Messy Play Toddler Group Activities

Messy play toddler group activities - foam

I love a bit of messy play. It’s one of the few things I miss about having toddlers! Over the years  I ran lots of different messy play toddler group activities, which the children loved. Here are a selection of my favourites. 

Tip: Where measurements are given in cups, it doesn’t matter what size the cup is as long as you use the same one throughout the recipe.

Cloud Dough (the messiest of messy play toddler group activities!)

I’ll start with a warning, don’t do this unless you have access to a vacuum cleaner! This stuff gets everywhere and you will struggle without one. Cloud dough is amazing stuff, it looks like plan old flour but can be moulded into different shapes in a similar way to kinetic sand.

What you’ll need:

A large bowl

8 cups of flour 

1 cup of  vegetable oil

Something to put it in for the children to play with it


Put the flour and oil into the bowl and mix it well. It has an amazing texture and the children love getting their hands in it. The ingredients are edible so, as long as no one has allergies, it’s not a problem if it makes its way in to a few mouths. I imagine it tastes pretty disgusting so one mouthful should put an end to it!

Messy play toddler group activities - cloud dough


Play Dough

Play Dough is a classic of messy play toddler group activities. This is mostly because it’s simple and doesn’t actually make that much mess! For a group, it’s much more economical to make your own. I always left mine plain but you can add colours too if you like. My recipe is based on the no cook one used by the Imagination Tree.

What you’ll need

2 cups of plain flour

2 tablespoons of vegetable oil

Half a cup of salt

2 tablespoons of cream of tartar

1-1.5 cups of boiling water

A large bowl

Food colouring (optional)

Ideally some cutters and rolling pins


Add everything apart from the water and food colouring to the bowl. If you are using food colouring, add it to the water then pour most of it into the bowl. Allow it to cool until you are able to handle it (it should still be hot though) and then knead is until you get a play dough texture, adding a little more water if it seems too dry.

It’s more fun if you have some cutters and rolling pins. I bought lots of rolling pins quite cheaply in my local wilkos. I got some cheap cutters from the pound shop.

Messy play toddler group activities - play dough


Sensory Baskets

These are great if you’ve got babies who can’t yet get involved in proper messy play toddler group activities. While you can buy some amazing sensory baskets which have loads of lovely, natural items in, these are just simple ones filled with safe items that babies don’t usually get there hands on.

What you’ll need

You can include anything you fancy as long as it’s safe, but here are some suggestions:

Wooden spoons

Plastic scourers 


Tea strainers

Metal spoons

Scraps of material

Kitchen roll tubes



Hair rollers

Bubble wrap

Empty toothpaste tubes

Empty plastic bottles (you can include needs inside to make a sound)


When I was setting this up I just went to the pound shop and selected packs of things I thought would work. I used plastic baskets because I had them but there’s no reason you couldn’t just put the items on the floor or table. Afterwards it’s a good idea to clean everything, either with antibacterial wipes, in the washing machine or in the dishwasher.

Messy play toddler group activities - sensory baskets



This one is both super simple and super messy! I remember one parent at my group, who wasn’t really a fan of messy play, saying “Why? Why is this a thing?” The answer is because it’s great fun! (To be fair to him, he always let his little boy play, despite his horror!)

What you’ll need

Lots of cheap shaving foam

Some trays (mine are planting trays from the wilkos gardening section)


You probably won’t have space for all of the children to have a go at once so you might want to do a couple of sittings for this one. It’s great fun to add some small world toys to the trays too. Dinosaurs, animals or cars all work well but anything that can be washed afterwards is fine, foam is basically soap!

Messy play toddler group activities - foam


Jelly Slime

We did this as a halloween activity so used green jelly and included plastic bugs but you could theme it in other ways. I have to say, of all the messy toddler group activities, this is the one I would be least keen to repeat because everything ended up so sticky!

What you’ll need

Jelly in a colour suitable for your theme

Plastic toys based on your theme

Foil roasting trays


You could set up a few trays but as this was just one of the drop in activities at our Halloween party I only did one. I put the bugs in the jelly before it set which meant they were right at the bottom and the children had a great time getting them out. I would suggest having a hand washing station right next to it, baby wipes just don’t cut it!

Messy play toddler group activities - jelly slime



Gloop is an amazing substance that acts like either a solid or a liquid depending what you do with it. It’s a great messy play toddler group activity that’s also a bit scientific. All the ingredients are edible so it’s safe for little ones if they get it in their mouths.

What you’ll need

Two cups of cornflour

One cup of water

Food colouring (optional)

Some trays (again I used my planting trays from the wilkos gardening section)


You’ll want to make the gloop directly in the trays as it’s difficult to move from one container to another. Pour in your flour, add the food colouring (if you’re using it) to the water then pour it on to the flour. You then need to combine it and the best way is with your hands, it can take a while so keep at it until there are no lumps of cornflour left.

Messy play toddler group activities - gloop


Want to find some other activities for your toddler group? Check out our Food Based Toddler Group Activities. If you’d like some guidance on choosing the right messy play toddler Group activities for your group, check out How to Choose Toddler Group Activities. We also have some great general guidance on running toddler groups.

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Messy Play Toddler Group Activities

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