My son loves to paint but always makes a huge mess. Any tips?


Messy (or sensory) play is a fun and interesting way for children to explore and learn about the world around them, but for parents it is just so, well messy! Here are a few ways to minimize the mess. The first is to choose a location that is easy to clean up such as the kitchen, bathtub, driveway, or backyard. Lay a vinyl shower curtain, plastic tablecloth, splash mat (I like Mimi the Sardine Splashmats), old bed sheet or drop-cloth on the ground to make clean-up fast and easy. Use an old t-shirt or smock to protect your son’s clothing and make sure to use washable paint. If you don’t have time to clean up a mess, try Crayola’s Color Wonder Paint that uses colorless paints that only show up on Crayola’s Color Wonder paper. Another mess-free way to paint is to squirt paint into a Ziplock bag. Seal the bag making sure all the air bubbles are out, and tape it to the table with a piece of white paper underneath it. Your son can use his fingers to “finger paint,” or use toy cars or plastic animals to make fun tracks. 

Jennie Ito, Ph.D.

Child Development Expert

Jennie Ito is a mother of two and a child development consultant who specializes in children’s play and toys. Before becoming a consultant for LeapFrog, she was an intern at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, and later worked as a content expert for the Association of Children’s Museum’s “Playing for Keeps” Play Initiative. Jennie earned her doctorate degree in developmental psychology at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada.

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