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WFMW: How to Throw a Messy Party (The Best Summer Kids’ Gathering You’ll Ever See!)

27 kids. 12 adults. Jello, flour, chocolate syrup, and lots of cream – both whipped and shaving.

How to Throw a Messy Party (the Best Summer Kids' Gathering You'll Ever See!) The goal? To make a mess.

The end result? More fun than we even expected.

Many of you appreciated the servitude my son showed with his 5th birthday party, and rightfully so. If you’ve got a wild side, you will more than appreciate the party we threw the summer he was two.

My tiny backyard was host to 27 kids ages one through eleven, and amazingly, there was fun to be had for every age group.

I billed it as a “Messy Party” in the invites. Children (and adults too!) were asked to wear clothes or a bathing suit that could get totally sloppy, and parents signed up to bring all the items we would need for the morning. It was a potluck of goop!

We started with body painting as everyone arrived:


Mix flour and water OR the cornstarch “glue” below with food coloring; use Q-tips to apply. Only the blues and reds stained. 🙂

Gooey Glue

3 Tbs cornstarch
4 Tbs cold water
2 cups boiling water

Mix the cornstarch and cold water in a small bowl. Pour the cornstarch mixture into the boiling water in a glass measuring cup, stirring constantly. Allow to cool; store in the fridge.

I opened up the party with some instructions like these:

  1. There will be nobody remaining clean at this party.
  2. You are not to smile, laugh, or even giggle! (give snake eyes to the kids, then grin)
  3. You will be kind. Absolutely no hitting, or eating other people’s faces or anything that might be on their face.
  4. You are required to have fun.

Then I broke the ice by styling my hair in front of everyone – with shaving cream!

How to Throw a Messy Party (the Best Summer Kids' Gathering You'll Ever See!)
How to Throw a Messy Party (the Best Summer Kids' Gathering You'll Ever See!)

The kids had to do a “treasure hunt” around the yard for dixie cups of colored Jello (hidden in sandwich bags to keep out the bugs). This divided them into teams, used only to rotate evenly through the activities. No spoons, but some great tongue exercises getting the Jello out!

I set up ten stations all the way around the outside of our house, as follows:

1. Bubbles Awaaayyy in a kiddie pool with hangers, string, and hula hoops to make huge bubbles.
2. Edible Finger Paint whipped cream colored with food coloring; kids could paint on plates and eat!

How to Throw a Messy Party (the Best Summer Kids' Gathering You'll Ever See!)
How to Throw a Messy Party (the Best Summer Kids' Gathering You'll Ever See!)

3. Wiggly Water water balloons were fun for littles to hold and bigger kids to throw down the hill or play catch with.
4. The Powder Room the swings came off our swingset and mini donuts hung from strings for kiddos to eat.

How to Throw a Messy Party (the Best Summer Kids' Gathering You'll Ever See!)
How to Throw a Messy Party (the Best Summer Kids' Gathering You'll Ever See!)

5. Dino-Flour Dig each child dug for a few M&Ms in oatmeal canisters filled with white flour (it was cheaper back then), and each group unburied a certain number of pennies in a dishpan of flour.

How to Throw a Messy Party (the Best Summer Kids' Gathering You'll Ever See!)

6. Sand castles a simple break for the little ones
How to Throw a Messy Party (the Best Summer Kids' Gathering You'll Ever See!)

7. Take a Dip, Little Squirt! wash off in the kiddie pool with toys for the youngin’s, and a target on the fence with squirt guns or bottles for the big kids.

8. Messy Tarp Art partiers squirted “ketchup” and “mustard” and sifted flour over the edge of the deck onto a big tarp (for a later activity). The bottles were filled with inexpensive cornstarch and boiling water solution.
9. Bob-a-Choc fruit doused in chocolate syrup in bowls…but no spoons! The kids couldn’t get enough of this bobbing for apples, the messy version.


10. Playdough Station another familiar activity for the littles, and homemade playdough could be tossed after its outdoor adventure.

You bet even the big kids got into this party!

How to Throw a Messy Party (the Best Summer Kids' Gathering You'll Ever See!)The grand finale, before a messy lunch of tacos, watermelon and popsicles, was a slip and slide with extra shaving cream on our “Artsy Tarp” from number 8 above:

How to Throw a Messy Party (the Best Summer Kids' Gathering You'll Ever See!)
How to Throw a Messy Party (the Best Summer Kids' Gathering You'll Ever See!)
How to Throw a Messy Party (the Best Summer Kids' Gathering You'll Ever See!)

Do you think the other parents realized what they were getting themselves into subjecting their families to a messy party at the Kimballs’? Honestly, I can’t believe I did this, looking at these photos. Our neighbors are still asking my son if we’re going to have another one!

In spite of all the craziness you witnessed above, my two favorite memories from this adventure encapsulate my son’s two-year-old cuteness just perfectly.

How to Throw a Messy Party (the Best Summer Kids' Gathering You'll Ever See!)

I took this picture right about the time I finished up instructions…and noticed my two-year-old son was nowhere to be seen. After a minute of frantic searching with other moms helping, the little dear came traipsing around the corner from the front yard, carrying as many cool whip tubs as he could carry (from station number two). When he was helping me mix in the colors the day before, I had told him, “These are for the party.”

Just brimming with pride, my son beamed and called to everyone present, “I got the party!”  Later, once the realization that he did not get hit by a car in the front yard on our busy street all alone at only two years old sank in, this was really, really hilarious.

For weeks, probably months afterward, and even a few times the next summer when he was three, my son would stand on the huge rock in our yard, tell me to sit on the hill (see photo above, again) and play “Messy Party,” his best rendition of my silly rule-sharing and instruction-giving.

Disclaimer: This was before my big change to a real food lifestyle, but you know what? My husband is quick to point out that nobody died from the sugar or food coloring or whatnot. I think I’d do it again almost precisely the same (except we’d order pizza instead of juggling tacos with little kids). Real Food needs a vacation sometimes, too!

Are you brave enough to throw a messy party? Click here for a free download of my activity station signs, which are so old that the borders and fonts no longer load on my computer. Sheesh. You can get the idea, though, and jazz them up with your own favorite techie bangles.

The catch? If you do it, I want to see your photos, too!


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32 thoughts on “WFMW: How to Throw a Messy Party (The Best Summer Kids’ Gathering You’ll Ever See!)”

  1. Katie,

    You’re right, I would throw a party like this! We also live on a busy street with a hill behind our house. We’re not neighbors, are we? 😉

    I’d have to make a few changes though-we’re noticing that our son is sensitive to food coloring/dye. He gets mean, and that wouldn’t be any fun at a party!

    1. Kelly,
      LOL! Maybe some natural food colorings from spinach, beets, blueberries, etc? I think Simple Organic did a post on those around Eastertime or something…
      🙂 Katie

      1. I saw that story-or at least one like-it and plan to try that when coloring eggs. We might be moving soon and that might be a great “get to know you” kind of party?!

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  3. Thank you for this! My son will be 4 on August 1st and we’ve been contemplating his party since last year. This may be just the thing! I have only 2 issues, the heat and insects (ants and mosquitoes/gnats) here in Sicily. I am so inspired by your party!

  4. Lenetta @ Nettacow

    Too fun, Katie! I linked on my roundup.
    .-= Lenetta @ Nettacow´s last blog ..Inaugural Garden Update (Week 3, Sigh) =-.

  5. You are SO FUN!

    I’ve read about how preschools and Kindergartens are having to coax kids into getting messy and feel different textures, because we’re raising them to stay so clean and be indoors…they aren’t getting muddy or slimy anymore.

    I’m glad to see you had no problem getting the kids (and adults) to slip, slide, smear, smudge and squish for hours of tactile, multi-sensory fun!
    .-= Ann Kroeker´s last blog ..Food on Fridays: Humble & Regular =-.

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  8. Holy COW! this looks amazing, and i’m almost intimidated to even leave a comment. You may write like a human – but your party throwing abilities are super-hero-esque!
    I am also a real/whole food enthusiast and am looking forward to checking out more of your posts.

    1. Liberty,
      What? I only write like a human? 😉

      Just kidding. Really, I write like a (bad) comedian.

      I’m glad you popped in and hope you found some other things to help you stick around a while! 😉 Katie

  9. My sons 5th birthday is coming soon and we’ve been wondering what we were going to do. I think we’ve found it! Thanks!!

  10. How hilarious and fun! That seems like something my dad would do. He is known for funny holiday stuff though… Last Christmas, instead of wrapping my little brother’s gifts, he “wrapped his head” (blindfolded him) and took the presents out from another room one by one. Don’t know if any eco-friendly mamas want to try that one to save wrapping paper! *lol*

  11. GIRL! This is the BEST idea ever! I AM TOTALLY DOING THIS NEXT YEAR! We are having the 2yr bday party this Saturday, with my personal mission to not create any trash [I’m crazy]. The other theme is a non-theme of 7cents clearance price froggy party hats and plates, gluten free zuchinibread cupcakes decorated like frogheads [using chlorophyll, purees and beetjuice crystals]. That’s it. In lieu of gifts we asked for nonperishable donations to local food bank. We have a kid’s musician coming to entertain. And the biggest stress for me is figuring out how to feed with kids without using plastic or making any trash.

  12. So cute! But I do have to know – what did you do with all those messy kids at the end? Hose them off??? LOL I imagine they were not allowed inside or in a car after all that!!!! 🙂

    1. Ronda,
      Actually, that’s PRECISELY what we did. A hose and a sprinkler, and most brought a change of clothes. I threw my son right in the shower, clothing and all!
      😉 Katie

  13. Jenna Consolo

    I admire you. This would send me into an OCD coma. I could never handle it. But I love the idea. Amazing!
    .-= Jenna Consolo´s last blog ..Road Trip, Part 2 =-.

  14. THANK YOU for this! My daughter’s birthday is in August and we always try to make her party CHEAP, FUN, and ICE-BREAKING (as it’s usually the first shindig of the school year). So thank you so much for posting this on WFMW! I showed her and she says, “AWESOME!” so I think we’re a go for August.
    .-= Michelle´s last blog ..Works for Me Wednesday: Snack Packs =-.

  15. Barb@My Daily Round

    What an incredibly cool idea! My kids would love this and we have some neighborhood kids that would love to join us, plus some cousins. I can just see it now! Wow, I am totally stealing your idea! And, of course, I’ll give credit when anyone asks!
    .-= Barb@My Daily Round´s last blog ..adding up the dollars and cents spent at Catholic school =-.

  16. Wow ~ it looks like you had a good time. I can not in my wildest imagination even contemplate doing a party like that.

    Good for you though. I did really enjoy seeing the pictures. 🙂
    .-= Jackie´s last blog ..Being Consistent is Key =-.

  17. I love this. I still remember a youth group in my area once held a messy night. We had a greased egg toss (hands covered in shortening tossing an egg back and forth) and some other hilarious games. I think this is a fantastic idea!

  18. Jen@balancing Beauty and Bedlam

    Messy parties are the way to go….have done them for all our kids. Now, the big boys are getting too old, but savor those. But yes, it’s such a mess to clean up too…

    Yea for being an AWESOME mom. 🙂
    .-= Jen@balancing Beauty and Bedlam´s last blog ..Home Depot Garden Club Discount and Ideas =-.

  19. Jen @ BigBinder

    This is AWESOME! My kids would be happy to do one of those things – let alone all of them – at a party. You win the Best Birthday Party Ideas Award, for sure.

    1. Jen,
      Believe it or not, this wasn’t even a birthday. Just a party for the sake of having fun at the end of summer! 😉 Katie

  20. Julie Bagamary

    WOW!! You are one cool MOM!!
    .-= Julie Bagamary´s last blog ..Quilted Art Party Hats! =-.

  21. Oh my that’s one messy party…pics are cool
    .-= Priti´s last blog ..Fusilli with Stir fried Veggies =-.

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