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Say Yes to Messy Parties!

by Stacey Libbert of Running Monologue

Look inside most purses, glove compartments or bathroom and kitchen cabinets, and you’ll find at least one bottle of anti-bacterial hand sanitizer or a box of Clorox wipes.  We remind our children to wash their hands and faces, and we shake our heads in frustration when they track dirt into the house or collect small piles of sticks and rocks and moss under their beds.  We want them to be clean; after all, to be clean is to be healthy.

But in our race to eradicate germs from our lives, have we gotten a little too sterile?  Recently, I overheard two different children express concern about getting dirt on their hands, and another child was upset about getting her hair wet.  In our pursuit of an orderly and germ-free environment, are we robbing our kids of one of the greatest pleasures of childhood? 

Is getting messy becoming a thing of the past?

For as long as there have been kids, there have been mothers scrubbing dirt rings from around the tub, but there is something to be said for actually cultivating messiness. 

Now, don’t misunderstand me.  I like a clean, tidy room as much as the next mom, but there is great freedom in messiness, a freedom that breeds creativity, self-expression, and good old-fashioned fun.  Making a mess is a necessary skill.

And making a mess is also a simple and super fun party idea.  A messy party allows children to let loose and get dirty without fear of being scolded.  It is the ultimate “YES” party.  The only rule is to be safe and have fun.  Here are some basic supplies and ideas to get your party off to a rockin’ start!


No Surprises 

When sending out invitations, be very clear that children should wear old play clothes and that a clean change of clothes in a backpack might be necessary for the trip home.   The last thing you want is to blind-side another mom by returning a mud-soaked and slightly stained child to her at pick-up time.


Pull Stuff from the Pantry

The simplest way to host a messy party is right in your own backyard.  What I love most about these is that prep is minimal and supplies are often things that are already lying around the house.   

Pots, pans, plastic or wooden mixing bowls, wooden spoons, and any strange but fun kitchen utensils, like whisks, potato mashers, slotted spoons or tongs, make mixing more fun.

Flour, cornstarch, lots of water, and food coloring [make your own or find natural coloring at your local health food store] are basic ingredients.

I put out containers of different ingredients and various bowls and pots for mixing.  The children mixed the ingredients they found the most appealing, adding in some dirt and grass and weeds from the yard for good measure.


Be Stylish in Your Messiness

Other fun activities included body “painting” with the same flour/water/food coloring mixtures.  You can also use “cornstarch glue” made up of 3 Tbsp. of cornstarch, 4 Tbsp. of cold water and 2 cups of boiling water.  And, of course, there are pre-packaged face paints that are specifically made for such an occasion.  Provide brushes, sponges, Q-tips and other assorted means of application in addition to using old-fashioned finger-painting techniques.  This is always a huge hit.


Create Something Wonderful

Consider a scavenger hunt in the woods to pick up supplies before getting started.  Sandboxes, sand-tables, buckets of dirt (or better yet, areas where dirt can be dug up from the ground with a spade or shovel), easy access to water, sticks, and leaves are all good messy party materials that children can use with abandon.  If you’ve ever watched children in an art class or asked one of them what they’re making, you know that the answer is often, “I don’t know.”  They are so consumed with the act of creating, they sometimes don’t even know what they’re making until they’re done.  The thrill of art is, for them, the process.  Messy parties are all about the process—the act of squishing, squirting, building up and tearing down.  It is expression in its purest form.


Don’t Use Your Table Manners

All good parties include food, and messy parties are no exception.  The only difference is there can and should be crumbs all over the floor or ground after the meal is served at a messy party.  Options might include baking homemade cookies and providing containers of icing, sprinkles, whipped cream and other toppings so the kids can make their own cookie creations, or if processed sugar is a concern, you can do something very similar with yogurt, fruit and granola mixes for creative parfaits.  One of our favorites is the “no hands donut eating” where donuts are tied onto long pieces of yarn and hung from a clothesline, tree branch or secure bar.  Lightly tie participants’ hands behind their backs with a bandana and have them eat the suspended donut without the use of their hands.  This can be done individually or as a timed competition depending on the age and temperament of your crowd.  Be sure to have a camera on hand for this one.


Don’t Send Them Home Empty Handed

At the end of the day, you can send your guests home with small bars of soap wrapped in colorful and whimsical washcloths.  After all, half the fun of getting dirty is getting clean again, and a thoughtful party favor will extend the fun just a little longer.


Stacey Libbert is a writer, teacher and mom living on a farm in North Carolina with her husband, two children, and various animals.  She used to be meticulous in her housekeeping, but after 10 years of motherhood, she has finally embraced the messy lifestyle and will probably never look back.  You can read more of her messy adventures at her blog, Running Monologue, where she writes about everything from trail running to creative living to raising healthy, happy mice… and children.  You can also find her on Facebook.  Come on over and say hi!

Reader Comments (1)

My little daughter make a painting about parties and cakes. I am so surprised for this development and this blog also helpful for creating more skills.
Mar 21, 2013 at 2:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterChildren playcentre

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