We’ve previously written about the benefits of messy play, so in this guide, we’re going to share our favourite messy play ideas. For some of these activities, you may need to buy a few items but the cost for most will be minimal.

As you explore these activities with your child, encourage them to describe textures and colours. Messy play should be interactive and fun but also educational. Try to highlight some learning points from each activity and ask your child questions as you play.

Rainbow Spaghetti

This messy play idea is great fun for exploring colour and texture and you may already have everything you need in your kitchen cupboard. The best part about this messy play activity is that it’s entirely edible - yum!

To make rainbow spaghetti, you’ll need:

  • Approximately 200 grams of spaghetti (100 grammes per adult portion)
  • 1 tablespoon of various food colourings (we recommend, red, blue, yellow and green)
  • Zip-lock bags.

To cook your spaghetti, bring a large pan to the boil and add the pasta. Cook it until it’s al dente (firm and not too soggy).

Drain the pasta in a colander and rinse it through with cold water.

In the zip-lock bags, add 1 tablespoon of food colouring, using 1 bag per colour. Combine the food colouring with water and let your child give it a good mix around.

Place some of the spaghetti in the bag and give it a further mix so that the pasta is covered with the food colouring. Do this with each bag of colouring.

Let the bags settle for around 10 minutes, then remove the spaghetti and rinse each colour separately in cold water.

To add a touch of flavour to your rainbow spaghetti, serve it with some pesto.

For a demonstration of how to make rainbow spaghetti, take a look at this video from TheOfficialHungry’s YouTube channel:

Making Play-Doh

Who doesn’t love making snakes and snowmen from play-doh?! This messy play idea is good for developing your child’s fine motor skills and exploring their creativity. There are lots of different recipes for making your own play-doh – here’s what you’ll need to make our favourite version:

  • A saucepan or pot
  • Food colouring of your choice
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 cup of flour
  • Half a cup of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon of cream of tartar

To make your play-doh, start by adding the food colouring, water, salt, vegetable oil and cream of tartar to the saucepan. Heat it until it gets warm but be sure not to let it start boiling.

Once the mixture is warm, take it off the heat and add in the flour. Let your child give it a good mix and then knead it all together until it has a smooth consistency and voila! If you’d like a selection of colours, repeat the process again using a different food colouring.

To store your play-doh, simply keep it in a zip-lock back in a cupboard. The cream of tartar should preserve the play-doh for around 6 months.

In you case you don’t have cream of tartar in your cupboard but you have everything else, we’ve found a YouTube video about how to make play-doh without it:

Sand Painting

This is a great messy play idea following a trip to the beach. If you don’t live near the sea though, don’t worry, you can use builder’s sand, or any other type you can get your hands on. This is another good activity for exploring colour and texture and can help improve your child’s hand-eye coordination and colour recognition. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Sand
  • Paintbrushes of various sizes
  • Coloured paint (poster paints work particularly well)
  • Card or paper (card won’t bevel in the same way that paper can)

To make your sand paint, all you need to do is take some sand and add your coloured paint to it. Remember not to add too much sand otherwise the consistency will be too thick to paint with.

For an alternative way to paint with sand, take a look at this YouTube video that demonstrates how to paint with sand and glue:

Coloured Pasta Jewellery

The method used to make coloured pasta jewellery is fairly similar to the way you’d make rainbow spaghetti. The main difference is that you don’t need to cook the pasta! Here’s what you’ll need to make coloured pasta jewellery:

  • Penne pasta
  • 1 tablespoon of food colouring (various different colours)
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Zip-lock bags
  • Paper towels
  • String

Start by placing some pasta inside a zip-lock bag. Add a few squirts of hand sanitizer and zip up the bag. Let your child give it a good shake so that the pasta is evenly coated.

Open the bag and add 1 tablespoon of food colouring. Zip it up again and let your child give it another good shake.

Empty the coated pasta on to a paper towel to let it dry. Repeat the same process for all the different colours that you’d like to have.

Once the pasta is dry, you can thread the string through the holes to create a colourful necklace or bracelet.

For a demonstration of how to make coloured past jewellery, take a look at this video from BabyCentre:

Float or Sink

This messy play idea is a fun science concept that will teach your child about objects that float and skink. This activity can be played in a large bowl of water, a deep tray or even the bath!

All you really need is a volume of water and some objects to place in the container. Some objects you might want to experiment with include:

  • A wooden peg
  • A stone
  • A milk bottle top
  • A lolly pop stick
  • A feather
  • A coin
  • A button
  • A leaf

Before you place an object in the water, ask your child if they think it will sink or float. Were they correct? This messy play idea gives you the opportunity to talk about the size of the objects and their weight and how these factors affect their buoyancy.

For a quick demonstration of this activity, take a look at this video from ActiviTots:

At Edu Prints Plus, we make inspirational posters for children that are ideal for adding a splash of colour to bedroom walls and classrooms. All of our prints are made using high-quality 350 gsm art card and they have a soft velvet finish. They also have added surface protection just in case those messy play ideas get a little out of hand!

Here are two of our favourite prints from our ‘inspirational’ collection:


And remember, for every four prints you buy, you’ll get the fifth one free - all with free worldwide shipping.

Related Posts:

The Benefits of Messy Play for Children

Six Educational (And Fun) Rainy Day Activities for Children

The Benefits of Sensory Play for Children

The Benefits of Drawing for Children  

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