Clean Creations to Messy Masterpieces: Toddler Art Activities

Clean Creations to Messy Masterpieces: Toddler Art Activities

By Michelle Mady

Art activities have give children so many cognitive advantages. They learn colors, patterns and hand-eye coordination. They also are exposed to various outcomes and sensory experiences.  And what’s more - it’s so fun! There are so many benefits to art in childhood, but that mess is a chore!

Some scenarios, time and moods call for the fun of a mess. However, sometimes a quick and easy mess-less activity is the cure to a slow day. Check out these activities of various levels of mess to bring artwork into even the most paint-phobic households.

Some scenarios, time and moods call for the fun of a mess. However, sometimes a quick and easy mess-less activity is the cure to a slow day.  

Ziplock Art (mess: low)

You will need: 3 or 4 different colors of paint, cardstock, gallon Ziplock bags, packing tape, scotch tape 

  1. Cut the cardstock to fit in the ziplock bag.  
  2. Drop a few globs of paint on the cardstock - spread out the colors! (A “glob” is enough to paint with, not enough to overwhelm the bag.)
  3. Put the cardstock (with paint on it) in the bag. Zip it up tight, add some packing tape across the top for insurance.
  4. Tape down the ziplock to the table and let your child smoosh those colors all around!  Tape all four sides down for younger toddlers.
  5. When they are done, take out the paper and put it on a rack to dry (cookie racks work well) and toss the bag. Clean up DONE!

Bingo Daubers (mess: low)

You will need: Paper or google “Bingo Dauber Paper” and print up some templates, Bingo Daubers.

  1. Put some newspaper or a vinyl table cloth down to minimize bleed-through mess.
  2. Put out the papers (taping them down will keep them in place).
  3. Open the daubers and let your toddler have at it!

Foam Painting (mess: medium)

You will need: cardstock, shaving cream, craft glue, food coloring, popsicle sticks, bowls

Make the Foam Paint (This part may be more fun than painting for children, so include them in on making this!):

  1. Mix equal parts glue and shaving cream (eyeball measurements are fine) in a bowl.
  2. Mix with popsicle sticks (easier to clean!).
  3. Add food coloring to preference.
  4. Repeat with as many different colors as you want.


  1. Put down newspaper to protect your painting surface.
  2. Let them fingerpaint on the cardstock!
  3. For clean up, this paint is much easier to wipe than regular paint. And it smells better, too!

Pollock Painting (mess: high!) 

You will need: vinyl tablecloth, slightly watered down paint, paintbrushes, eye droppers, large paper, OK-to-mess clothing.

  1. Lay down the vinyl tablecloth (dollar store ones work great). Ideally, this would be an outdoor art project, but if you are doing it inside, do it in the bathroom, kitchen, or other tiled area.
  2. Put the paper on the table cloth.
  3. Throw some ok-to-mess clothing on your child, or better yet, strip them down to a diaper or underwear and make it a bath night.
  4. Put out the paint and let them use the paintbrushes and eyedroppers to do some crazy painting.
  5. Children can drop paint onto the paper, spray it from eye droppers, or flick paint filled brushes over the paper.
  6. Leave it there to dry while you give your child a bath.
  7. Frame this super cool piece and remember the fun you had (and not the clean up).
  8. Toss out the vinyl, hopefully folding in most of the mess!


About the author: Michelle is a mom of 5 children ranging in age from 5 to 15.  As a toddler and preschool teacher, she shares experiences, activities and guidance to other parents, as both a parent and as a professional early childhood educator, at any stage of their parenting journey. 

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