Our Best Mess-Free Crafts for Kids

Photo: Aaron Dyer

Kids love to learn as they do, even if it involves a pool of glitter and glue. If you're looking for an alternative activity that minimizes mess, all you need is a little creativity to think outside the paint box.

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Finger-painting. Sand boxes. Ooey gooey slime solutions. Kids love making crafts, but those projects quickly become messy. What makes for a craft that won't make a mess? The key is to choose projects that don't use inherently messy materials like paint or glitter. Crayons, colored pencils, and markers add color to projects without the same risk of splatters and stains. Buttons, ribbons, stick-ons, and cut-outs made from felt or paper are other mess-free ways to add visual interest to craft projects. Parents can help with adding tape to the backs of the cut-outs, but kids can choose where to place them. This gives kids their creative freedom. Kids can layer different cut-outs to create all kinds of crafts and decorations, too.

If your kids still want to have some sparkle, you can use shimmery decorative papers—especially metallic options—or sparkly accessories. Both options add lots of color and shine without any of the mess. If you're still worried about major cleaning, one of the best ways to eliminate craft-related mess is to protect the area where your child is working with butcher paper. This way, if your little one draws a little outside the lines (so to speak), they have an approved place to make their marks. You can just pick up the paper and recycle it once the kids are done with the activity. These solutions often involve less materials and less time to make.

From drawing to doll making, try one of these crafts that promise all of the fun while minimizing mess (and consequently, stress for you).

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Acorn Doll Family

Aaron Dyer

Acorns are abundant all year round if you have trees in your yard. Go on an acorn hunt outside and bring in the spoils for this fun craft activity. Your children can use their imaginations to create different acorn dolls. (Bonus: Use a shoebox to create scenes for the acorn dolls, like a living room or a backyard barbeque scene.)

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Paper Animal Masks

Courtesy of Lorena Siminovich

Let kids explore their wild side—as a tiger, bird, or lioness—with these wearable masks of their own making. Using paper, colorful cut-outs, and tape, they're easy to assemble for pretend play.

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Colorful Pasta-and-Leaf Leis

leaf leis thanksgiving craft
Alpha Smoot

Help your kids put together these fun necklaces. Cut out the leaf shapes or ask older siblings to help with cutting out the shapes using age-appropriate scissors. Let kids decide how they want to arrange the pieces on their leis (by color, by shape, or a mix of both), then fasten with twine. It makes a great activity for the kids table during a family feast, too.

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Color-On Tote Bag


Cloth bags are eco-friendly and you may even have them at home already. Parents print clip-art designs onto transfer paper and iron the designs onto the cloth tote bags. Once the bags are ready to color, get out a huge sheet of butcher paper to serve as protection against wayward crayons and markers on your table or floor. Then, let the kids can color freely.

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Friendship Bracelets

Aaron Dyer

If you have a collection of threads, why not make a one-of-a-kind bracelet? Your kids will love putting together these trendy accessories, and they can even create specific accessories to match their favorite outfits. Try any one of our braiding techniques, or come up with a new twist of your own.

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Pipe-Cleaner Kiss Cards

Aaron Dyer

Pipe cleaners can be bent into all kinds of shapes from snowflakes to smiley faces. Make cute smooches out of bumpy pipe cleaners to decorate cards. Don't forget to add "XOXO."

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Washi Tape Art

Angie Cao

Kids art isn't relegated to paints and colored pencils. This decorative tape comes in a rainbow of colors and graphic patterns that transform a blank canvas into something special. Even better: it's simple to tear and tape and reposition on paper, walls, and even Easter eggs.

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