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Messy (but fun!) summer crafts for the family

Whitney Coy is a freelance writer and editor based in Columbus, OH, where she lives with her husband and two daughters. She writes frequently for SheKnows, as well as several other websites. She writes on topics including parenting, trav...

Go ahead -- get messy!

Kids love to get messy, but cleaning up can be a real headache. During the summer months, move your craft session outside, where all you need to clean up is a hose and a beach towel. Your kids will love these fun crafts almost as much as they’ll love the mess they make in the process. It’s OK, Mom -- it all cleans up!

little girl with dirty hands

Race car art

Kids love this one because they’re playing with cars and getting crafty at the same time!

Things you’ll need:

  • Paper plates
  • Washable paint
  • Toy cars
  • Large pieces of paper
  • Bucket
  • Dish soap

Set out several paper plates, and squirt a different color of washable paint on each plate (you’ll need a lot of each color). Run your toy cars through the paint, and then over the paper. The wheel tracks the car makes will serve as the art. Leave them out in the sun to dry. If you want the kids to help with the clean-up, set out a bucket of soapy water and ask the kids to take the cars through the "car wash" when they’re done painting.

How to plan a messy art day for your preschooler >>

Sand painting

This is a fun way for kids to play with their sand when building sand castles get old. If you don’t have a sandbox, use large tubs or pans filled with a few inches of sand.

Things you’ll need:

  • Sand
  • Spray bottles
  • Food coloring

Fill your spray bottles with water, and then add enough food coloring to each bottle to make a vibrant shade. It’s best to let the adults handle this step because food coloring isn’t the easiest thing in the world to clean up. Let the kids use the spray bottle to spray color onto the sand, creating whatever they please. If they want to start over, simply stir the sand around for a clean slate.

Check out four summer crafts and activities kids will love >>

Fruit paint

You’ve always told your kids not to play with their food, but this fun craft is a great exception. Make sure to have them wear old clothes or bathing suits, because this mess may not come out of clothing.

Things you’ll need:

  • Big bowls
  • Fruit
  • Fork or other utensil
  • Paper

Choose any fruit with a color you like -- any variety of berry works great -- and mash it up in a bowl with a fork or spoon. Let your kids help with this process -- it's half the fun for the little ones. Once you have a nice puree, let your kids use it as finger paint. You’ll have a sweet-smelling work of art when they’re finished.

5 Fun Popsicle crafts >>

Chalk self-portraits

Sidewalk chalk is great for outdoor crafts because all you need for clean-up is a water hose or a good rain. These works of art won’t last long, so take a picture if you want to preserve them.

Things you’ll need:

  • Sidewalk chalk

Have your kids lie down on a sidewalk or driveway and trace their outlines with sidewalk chalk. Once you’re done, let them get up and hand them the chalk. Let them have fun drawing in clothing, accessories, a face and hair.

Fun Tip

End your craft session with a run through the sprinklers to clean up and end on a fun note.

More kid crafts from SheKnows

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