20+ Dry Messy Play Ideas to Engage the Kids


Looking for some dry messy play ideas? I’ve got you covered! Be sure to check out my epic list of messy play ideas when you’re done here.

Sometimes you’re up for messy play but you just don’t want to deal with a wet mess. That’s why I put together these dry activity ideas. They’re still a bit on the messy side, but don’t involve any damp cleanup. These dry ideas are also great for kids who have an aversion to touching certain wet textures.

Collage of sensory and art activities with text that reads dry messy play ideas

Read below for dry sensory play activities, as well as some dry art ideas. All the messy play fun, with a focus on dry materials.

Why Dry Messy Play?

There are so many benefits of messy play of all kinds! But why DRY in particular?

To begin with, wet messy play often requires a different kind of clean-up. If you’re not near a water source, or you’re just not in the mood to handle a wet mess, dry messy play is a bit easier. Usually, a broom and a dustpan are all you need to get things back into order.

Additionally, some children are very sensitive to textures. In fact, you’ve probably had some children in your class who are rather averse to certain types of messy experiences. Dry invitations to play help such children by not overwhelming their sense of touch quite so much.

And storing the materials for your dry activities can be a bit easier too. When the activities are done, simply pick out any pieces that need to be discarded and pack them away in sealable containers or baggies.

Dry Messy Play Materials

Now let’s talk supplies. If you’re going to set up some of these dry messy play ideas, you’ll need a few materials. Here are some I suggest having on hand:

So take a peek at the dry messy fun below. Then take stock of the materials you already have on-hand and make a list of anything that’s missing.

Dry Messy Play Ideas

Are you ready to get into the dry messy fun? I’ve got over 15 ideas collected for you below. They’re separated into two categories – sensory and art. That way, you can find just what you’re looking for.

Super Simple Dry Messy Play

To start things off, let’s talk one-ingredient dry messy play ideas. Because messy play doesn’t need to be complicated! Here are some incredibly simple ideas. Just add one of these materials to a bin with a few sensory tools and you’re good to go:

  • Dry chickpeas
  • Shredded or scrap paper
  • Dry pasta
  • Play sand
  • Kinetic sand
  • Corn
  • Rice
  • Soybeans
  • Pompoms
  • Pluffle
  • Beans
  • Aquarium gravel
  • Lentils

Just add kids and you’ll get that mess to go along with all the playing. If you want to turn them into dry art ideas, add contact paper!

Dry Messy Sensory Play

Now it’s time for the sensory activities! Even though they all use dry materials, they have a lot of messy potential, as I’m sure you know. Or am I the only one who’s dealt with an overturned beans bin?!

5 colorful and dry messy sensory play activities

Put together a rainbow corn sensory bin for the kids. This is a consistent hit with the kids!

Fill a kiddie pool to make a shredded paper sensory bin. How gloriously messy!

Create a scented apple sensory bin using dyed chickpeas and apple pie spice.

Let the kids get into a bird nest sensory bin after learning a bit about birds.

Make a simple ladybug sensory invitation with rice. You can even add printable ladybug letter puzzles for some added literacy.

5 dry sensory play activities

Break out the kinetic sand for a messy dinosaur sensory bin. You can easily swap the dinos out for other toys, depending on the kids’ interests.

Add a bit of scent with a flower and coffee sensory bin. Plus, the different textures really intrigue the kids.

What about trying something a little different with a sushi sensory bin?

Have you ever used aquarium gravel? If not, check out this ocean ABC sensory bin for some sea-themed messy fun.

Incorporate a lot of colors with a rainbow messy play invitation to play. You can add play dough but it’s fun either way.

Messy Art with Dry Supplies

Now let’s take a look at some arty dry messy play ideas. Yes, a lot of art projects incorporate wet materials like paint or glue. But there ARE some awesomely fun (and messy!) art ideas without wet elements. Take a look!

4 dry messy art activities for kids

Make some ocean-themed sand art cards with the kids.

Or try this transient rainbow sand art. You can turn it into a sensory writing tray, too.

Our Halloween contact paper art is another great idea. You can tweak the materials for other themes or holidays, like we did with our Christmas contact paper art.

These sand art bottles look gorgeous (and a wee bit messy)! I love how she dyed the sand after a beach trip.

4 dry messy art ideas

Kids love using the hole punch! Encourage that interest with a contact paper hole punch art project.

Grab the chalk for some chalk and nature drawings outside. I love that you can get this going with just chalk and some natural items.

Don’t forget the pastels! They’re messy and fun to create with, like we did with our Valentine’s Day oil pastel drawing. Some kids did end up adding some glue to their projects, but that’s not necessary.

There are so many options with this Rangoli-inspired sand art.

Now that you’ve checked out the dry messy play ideas, which one are you going to try first? Be sure to pin this post for future reference!

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