In a hot summer, cool ways to be messy

Beth Whitehouse

Here we are in the midst of summer. The novelty of beaches and parks may have worn off, but the heat is still bearing down. What to do now?

How about some fun, inexpensive backyard activities the whole family will love?

“They’re all sort of cool things, water-based things,” says Maureen Mangan, the director of communications for the Long Island Children’s Museum.

The museum provided recipes for some of its popular hands-on activities:


“The Bubbles Gallery here is one of the most popular,” Mangan says. “Kids and adults are equally enchanted by it.”

Prepare the mixture in a bucket, then pour into a jelly roll sheet or other container big enough to fit your “wands” into. Use a store-bought wand, or look around the house for creative tools to make bubbles _ for instance, a slotted spoon from the kitchen or a coat hanger from the closet, Mangan suggests.

1 gallon of water

2/3 cup Dawn or Joy dishwashing liquid

3 to 4 tablespoons of glycerin (available at drugstores)

Pour the dishwashing liquid into the water, add the glycerin, mix and play.


Add food coloring to make this a colorful ooze. “You put this in your hand and it’s a solid; then it becomes a mess that drips through your fingers,” Mangan says. When cleaning up, it comes right off with water, she says.

Penny Schneider of Merrick, N.Y., has made the Oobleck at home with her daughter, Madison, 7, creating it in hot pink and purple.

“When you put your hands in it, your hands are sinking in it,” Madison says. “It’s kind of squishy.”

1 cup cornstarch

1 / 2 cup water

Liquid watercolor (to dye, if desired)

Empty cornstarch into a container, add water slowly and stir. As soon as the mixture becomes smooth and most of the clumps of cornstarch disappear, it is ready for play. Be careful not to add too much water or it will lose its thick consistency. If that occurs, add more cornstarch.


“Everybody likes to make mud pies, but parents don’t like to clean up,” Mangan says. “You’ll probably come out of this cleaner than you went in, because you’re playing in soap. You can make ‘mud pies,’ you can pretend you’re cooking, it’s all the things kids might do in the backyard in a mud puddle.”

Each child can make his own pail of “mud” by using a cheese grater to shave the soap.

“The younger kids should have supervision,” Mangan says.

{ bar of soap (crumbled or shaved) _ Ivory soap works best

1 roll of toilet paper


Tear toilet paper into small pieces and line the bottom of a container with the pieces. Place the soap shavings onto the toilet paper and add water. (Add just enough to saturate the paper.) Mix slowly and you will create “clean” mud from the toilet paper. Keep adding water and toilet paper to achieve the amount of “mud” desired.