Tips for Messy Painting

I have always embraced Messy Play and Messy Painting, or as I like to call it "Extreme Painting". Children can benefit so much from the freedom, exploration and the creativity of messy painting.
Many parents steer clear of it though because it is just too much!

I get that. You see the perfect ideas on the Internet, picture pretty Pinterest activities and unreal creativity on blogs.
A bit like the picture above

When you attempt to loosen the reigns and let your child be free with the paint it is chaos and not at all what you've planned or expected, right?
You're left with a rainbow child, hand prints up the wall and splats over the entire room.
A bit like the pictures below.

Don't let the word "mess" or "chaos" deter you.
Life is messy, paint is messy, kids are messy so its all bound to be a little chaotic but that is a good thing. These type of activities give children freedom to express and explore their senses and creativity. To them it's great fun.

To a pre-schooler splatting paint from a distance or squishing toes through it provides much more enjoyment then precisely stroking a brush in the one direction.
Experimenting with Lego pieces, potato shapes, sponges or string in paint is much more exciting then using one boring brush.
Mixing every colour together until everything becomes a lovely shade of brown is a great learning experience compared to getting roused on for muddling up the colours.

If this sounds familiar or you've had a bad messy experience with more time doing a clean up then the time your child actually painted, this post is for you and I hope you persist, try again and enjoy.


Tips for messy painting

Preparation is the key, have everything ready to go in the right place and you'll be grinning.

Be age realistic- children's attention spans develop with age, don't expect a 2 year old to do an hour long master peice, therefore keep it simple and quick. Start with one or two drops of paint in a tray and finger painting or one object.

Dress them appropriately- dimples wears a old set of paint clothes and a smock, specific painting wear that usually stays with the paint suitcase. This way it doesn't matter at all if he does get covered in paint.

Take it outside- if its possible, painting is much easier outdoors, do it on a easel over the grass or lay out a large cardboard box opened, use washable paint and you can pin large paper up on a wall.
We have a large old outdoor table where we do all our messy play that is covered in paint, so it doesn't matter if more paint love covers it.

Expect a bit of mess- if you are being realistic then also expect and accept mess. Let it happen, don't sweat the small stuff. Of course this doesn't mean sit by and let your children splat paint over the newly washed clothes hanging on the line, but if your prepared and set up for messy play, then let it happen.

Use a messy mat- if your on a surface that needs protecting or inside use a plastic table cloth or a vinyl off cut as a large messy mat.

Have a wash up tub - Fill a tub or bucket with water and soup for after, so if there happens to be any foot or hand printing then its easy enough to wash off the paint before it dries.

Have a cloth rag- A lot of kids, including dimples, don't like wet squishy paint on their skin. They may like putting it there but not so much leaving it there and this is when they're most likely going to wipe it on something so a cloth specifically for this will be needed.

Use large paper- More space, More fun. Maybe even have back up paper.

Have a drying spot ready for their master piece to hang.

Have an empty bucket- If your using different tools to paint with have a empty bucket nearby so you can put them in it while your helping your child clean up, there's nothing worse then undressing them, cleaning up, hanging up their work and turning around and they've picked up the paint covered tools to try again.

Clean up before the paint dries - If your using tools, supervise their choice, smooth plastic works best, things that can be thrown in hot water (or the dish washer) to be cleaned with little to no grooves or crevasses. Plastic animals foot prints, Lego stamping, hot wheels car tracks for example.


Check out some of our extreme paint

Happy Adventures :)


  1. I am also a huge fan of messy play! A lot of people ask me how I can handle the mess. If my kids are learning, I am can handle it. Thanks for your tips about making messy art much easier to handle.

  2. We just did messy painting which ended up on faces, in the hair and on the table. Luckily, we use washable paint. Then, the painting was followed by a purple (food color) bath which went with the theme of exploring colors (thought this time it was about getting clean instead of messy). I like your tip about having a drying spot ready for their art pieces.

  3. Great tips - I would love for you to link up at the Empty Your Archive party which has fun painting ideas as one of it's themes this week - Alice @ Mums Make Lists x

  4. love your post, we are big fans of messy painting. I wrote a similar post a while ago explaining how for my son painting was more of a sensory experience than necessarily a creative one, So I need to let him feel the paint, even if he wants to do that with his tongue and hair!

  5. I never thought that a messy painting could be so bright, colorful and beautiful. This is wonderful.

  6. I liked the painting and the idea of it being called a messy painting.

  7. I like your suggestions! All kids should get to do messy painting sometimes. But I still wish my 4-year-old didn't insist on always mixing the colors together into an unattractive brown! lol



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