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Do your kids enjoy making a mess? I know that mine do! And one of our favorite ways is Painting With Balls.

We got a really fun book in the mail from Penguin books, Mess: The Manual of Accidents and Mistakes, by Keri Smith. This is such a fun book filled with activities and ideas of ways to make art from messes, or rather to appreciate mess as a form of art (I am starting to wonder if by her standards I have some budding Rembrandt’s).

The “manual” encourages us as the reader to destroy the book with our mess art. The part of me who married a librarian cringes at that thought. Our copy is pristine, but we had fun making a mess on a canvas we had lying about.

One of the entries suggested that we make a mess by rolling and smearing. This reminded me of the activity I read about on Let the Children Play, where she had the kids experience physics and gravity by rolling marbles on a canvas. We didn’t have marbles, but we did have a giant canvas and a variety of different types of balls! This was a blast!


All you need is canvas (or poster board), acrylic paint, an old box to make a tray to set your canvas in, a variety of balls (or marbles) and paint shirts. This was messy — no kid can resist squeezing or smooshing the paint.


Race between two similar balls. Dip one in plain paint and dip the other in paint mixed with either flour or cornstarch. Guess which ball would roll faster. Why did you make that guess?

Does a ball roll faster if the canvas is tilted slightly or at a steep slant?

What happens when a ball dipped in red paint rolls over a ball path of yellow or blue paint? What happens when all the colors smear together?

Which ball spreads the most paint? Which one spreads the least? We found that the tennis ball had the most coverage, while the dryer ball just left speckles.

Have your kids made a mess lately? Are you scared of messes? Share a photo with our Facebook community.