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Summer is coming and you know what that means, right? Long, unstructured days punctuated by 'I'm bored,' and 'There's nothing to do.'

But this is actually the perfect opportunity for messy fun to swoop in for the rescue. After all, what could be more festive than a little bit of parent-approved pandemonium?

So this summer, why not try a new messy activity each week? In fact, you may as well get the whole neighborhood involved. Just be prepared for your house to become the most popular summer hangout spot on the block.

Here are 17 messy activities that will keep the kids smiling outdoors or indoors without breaking the bank:

1. Take aim, color. Mark off a square play arena outdoors with five-foot tall Bamboo garden stakes and blue painters masking tape. Fill squirt guns or squirt bottles with non-toxic watercolor paints, don a pair of clear swim goggles and let the kids decorate each other dressed in white t-shirts and leggings or sweats. The only rule is no one leaves the field until all the paint is gone.

2. Take a whack at it. Fill a store-bought piñata part way with cooked, well-drained spaghetti. Then add small plastic toys, or wrapped treats. To extend the fun, hang the piñata on a pull cord threaded through an eyehook, so you can pull it up and down as kids swing at it with a bat or broom handle. Secure a tarp underneath with Duck tape (indoors) or camping stakes (outdoors) for easy cleanup.

3. Eggcentric art. Break the tops off real eggs and pour the yolks and whites into Tupperware to cook with later. Keep empty shells in the carton, fill with acrylic paints. Outside or in the garage or basement, hang a large canvas against a sturdy wall or fence and let the kids toss until they make a masterpiece. Use plastic drop cloths to catch the splatters.

4. Franken-beauty. Make natural facial masks out of banana, avocado or cocoa. Sit kids around a large table in pairs to take turns applying masks to each other's faces. Be sure to have some hand mirrors handy so everyone can see what all the squeals are about.

5. Construction junction. Supply lots of sheets, blankets and pillows for fort construction. If you can mount a few Hula Hoops strategically around the room, they come in handy. You might also supply bandanas and bungee chords. Be sure to inspect the results for hazards.

6. Reach for the foam. Play messy Twister in the yard by mixing foam shaving cream and food coloring. Wear clothing that can get stained. If no one wants to worry about clothing stains, simply use white shaving cream for the same effect.

7. Pudding slide. Make about a gallon of chocolate pudding. Drop large spoonfuls of pudding onto a backyard water slide. Have children take a running start down a low-grade slope. For more slip, have kids sprinkle slide with water. Add more pudding or water, as needed.

8. Slime ball. Find an online recipe to make nontoxic slime and let kids prepare it. Then play a game of hide the bouncy ball in the slime. Use a blindfold and a timer to see who can find their toys the fastest. Enjoy the groans.

9. Picasso footsie. Roll out a long sheet of paper and pour puddles of acrylic paint at one end. Have each child step in one color per foot and walk across the paper. Switch to the other side of the paper to balance out the look. Trim and hang art on a fence or wall to dry.

10. Musical silly string. Put half the group in the middle on a plastic tarp. Encircle them with the other half of the group. Turn on the music. Have the inside group move in one direction and the outside group move in the other direction, while spraying the inside group with silly string. When the music is turned off, switch groups.

11. Pasta fling. Cook one box of spaghetti per participant. Get some five-gallon buckets and fill them two-thirds of the way with water. Add enough flour to thicken the water, then add cooked spaghetti. The only rules are: use your own spaghetti, no bucket-dumping, and no touching — just throwing. Put them in a square play arena and get out of the way.

12. Mud puddle fun. On a sturdy table at playing height, fill a small kiddie pool with dirt and just enough water to make mud. Add digging and pouring toys for an hour of industry for young kids.

13. Duck-Duck-Dump. Have kids sit in a circle for a game of Duck-Duck-Goose. But first, hand them a cup of water and a half cup of flour to pour over each goose's head.

14. The opposite of tiny bubbles. Make bubble mix with ten cups of regular Dawn Dish soap and five gallons of water. Let it sit overnight. Do not agitate the solution as you pour it into a small wading pool slightly larger than a Hula Hoop in diameter. Have one child wear a pair of clear goggles and stand in the middle of the pool without splashing. Let two kids lower a Hula Hoop over him and then pull it straight up into a giant bubble.

15. Three-legged color run. Set up a start and finish line for a short jaunt. Tie the legs of two kids together and have them wear clear swim goggles and white play clothing. Have other kids stand on the sidelines and throw color from bags of nontoxic Holi colors (the type used for Color Runs, available online). Repeat until everyone has run. The most colorful pair wins.

16. Sloppy volley. Divide children into two groups. Put a line across the center of your play arena. Everyone has to stay on their own side and wear swim goggles. Place a table of supplies within reach of the back court on each side. On the table, supply large bowls of chilled mashed potatoes, Jello, pudding and cooked oatmeal. Tint food with food coloring if clothing can be stained. On your mark, get set, food fight!

17. Trashion runway. For a couple of months, don't discard your reusable recyclables. Spread them out evenly in tarps with plenty of clear tape, masking tape, painter's tape and Duck tape. Pair kids up into design teams. Give a time limit like one hour. The assignment is to design a runway-worthy fashion for each team out of only the trash that's been supplied. Have a runway show afterward to display the results.■

Like most parents, Christina Katz's first instinct is not to choose the messiest activity. But her desire to let kids have fun usually prevails.


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