Recently we had a Messy Art Day with friends. I had so many ideas for it: tie-dye t-shirts, using fall leaves to paint t-shirts, preserving leaves in melted beeswax, making fall wreaths…
Ultimately I decided against all of this. The target ages for our activity were 2 – 5, and they wouldn’t want to be told how to do a craft. They wouldn’t want to hand off parts of their creativity to adults because it was “too hard” or “too dangerous.” No, those activities are better saved for a slightly older crowd (and would be awesome for the 7 – 12 age group).
Instead, I wanted to go with a bunch of different textures to explore. I wanted them to be able to get into it and not need any help playing, creating, or whatever they wanted to do.
I had some limitations. Some of our friends (with small children who like to eat play dough) are gluten-free, so white flour was out as an ingredient. I also didn’t want anything unnatural — I saw recipes with shampoo, recipes with borax, and the like — I didn’t want to go with those. I wanted basically everything to be food-like or actual food (not that I’d recommend eating these; they wouldn’t taste very good!). So I bought some ingredients and I set to work.
Snow Dough is up first. I mixed this one up hoping for an outcome similar to play-dough. It’s not really like that, other than being a thick dough. It’s similar to cloud dough. It clumps, it holds its shape, it crumbles apart easily. I was delighted with it.
The kids were intrigued, but they mostly threw it. (Good thing we were outside!) It was gone in minutes with 6 kids’ hands squishing, pushing, and throwing. Still, it would have made a neat “snow man” if they’d been more in the mood to shape. They wanted to squish, roll, and cut, and this dough isn’t so great for that.
Snow Dough Recipe
- 3 c. cornstarch
- 1 c. salt
- 8 – 10 tbsp. vegetable oil
Mix together the salt and cornstarch. Add the oil slowly, a bit at a time, especially at the end. Stir together, using your hands if necessary. Store in an air-tight container.
Then, I wanted something “slime like.” This would be trickier. I began to combine the ingredients, adding a bit more of this and that until it came together. Then I made a second batch to make sure I wasn’t crazy. This one I love. I wanted to play with it myself for hours. It’s thick, it sort of holds its shape, but it slides like thick liquid too. It sticks to your fingers, then slides right back off. It’s crazy. It’s perfect. It’s slime! But it looks just like marshmallow creme, hence the name.
Marshmallow Dough Recipe
- 1/2 c. baking soda
- 1/2 c. + 2 tbsp. cornstarch
- 6 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 6 tbsp. white glue
- 1/2 c. water
Mix the baking soda and cornstarch together. Add the vegetable oil and glue and stir gently, then add the water. Keep stirring until combined. It will look a little crumbly and weird at first; keep stirring. If needed, add an extra tablespoon of cornstarch.
It should be very smooth with no trace of crumble and not too much oil when it’s finished. Store in an air-tight container. It gains color easily, if mixed with paint or anything else (so you could add natural food dyes if you want, or even spinach juice or something, but it might not last as long).
The kids loved this one. They squished it, rolled it, cut it, made smiley faces in it. As I write, the kids have gone home but my daughter is turning the dough into pretend pie. My oldest son named this as his favorite activity on messy art day. It’s a hit!
Messy Art Day Activities
Our other activities included splatter painting, finger painting, mud-digging, and puff painting.
For splatter painting, I taped heavy water color paper to our back fence with masking tape, gave the kids a paper plate with dots of paint on it, and a big paint brush. I let them flick paint, throw paint, smear paint…whatever they wanted to do. Fingers were involved here too.
They spent more time actually painting the plates and our old water filter than they did the paper. Oh well. The point was to let them get into it and be creative, however they wanted to.
We’ll be doing more themed play dates over the coming months: harvest/fall crafts and food, Stone Soup day, Christmas crafts and cookies, dinosaur day, royalty day (historical), planets/space day, and lots more. We do about one per month with friends. Would you like recipes and instructions for future theme days?
This is a great way to do preschool/kindergarten homeschool! (And we have lots of reading and other learning activities on the other days, especially for the older ones.)
What kinds of art do your kids like to do?