I am not afraid of making a mess. I admit I'm pretty messy myself and always have been. You just have to be prepared to clean up a bit. Well, sometimes a lot. But for me, the time I get and the fun my kids have is WORTH the time and energy to clean up after them! Here are a couple messy projects I let my kids do that I think are not really that messy, but my kids think they're great!
About once a month or so, we bust out the markers and COLOR ON THE WINDOWS! I have two great picture windows in my living room and they are always decorated with holiday or seasonal pictures drawn by my favorite artists: my kids! You can buy special Window Markers by Crayola but we also just use our regular markers because they wash off so easy! This is a fun project for both my kids - ages 1 and 4. The best part? My 4-year old loves to help me clean the window afterward! NOTE: neither of my kids try to write on the walls after the windows so don't be afraid of trying this!
Another fun and messy activity I love is mostly for my one-year old. I give him a large plastic container of uncooked rice to dig in! He digs with a couple plastic mixing spoons and loves to transfer rice from the big container to smaller ones. Ben has always been good about not trying to eat things - never tried to put sand or dirt in his mouth, so he knows the rice is for playing with and not eating! You might want to wait until your child is closer to 18 months to try this if they are more likely to put things in their mouth though. Also, set down a plastic tablecloth beforehand so it catches the loose rice. Afterward its easy to fold the tablecloth in half and dump the rice back into your container or just in the trash. This is a great activity for the kitchen while you're trying to cook dinner!!
Finally, the messiest activity is making "potions" or fake cooking! I set out the same tablecloth and give each of my kids a big plastic bowl filled with some flour. They each get a spoon and I set out a variety of old cooking spices in plastic jars. Parsley is our favorite because it's so visible! I let them sprinkle and mix to their little heart's content. Ben likes an extra little bowl so he can transfer his concoction just like the rice. Molly makes potions and will even make up stories about what they'll do if you eat them, like turn you into a frog!! Same with the rice, just fold the tablecloth and dump the spilled ingredients into the trash. This is a great activity for the kitchen during your meal prep too!