5 hands-on ideas for a kid who hates getting their hands dirty

I was a nursery school teacher for several years before my first child was born. When he arrived, I couldn’t wait to introduce him to all the joys of creating and mess-making!That excitement carried through right up until the first time I got him settled at the table at about 18 months old, laid out the paper, and showed him how to finger paint. He dipped one finger in, drew a tentative line, and then had hysterics because his hands were “dirty!”. Even now, as a grown man, he is not thrilled about getting anything on his hands, although obviously his tolerance is much greater.

In case you have a child with a similar aversion, here are 5 ways I’ve found to let them play without touching the “ick”.

Gel or paint in a bag.

Fill a large Ziploc bag with tempera paint, hair gel, or any other delightfully gloopy substance. Tape it to the table at the top, and let them draw to their heart’s content.

A sand tray.

There’s no rule that says their creations have to be done with paint.  Buy a tray from your local dollar store with a good (1″ or higher) lip on it, add clean sand (you can even buy coloured sand), and give them a stick or paintbrush handle to make pictures in the sand with. Take a photo when they’re done.

Put them in gloves.

Invest in a box of disposable gloves from the pharmacy and let your child wear a pair when you break out the arts and crafts. Seems simple, but be advised that not every child will go for this one because they “feel funny” to some children.

Mess-free paint.

Crayola makes special paint that is transparent until it goes onto its own special paper. It’s pricier than your regular paper and paint, but the results are just as pretty and this may offer a good solution – with the bonus that there’s no clean-up for you!
Let them create in other ways.
If they really can’t stand getting things on their hands, there’s no law that says you must paint with your child. Break out the paper and make a mosaic, collage, or snowflake. Teach them how to cook. Go outside and take a walk. Chances are, your child will let you know when they’re ready, and you won’t have frustrated them or yourself in the meantime.
If you like my posts on Mummyology, I’d love to see you over at my blog The Usual Mayhem, so we can share all the other learning activities we do on a day to day basis! You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.


Post Author: Erin Dean

11 thoughts on “5 hands-on ideas for a kid who hates getting their hands dirty

    Emma @sciencesparks

    (February 16, 2013 - 2:08 pm)

    I love the ziploc bag idea 🙂

    JDaniel4's Mom

    (February 16, 2013 - 4:00 pm)

    Gloves are such a great idea! I think JDaniel would like to wear them.


    (February 16, 2013 - 11:28 pm)

    Loved this post, it’s more myself that hates the mess but I am trying to challenge myself more. Have linked to this in my blog post, hope you don’t mind.

    Carla at Preschool Powol Packets

    (February 17, 2013 - 2:54 am)

    I love your last comment–let them create in other ways. I have a child who spent about a year not wanting to get messy and being very careful about what she touched. Then, it seemed like she just changed her mind! Now she’s the first one to touch…everything!


    (February 18, 2013 - 11:20 pm)

    In my house, I’m the one who hates messy hands. I also hate when my kids’ hands get messy. Everyday I try to deal with messiness a little bit better and I try to give them messy opportunities to create, but sometimes I just need mess free days. 😉 These are great ideas. Thanks!


    (February 22, 2013 - 9:02 pm)

    Some great ideas!! Thank you for sharing at Sharing Saturday!


    (February 22, 2013 - 9:39 pm)

    The gloves are an excellent idea, never considered them for kids. I use gloves whenever I’m doing something “messy” and I’m sure some kids would also. I have one grandchild who I think would wear them, and one who won’t.

    Lindsey Fisher

    (February 23, 2013 - 4:15 am)

    Great ideas, thanks for sharing!!

    I would like to invite you to my linky party Thrifty Thursday!


    Hope to see you there!


    Rebecca English

    (February 24, 2013 - 9:17 am)

    Brilliant ideas. It’s always hard when you have one who doesn’t like these sort of messy activities. This gives lots of great solutions.

    Thanks for linking to the Sunday showcase. I’ve pinned this to our board.

    Genny @ Parent Teach Play

    (February 25, 2013 - 4:36 am)

    Thanks for linking up to the After School Party last week! I’m featuring your post on Parent Teach Play this week: http://www.parentteachplay.com/art-tips-for-after-school/ Please feel free to stop by and grab a featured button. Thanks again for linking up!!

    […] 5 hands-on ideas for a kid who hates getting their hands dirty […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *