Messy Process Art: Easy Activity for Toddlers

Art can be messy, process art can be even messier. Giving your toddler free range with art supplies can seem intimidating, but with the right prep work process art will be an activity you will both love to do to get creative together!

What is process art?

Process art is emphasis on the process over the product. While we parents love handprints turned into flowers, turkeys, or Christmas trees, these projects are product based. Often times these projects have a determined goal, and the art materials are used solely to achieve that goal. Process art encourages the artist to be creative and create as they please. These projects are open-ended and encourage your child to experiment with the materials.

Process art can be a sensory experience, allow your child to develop fine motor skills, and creative skills. They can explore textures, colors, and lines. While they create ask them questions about their process and grow their literacy skills.

Preparing for Process Art

Since process art is focuses exploring and experimenting with materials, it can definitely be messier than product based art. Prep work is essential to make clean up easy and will allow you both to enjoy the experience!

To create this messy process art project, I gathered different materials in various colors and textures.

Shaving Cream Paint

We LOVE shaving cream paint! It’s such an amazing texture and you can mix any colors you want! It’s like painting with colorful clouds. Mixing up some shaving cream paint is super simple: squeeze shaving cream into a container, pour some washable paint, and stir! I definitely recommend doing this last because the shaving cream does lose its fluffiness and you want it as full as possible!

Color Salt

I wanted to find something with a gritty texture to go with the softness of the shaving cream paint. There was some coarse salt in our craft bin, so I poured about 1/2 cup into 3 containers. A few drops DIY liquid watercolors turned the salt bright and colorful!

Kinetic Sand

I was tossing out our bin of DIY kinetic sand and decided to add a small container of this as well. This is easy to whip up and only takes flour, oil, and liquid watercolors!

Small Parts

To add some more interesting textures I gathered a few more containers of small parts to mix in. In one I put dried flower petals and leaves from our basil plant. Another had iridescent flakey glitter I am dying to get rid of, and the third had beads and jewels.


For a “canvas” I remembered this gold dish? my grandma was getting rid of that I had saved! It has a coating that makes it easy to clean, and I thought the shiny surface would be fun! For process art you can use thick paper or actual canvas, or a cookie sheet and cardboard.

Process art can be any material! Get creative and see what your child can create!

Get Clean Up Ready

Process art can be messy so preparing before is important! I lay down reusable plastic table cloth or trash bags to protect the cement. We have pieces of plywood that stay outside for messy projects and I put these on top of the table cloth. Unfortunately our apartment doesn’t have an outdoor hose, so I fill a bin with water so she can rinse off before we go inside.

Our Messy Process Art

Once all of our supplies were ready to go, we headed outside to paint. It did not take a lot of encouragement for her to start painting! She started using the brushes, but soon her hands were dipping into the shaving cream paint, which of course led to her painting her legs. I can’t blame her the texture of this is seriously amazing!

Once her legs were covered I redirected her back to the canvas and showed her the salt. She loved rubbing it between her fingers and then started sprinkling it on top of the shaving cream paint. The more she rubbed the salt the faster it dissolved which was fun to watch!

She worked her way through the materials, deliberately placing leaves down then covering them with shaving cream, telling me the colors of the paint, and covering everything with salt. Soon she asked me to join her (a big deal because I normally have to stay hands off!) and she handed me a brush and then told me “no more mama use hands!”

Clean up

An hour later our supplies were layered on top of the gold dish, with leaves covered in shaving cream, sand, and salt and our hands and feet covered in paint. With the bin outside I had her gather all the empty containers and brushes and wash them in the bin! She had fun washing each container and of course ended up climbing in the bin.

Process art can be such fun experience for you and your toddler! Getting messy and creative while you explore new materials together is an amazing bonding experience. Have you ever done process art? What are you favorite materials?

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  1. I’d never heard the phrase “process art,” and I love it! Thanks for the tips and encouragement to not force specific outcomes with art!

  2. Such a great idea, i’m always trying to have my toddler create something frameable, it’s nice to let them loose to explore and create.

  3. lisajakesmomma says:

    How fun! You are absolutely right about being clean up ready before hand. It’s a lifesaver

  4. My daughter loves painting so much, we started when she’s 1 year old.

  5. Mommy P says:

    Love it! Can’t wait to try this with my toddlers and some friends on a pool day! Thanks 😊

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