn from your craft stash, and let your kids’ imaginations run wild. The yarn will stick to the sandpaper magically, and kids can redo their pictures over and over.
Remember that craft time should be fun, not stressful. “The joy of creating is often in the (somewhat messy) process, but sometimes even creativity needs a break from paint and glue,” says Jordan.
Stephanie Glover is a freelance writer who lives outside of Philadelphia.