Preschoolers love to use their senses; activities that include smell, taste, and touch are a huge hit! The messier the better! I recommend using a spot in your house that is easy to clean up, like the kitchen. The children should wear paint smocks, or if you don’t have any, garbage bags with head and arm holes will work. Or even an old, long-sleeved shirt to protect clothing.
The key to successful mess control is to limit the quantity of substance and the number of children participating at a time. For example, just a small squirt of shaving cream per child or a teaspoon of finger paint is enough to get started. You can always add more as you go. Instead of allowing six children at the table , limit the activity to three at a time. This also teaches patience and turn-taking.
Make sure that you have a hand washing station nearby. If you are not near a sink, put a plastic bin or bucket of warm, soapy water close by for easy clean-up.
- Shaving Cream – spread a piece of aluminum foil on the table. Each child gets to squirt a small amount of shaving cream on to the foil. They can use their hands to spread it around, their fingers to “draw” pictures or various tools like spoons or toothbrushes. I recommend using shaving cream for sensitive skin; test it on the child’s arm first to check for an adverse skin reaction. Colour it up with drops of food colouring!
- Finger Paint – spread the foil on the table, or finger paint paper if you want to go fancy! Again, just give each child a small amount of each colour to avoid them wearing most of it up their arms!
- Stretchy goop – combine equal parts of cornstarch and white glue. This makes a nice, not very messy, rubbery substance that is like the old Silly Putty. Store this in an air-tight container for a few weeks.
- Cornstarch and Water goop - combine equal parts of cornstarch and coloured water on the aluminum foil. The kids use their fingers to explore this silky mess!