Celebrate summer with messy painting

Art, at its best, is a full-body experience—at least according to my kids. And with summer here (happy first day of summer!), it’s the perfect time to get outside for some messy painting.

On a recent afternoon, Peeper, Kiwi and a few friends did just that. I squirted paint onto plates of shaving cream, and the kids dove in: Within minutes, we were all messy. And within minutes, we were all having so much fun.

After all, we often tell kids to be neat. Use a napkin. Don’t spill. Wash your hands. Keep your hands to yourself. 

With the weather warming up, though, it’s a great excuse to play outside. And with a little set-up—and a lot of shaving cream—you can let your kids’ creativity go wild. Come on, color outside the lines!

Summer Fun Messy Painting Play Date - Ten Thousand Hour Mama

Make messy painting manageable

You may take one look at these photos and think, Nope, nuh-uh, no way, never. After all, this activity is inherently, well, messy.

But that’s the fun of it!

Messy painting shaving creamMessy painting play date body paintWith a few tips, outdoor painting with shaving cream can be messy—and manageable.

  1. Start with a base layer. Lay down a shower curtain or cheap table cloth first—it’ll make clean-up way easier. (We got a table cloth from the Dollar Store.)
  2. Have a bunch of towels and wipes ready.
  3. Strip kids down to diapers. (I neglected to do this; live and learn.) Even washable paint can be hard to get out of fabric.
  4. Wear scrubs. You’ll get messy, too, so wear clothes you don’t care about. (Again, I neglected to do this, and ended up taking off one of my shirts. Ooh lah lah!)
  5. Know that your kid may eat a little shaving cream. She’ll soon realize it tastes bad, though, so don’t sweat it.
  6. Take pictures at the beginning—then put your camera/phone down. You don’t want to get shaving cream and paint all over your expensive gadget, and you’ll want to get elbow-deep in the fun, too!
  7. Get unscented shaving cream if you can find it. And get the cheap stuff—there’s no fear of razor burn here.

Make messy painting fun

Painting with shaving cream is inherently a blast, but a few things will make the activity even better.

  1. Provide paper, but know it’s not the only canvas. Your kid may paint the table cloth, themselves—or even you!
  2. Don’t push it. Some kids revel in the rich sensory experience of messy painting; other kids don’t want to get dirty. That’s ok! You can always offer a neater alternative like Ziplock bag finger painting.
  3. Kids might want to paint with their hands/feet/entire body, but they may like regular paint brushes—or unusual ones. Look around the house to see what could be a “paint brush.” We used a plastic dinosaur, a comb, a plastic pony, a toy car and a dryer ball.
  4. Make washing up part of the fun. I set up a water table and the kids loved cleaning themselves and each other. (You could do this with a kiddie pool or sprinkler, too.) It made the afternoon’s bath a whole lot easier!

Messy painting play date eating paintmessy painting play date shaving creamMessy painting play date

Outsource the mess

Still not convinced? You may be able to find someone else to host. (You can send this link to a friend—”Wouldn’t this be fun?”—and hope she invites you over. Subtle, I know!)

If that doesn’t work, search for a messy play date in your town. Peeper and a bunch of her buds from new moms’ group attended one at Art A La Carte when she was a baby. It made everything easier—they cleaned up all the shaving cream, and a professional photographer was on hand to capture the fun.

What do you think? Messy painting—yea or nay? And how are you celebrating the start of summer?

4 thoughts on “Celebrate summer with messy painting

  • June 20, 2016 at 10:57 am

    First of all, I love your new website redesign!! Secondly, I don’t know that I have the guts to try this, but it does look like fun, and I’m sure you all had a blast! I love how adventurous you are with your kids and always open to creative ideas. And I do love the idea of a water party afterwards to make clean-up easier. I think that would be more fun for me. 🙂

  • June 20, 2016 at 1:12 pm

    I was never one of those kids (or guess adult) that liked getting messy and dirty, but this looks pretty fun as long as you start out nearly naked and have a fun wash area too!

  • June 28, 2017 at 7:30 pm

    When my daughter was little she absolutely hated getting messy. My boy, on the other hand, would have LOVED this! Looks like a great project for a hot day!

    • June 29, 2017 at 3:27 pm

      It was a super fun project—one we’ve repeated! Now that the weather is nicer we’ll be doing it more often. 🙂


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