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5 Low Mess Creative Activities for Toddlers

by Catalina Gutierrez
May 27, 2024

Here are 5 low mess creative activities for toddlers. Try these fun toddler ideas for engaging young children through art and play.

Updated June 2024

For those of you who know me or have been following me for some time now on social media, you know I love a good mess.

I like to foster opportunities for children to get messy and explore.

But, hey, that doesn’t mean I’ve always been comfortable around a messy situation with my children or in my classes. My love for messy play is more of an acquired taste.

And as a matter of fact, there are still times in which I just don’t feel like it, and on those days, I choose to set out other art invitations for kids to create and play with that are a bit more contained.

creative activities pinterest
Photo by Catalina Gutierrez

I often get asked for activity ideas that don’t involve paint or the possibility of being in one of those messy/sticky/gooey situations where you end up spending more time cleaning up than your kids spend doing the actual activity.

I like to encourage parents and caregivers to let kids get messy and explore all kinds of textures freely. By freely I mean without an adult ready with ten wipes in hand! But I know there are times where you just want an easy clean-up kind of activity, and that’s perfectly fine, I get it.

Here are five of my top favorite low-mess creative activities.  I really hope you give these a try!

Low-Mess Creative Activities for Toddlers

low mess toddler activities washing toys
Photo by Catalina Gutierrez

1. Water Play

What kid doesn’t love water play? This is one of my favorite creative activities for kids of all times, because it’s so simple to set up and clean up is easy breezy.

I present water play in many different ways, but I have just one warning: always place a couple of towels or absorbent drop cloths underneath your station to prevent water from going everywhere.

I suggest using a big plastic box for the water (no need to add a lot of water, about an inch is more than enough).  Then bring in some plastic food, little bowls, plastic animals, dolls, brushes, etc. Then add a few drops of tear-free shampoo to make some foam and let them wash, wash, wash.

A good tip is placing a couple of extra plastic boxes you may have around the house next to the larger one, so spills are always contained. Then kids can work on transferring the water from one box to the other, which is always engaging for younger children.

Sensory foam for kids provides endless open ended play with cars, animals, etc
Photo by Catalina Gutierrez

2. Incredible Foam This post contains affiliate links.

This is a weird yet fun supply you can get on Amazon. We love it. It’s a perfect mix between, slime, clay and Styrofoam but very low mess.

Remember, the plastic box is your best friend.  Always use it; it’s so great to contain everything. If you keep reinforcing with children that it all must stay inside the box, they will get it. Eventually.

Place the foam inside a box next to some cars, trucks and craft sticks or any other similar toy you may have on hand.

Let kids explore this great sensory material. It’s sticky, yet it won’t stick to surfaces or clothing permanently, and it’s very easy to clean because it all just comes together super fast. Plus, it never dries out, so you can use it over and over again and in endless ways.

Playdough play with toddlers including craft sticks, cds, and recycled lids
Photo by Catalina Gutierrez

3. Playdough

Always a favorite. Always a crowd pleaser, at all ages.  This is a top one on my list, because I use it constantly and in so many different manners.

It’s a really wonderful supply that won’t stain or stick and is so versatile and open-ended.

Set it out with some uncooked pasta or with some animals and loose parts. Then watch the magic of child-led play happen.  They will build with it, they will cook, they will dress their animals, they will use it to glue parts together; the list goes on.

Most importantly, they will be engaged for a decent amount of time, and you will be able to enjoy a cup of coffee or do that laundry load you’ve had on hold for days!

Child placing felt shapes on contact paper wall
Photo by Catalina Gutierrez

4. Sticky Wall

This is a very low-mess activity and very simple to set up. And did I mention, so much fun?

Buy a roll of contact paper and tape it to the wall sticky side up. After you tape it, remove the protective paper and bring in some felt pieces, tissue paper, feathers, foam shapes, or just about anything you may have around that can stick to the paper.

Let the kids get busy arranging the shapes on the sticky paper, then removing them, then adding them again and so on.  This is so great for those hand-eye coordination skills!

Kids painting with tempera sticks on paper
Photo by Catalina Gutierrez

5. Tempera Sticks

Paint sticks are the best! If you haven’t tried these yet you are going to love them. 

They are as wonderful and vibrant as tempera paint, but they act kind of like a marker (but much better); plus they dry super fast!

Set these out with a large cardboard piece on the floor. Or sometimes I like to tape paper to the wall and invite the kids to use them this way.

Not much setup or cleanup needed for this one. Easy and fun!

These are just a few of my favorite low-mess creative activities for kids! I hope you give them a try with your kiddos. I promise they will enjoy them and you won’t have to mop or clean much once they are done. Win win!

More Creative Activities for Toddlers

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