We found the holy grail for kid’s parties: you don’t even have to clean your house for this one! With a messy art party, you’ll have endless creative fun (but you may want to warn other parents to get the bath water ready at pick up!). We’ve plotted all the points to get you from start to finish with ease. Read on for the how-to!

Kid with paintbrush 2photo: Jim Pennucci via flickr 

Get The Party Started

Whether you’re hosting an impromptu art session for your minis or throwing a pre-planned fete for the gang, set-up is key. Especially when the plan is to get messy! Have little artists dress the part in old clothes that can handle a few paint splatters. And set out smocks for everyone to wear (psst… upcycling dad’s old dress shirts is a quick way to make smocks for the masses). If you’re really on top of your game (and planning an outside shindig on a sunny day), ditch the old play clothes for bathing suits. They’re truly the easiest way to clean up a crew after they make like Jackson Pollock.

Kid painting on grassphoto: Anne Fitten Glenn via flickr

Once the minis are covered (literally), it’s time to set the stage. Setting up pre-stocked stations with supplies for each art project you want to create means kiddos can pick and choose their favorite ways to express their messy selves. The bare minimum at any station is washable paint, the more colorful the better. From there, you can mix and match media (think paint on butcher paper or old bed sheets) with delivery methods (like spray bottles or squirt guns) so they cater to your crowd. Whatever combo you choose, we suggest keeping it outside. It makes clean up a cinch and provides an inspiring backdrop for mini Monets. Now to choose the projects…

Bring on the Mess

1. Paint with squirt guns. Have an all out paint battle, painters vs. canvas when you load up the squirt guns with washable tempera paint and aim them at an old bed sheet hung between two trees. Somewhat Simple’s got everything you need to know to set up this art project that’ll blow you away, punk.

2. Have sponge? Will toss. It doesn’t get easier than target practice with paint-soaked dish sponges. Cut them up into small, tot-sized pieces and then let little artists do the dunk ‘n’ chuck at the canvas. This one works well on paper taped to trees or with butcher paper spread out on the lawn or over a picnic table. One, two, three, throw!

Girl in front of painted sheetphoto: SandToGlass via flickr

3. Make a splatter. Bed sheets make the best canvas for a group splatter paint project. Hang it between two trees or lay it out on the grass. Then let the kiddos flick paint from their brushes and watch closely as lacey patterns emerge. We love the idea of queuing up some tune-age to inspire aspiring artists as they jump, hop and twirl around the project.

4. Create egg-cellent art. We’re pretty much in love with this eggshell painting project from Growing a Jeweled Rose. It’s easy, it’s messy and it’s the best thing to happen to eggs since Easter.

5. Play Mist-y. Sure, they cool you down on a swelteringly hot summer day. But spray bottles also create some wicked cool art. Just fill some up with tempera paint and water. Then let the kiddos spray away onto paper taped to trees or art easels set up around the yard.

6. Paint with shaving cream. They won’t need a bath after this frothy experiment in body painting. A hard-sided kiddie pool filled with shaving cream becomes the paint at this station. And bathing suit clad kiddos are the canvas. Line them up around the pool, then let them paint each other until they’re covered from head to toe. Just be sure to hose them down before hosting another round!

Boy covered in shaving cream

photo: Allison Sutcliffe

 7. Burst a bubble. Think carnival game when you set up this active station. It takes a little prep up front, but the colorful patterns created by the paint-filled balloons when they burst are as intriguing as they are fun. Hello, Wonderful has the deets on this “pop”-ular project.

8. Design with marbles. Dig out old shoe box tops or cut up the morning’s cereal boxes to make rimmed canvases for this one. Fill them with plops of glittery paint then hand them off to the mini Monets. Drop and roll is how this canvas comes alive. Drop in the marble and roll it around to see what mixed up patterns appear as it gleefully glides through the paint and around canvas.
Boy marble painting

photo: Bob Keefer via flickr

9. Go all in. Forget finger painting. Challenge petit Picassos to create skillful masterpieces using their arms, legs, tummies and hands dipped in washable paint and pressed onto canvas. Butcher paper on the ground works well for this one. It means the kiddos can walk, roll and stomp out their creativity.

10. Roll with it. Hot wheels make for some cool designs, especially when you run them through paint and then race them around and around on a canvas. Use paper set out on tables or clipped to easels at this station. Away we go!

The After Party

Once the tot lot have drained their creative juices, it’s time to think about clean up. A big bucket full of water with a little bit of soap thrown in makes an easy drop spot for brushes, sponges and anything else those aspiring artists used to put paint on their canvas. Let them sit and soak before giving a final rinse.

art on clothesline

photo: mpclemens via flickr

Next, you’ll need a place for everyone’s drippy masterpieces to dry before they take them home to be hung prominently on the refrigerator. Pinning them to the clothesline works well, but fastening a string along the fence or garage door is just as effective. Once they’re dry, drop them into brown paper bags for easy transport back to home base. Easy peasy, party done. We call this the mic drop moment.

Do you plan to throw a messy art party? Tell us how it goes in a comment.

—Allison Sutcliffe