5 best places to make a mess without having to clean it up

A pile of dirt can entertain my preschooler for hours, and my second-grader would rather paint with her hands than use a brush. Sometimes I find strange science experiments in the freezer or cups of soapy water lining my children’s dressers. What is it about making a mess that’s so much fun? I love it when my kids are creative and happy and thinking outside the box. But, it’s not as fun if it means hours of cleanup, which is left mostly to Mom.

So I’m all about looking for other places for my kids to get dirty. Here are some spots we found to be delightfully messy.

Kristy MacKaben

Kids love messes, but moms and dads hate the cleanup. So we’ve come up with a list of places where your kids can make a big mess and someone else will do the cleanup!

This place lives up to its name.

There’s goop and paint and bubbles, and usually frosting andsprinkles. Staying neat and clean is not an option.

Smocks (provided when you walk in the door) are a must at thiskids’ paradise where messes are encouraged. The inside of thebuilding looks like a gigantic science experiment, with aluminumtubes, pipes and gadgets everywhere. From science and music toculinary experiments and art, Make-A-Messterpiece encourages kidsto get creative and to use all their senses.

On a recent visit, my kids (8 and 4), their hands covered insticky blue gunk, shockingly requested “to get clean.” We had justconcocted a special slime, and they had gleefully squished andmushed the mixture, until they apparently had enough. Luckily thereare plenty of sinks as well as paper towels and hand sanitizer.Before the gooey slime incident, my kids created bubble paintingsin the Bubbleology department, decorated ice cream cones, andpounded on drums to splatter paint on walls. They sculptedplaydough, created foam hats, and finger-painted on butcher blockpaper.

Though the total experience package can be pricey ($22 per kid),kids still can have fun and make a mess for the $10 admission fee,which doesn’t include the extra hands-on activities. ($5 for eachextra activity)

  • The Glen Tower Center
  • 2050 Tower Drive, Glenview
  • makeamessterpiece.com
  • (847) 730-5275


Not that you need an excuse to visit the Museum of Science andIndustry. With hands-on exhibits galore, live shows, an IMAXtheater and science experiments, MSI is a source of endlessentertainment.

But, if you are looking for a great place for kids to play andpossibly get wet, the Idea Factory is where it’s at. I decided tobrave the museum by myself with five kids-two of my own and threefriends.

We were determined to make a mess and we succeeded at The IdeaFactory. After slipping into rain jackets, the kids scattered indifferent directions-shooting water from cannons, splashing theirhands in a water trough, throwing balls down a waterfall andtriggering a geyser to spout. Thanks to the raincoats, the kidsleft the space relatively dry.

  • 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago
  • msichicago.org

Museum of Science and Industry

This isn’t your typical paint-your-own pottery joint. Kids 10and older can throw pottery at the wheel, or visit on Fridaymornings for the Mud Pie sessions. Listen to a story, roll up yoursleeves and mold a creation related to the story from wet clay. Aninstructor teaches children how to sculpt the creation, which theycan paint that day. The masterpiece can be picked up from the shopafter two weeks. My kids and I have visited the studio on a fewoccasions and they love the process of creating something cool froma mound of clay.

  • 260 N. Evergreen Ave.
  • Arlington Heights
  • thrownelementspottery.com

Thrown Elements Pottery

Think art museums are stuffy? Think again. The Museum ofContemporary Art and Art Institute of Chicago offer family dayswhen kids and their adults can get creative. Depending on theprojects planned, families can build, create wearable art or craftmasterpieces using a variety of materials and genres. “It’s messyand creative and using all kinds of materials,” says Nina Litoff,public affairs official with the Art Institute of Chicago.

“It’s hands-on art making all throughout the museum,” says ElenaGoetz, media relations manager for the Museum of ContemporaryArt.

  • Contemporary Art
  • 220 East Chicago Ave.
  • Chicago, mcachicago.org
  • Art Institute of Chicago
  • South Michigan Avenue and East Adams Street,Chicago
  • artic.edu

Museum of Contemporary Art and Art Institute of Chicago

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