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One of my favourite things about the nicer weather rolling around is the opportunity to take art outside. I love summer art projects because they allow me to indulge in plenty of mess-making without having to worry too much about cleaning up afterwards.
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Some of my favourite summer art projects are process art activities. I love their open-ended, flexible nature, and I love seeing what little twists my children come up with to make the art truly their own.
Messy Summer Art Projects
Here’s my list of messy-but-fun summer art projects I’m itching to try out this year. These are all great for preschoolers and toddlers, but I bet your older kids will want to have a go too.
1. Messy Sensory Art With Homemade Gel Paint.
This post over at TinkerLab looks like such fun!
I love the idea to use a huge shower curtain as an outdoor art canvas, and the finished result is beautiful, especially with the sun shining through the jewelled colours.
I also think it would be awesome to try this activity with a big sheet or dropcloth (less slippery than the shower curtain) laid flat for little ones to walk and crawl through the paint.
2. Water Pistol Painting
My older boys probably wouldn’t jump in to many outdoor art activities now. At 12 and 14 they feel like they’re too old for that kind of thing. I bet they’d join in with this though!
Such a simple idea.
Crazy messy fun for the kids, with sneaky fine motor skills practice on the side.
It’s also a golden opportunity to investigate what happens when you mix the colours by squirting them on top of one another.
Mostly, though, it’s water pistols with a chaotically messy twist. The perfect summer art project!
Hop over to Messy Little Monster for tips to make this messy art activity a success.
3. Paint Splats.
Paint Splat Art at Crafty Morning.
You might detect a bit of theme in this round-up of summer art projects. Yes, this is basically another variation on making an enormous mess with paint.
These sponge bombs are easy to make, and great fun, even if you’re not keen on the messy element. We’ve loved just using them to throw around in the pool, or to throw at one another on a slip’n’slide.
4. Exploding Art.
Process art with a little bit of STEM thrown in for good measure. Click through to Housing a Forest for the full details.
I can see this one being a HUGE hit in our house. It’s definitely the kind of summer art project that belongs outside!
5. Soap Foam Printing.
Fireflies and Mud Pies has reminded me of this lovely summer art project that I remember doing when I was little. I’d forgotten all about it, but I’m looking forward to sharing it with my kids.
You’ll want to be sure that your children know how to blow through the straw rather than suck. A mouthful of soapy water is no fun at all!
This process art activity produces beautiful results.
I’m thinking of using a large tray and big sheets of paper, so that we can use the finished product as wrapping paper.
6. Mud Painting.
The ultimate in messy sensory play from There’s Just One Mommy.
We’ve got a mud kitchen outside, so all kinds of messy play happens out there without any prompting.
I love this idea though, of experimenting with making mud paint. I especially love that I already have all the supplies needed.
7. Painting With Feet.
Just grab a big roll of paper and some trays of paint. Then, shoes and socks off and see what happens.
This is another example of a really simple activity that can provide heaps of messy play fun for your children.
We’ve also done a similar activity with riding trikes and scooters through the paint, and that went down really well!
Click through to Homegrown Friends for the details, and for an explanation of some of the different areas of development that are supported through activities like this. Sometimes it’s easy to dismiss activities because you think they’ll take a long time to clean up, and the mess just doesn’t seem worth the effort. It’s good to have some of the benefits spelt out.
Also, this is another piece of process art that lends itself beautifully to being used as wrapping paper. (Which gives you a guilt-free way of letting go of this particular piece of art, without having to hide it in the recycling bin!)
8. Graffiti Art For Kids.
Another huge process art piece.
One of the best things about summer art projects is that being outdoors lets you tackle large-scale art activities.
This spray-art activity is simple enough for toddlers to tackle, but provides more than enough messy fun for older kids too.
It’s pretty easy to see from the pictures how to proceed, but I’d definitely suggest you hop over to Playground Parkbench for the details.
9. Nature Paint Brushes.
This nature art kids’ activity would be perfect to do after a scavenger hunt or other kids’ outdoor activities.
Louise at Messy Little Monster shows you how to make paintbrushes from nature finds, and use them to create beautiful artwork.
There’s so much learning in this nature craft – children get to select materials and make predictions about what kinds of marks each brush will make. Can they make a brush that lets them write their name? Which brushes would be best for covering a large area quickly?
10. Chalk Bombs.
Little kids love throwing things, and it’s even more fun when you can create fabulously messy art while doing so.
These chalk bombs look easy to make, and I can see the potential for raucous fun throwing them and creating explosive artwork.
Throwing is brilliant for improving hand-eye coordination, and activities like this help you get more practice in without just reverting to the same old activities every time.
If your child is currently in a trajectory schema, then why not support and embrace it by providing activities that let them throw to their heart’s content? (If you don’t know about schemas, do click through for a read – it will shed light on why small children do the things they do).
11. Baking Soda Eruption Prints.
Is there a limit to the number of times you can do a variation on the baking-soda-and-vinegar thing? I think not.
The Pinterested Parent shows you how to make these beautiful prints with your children. I know I won’t be able to resist joining in when we try this project.
This is all about the process. The fun is in watching what happens when you mix the baking soda and vinegar together, and in playing around to see what happens when you do things differently. Kids love this kind of process art.
I think the finished effect is really beautiful too. I think these prints would make beautiful garlands if you cut shapes out and threaded them on baker’s twine or ribbon.
12. Salt Puffy Paint.
While there’s always fun to be had in any kind of painting activity, it’s nice to try things that have some kind of twist.
This puffy salt paint is awesome!
Make up a batch or two, and just let the kids loose to play. They’ll notice that it doesn’t behave the same way as normal paint – the colours don’t mix, the paint doesn’t flatten and spread out.
Observations like this are fabulous examples of the scientific brain that’s in all of us. There’s no need to delve into explaining everything, or pointing things out, children notice and wonder, and before long they start experimenting to figure things out for themselves.
Art activities like this one give plenty of room for that kind of experimentation.
13. Painted Sticks.
If your family enjoys spending time in the woods, and other outdoor activities for kids, then your children probably also enjoy collecting treasures from their walks.
Assuming you’ve got a collection of sticks just waiting for their moment to shine, then you’re probably all set to try this project.
You can definitely approach this just by setting out sticks and paint and leaving them to get on with it. If you’re hoping for something as beautiful as the sticks in this picture, though, then you’ll want to check out the instructions on Crafts By Courtney.
14. Painting With Toy Cars.
Messy art and clean-up all rolled in to one project.
Experiment with different vehicles to see what kinds of prints they make. Learn about colour mixing when you roll vehicles from one colour over another.
When the excitement of painting has worn off, swap the paint for a big bowl of bubbly water, and play car-wash instead. Be warned though, my experience is that cleaning up is often as messy as the painting!
15. Nature Prints.
Another art activity that’s perfect for extending the fun of nature activities for kids.
Gather a variety of different leaves and flowers, and bring them home for print-making.
This is one of those summer art projects that proves that simple can be best.
Take a look at how it’s done on Nurture Store, and then jump in and try it for yourself.
16. Catapult Painting.
I love this idea!
It’s yet another way to fling paint at a surface, so what’s not to like?
Full details over at Fun-A-Day, including a link to make the catapult they used to create this fun summer art project. (Although this catapult toy from Amazon looks like it would do the job nicely as well).
One of the things I love best about this messy play activity is all the potential for experimentation.
- How much paint should you load onto the pompoms?
- What’s the best consistency?
- Does it work best with the catapult closer or further away from the surface?
There’s so much learning hidden in all this curiosity, and in the experimenting that comes out of it.
17. Cardboard Box Birthday Cake.
Another super-simple process art activity. Meri Cherry is one of my favourite blogs to look at for art activities for all ages.
This cardboard box birthday cake gives the opportunity for working on a vertical surface which is good for your child’s development in all kinds of ways.
I can see it being a brilliant collaborative project because there’s plenty of space for several children to work on it at one time.
So, there you go, 17 amazing messy play activities that will make wonderful summer art projects for you and your children.
Getting outside lets you relax a little when the paint gets everywhere (as it inevitably will), and it gives you the extra space you need to make HUGE art.
I hope you’ll embrace the summer weather as the perfect opportunity to get out and make some creative messes with your kids. They’ll love it, and I think you will too.
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