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We don’t need convincing that mess is lots of fun and so important for early years’ development.  The great outdoors is an endless source of mess and fun, whatever the weather. Whilst we certainly recommend going out for a wet walk from time to time (splashing in puddles is so much fun!), there are times when you don’t want to go out or can’t for some reason.  With Autumn approaching and the nights drawing in, more time is generally spent at home.  Here are some great ideas we’ve found for messy fun indoors.  Most are fairly quick and easy to set up – and don’t need a great deal of prep… perfect in our world – just be prepared for some mess and clearing up afterwards…


Quick and Easy Messy Play Ideas: 

  • Fort building – an oldie but a goodie and always popular in our house.  Fort building is as easy as dragging some furniture around and slinging a sheet over the top  Use clothes pegs to stop the sheet slipping.  With your fort built, there are so many ways to use it – cuddling up in there with some books, pretend play with friends / siblings, indoor picnics (our splashmats work really well as a floor protector)
  • Sink or Float – Grab a washing up bowl, fill it with water and have fun doing experiments to see what sinks and what floats.
  • Name art – Got glue and paper?  Name art is great.  Write your child’s name on the paper in large letters and get them to glue over the top and stick things to it.  This could be foody bits – dry pasta shapes, cheerios, rice krispies etc or tissue paper / glitter / left over wrapping paper / pictures from magazines…
  • Indoor bowling – Set up as many used toilet rolls as you can find and use a soft ball to ‘bowl’ as many over as you can.
  • Squishy Paint Bags – this can be more or less messy depending on how brave you are!  Get 3 Ziploc bags and squirt a bit of paint into each corner – preferably two primary colours in each.  Lock them and make sure you’ve got all the air out, then let your child experiment with mixing the colours together through the bag.  Once they’ve done this, you could give them a blunt instrument such as a spoon, lolly stick – open the bag and let them make pictures / patterns on a piece of paper.  For even more mess, cut open the bags and press them onto a piece of paper or canvas to make a beautifully original painting!
  • Alternatively – for very little ones, just give them some paints and a waterproof mat and let them have fun with the different colours and texture.  I love this photo of a budding artist in action..
Splash Mat grey

Painting fun

  • Indoor Sand Play – this is an idea for the brave and real mess lovers amongst us!  If you’ve got a sand lover, but the weather is stopping them from enjoying their outdoor sand tray, why not bring the fun inside?  Cornflower, cornmeal or polenta all make excellent substitutes for sand and with the addition of a baking tray, a mat or tablecloth to protect your table and some accessories – there’s a great afternoon of fun play for little ones
    • Give children spoons of various sizes, bottle tops, egg cups, medicine cups or any other small cups you can find.  They will enjoy scooping up the sand and tipping it from one container to the other.  You could also introduce toy cars and construction vehicles for an off-road adventure
    • Double the fun (and mess!)  When you’ve had enough sand play, add the same amount of shaving foam to the ‘sand’ and squish it to make foam dough!  This soft, wonderfully mouldable dough is great fun to play with, you can also add food colouring to make it more interesting.  Just make sure they don’t eat it, because of the shaving foam.

Miserable Autumn days don’t have to be dull for children or drive parents to despair.  These ideas should help keep little ones entertained and learning – the key is being prepared and setting things up to help manage the mess.  As always, Messy Me is here to help keep mess under control.