Clean Crafts for the OCD Moms


It’s not a popular thing to say, but I hate when my kids get dirty. I know — they need to make messes and get dirty to learn and grow, enjoy childhood, etc. And I do let them get dirty, in the summer, when I can spray them down with the hose before those mud-covered feet leave a path through my house.

I struggle with OCD tendencies, which basically means that while I don’t wash my hands four times or scrub holes in the floor, even small messes are like a twitch in my eye; I can’t unsee them, I can’t leave them be, I must fix them immediately or I begin to get anxious and feel like I’m on the verge of a panic attack.

So, naturally, I have two rambunctious and mess-prone boys who challenge my sanity on a daily basis.

This makes craft time on those rainy, windy, cold indoor days a wee bit difficult for me. Add to the mix a 19-month-old who still loves shoving everything in his mouth and ears, and my anxiety is through the roof. Play-Doh is great, until you scrape it out of the carpet and finger-swoop it out of the baby’s mouth, as he grabbed a handful in the 4.3 seconds you were helping the older brother make an orange snowman.

Thankfully, I’ve found some great crafts that take the stress out of art hour and allow my little crazies to get creative. Here are some of my favorites:

1. Melissa and Doug Beginning Painters

We just got this for Christmas and my four year old is a tad advanced for it. He’s already pretty good with a paintbrush, with the dipping and the swirling, and makes some great abstract pieces. But my youngest, the Play-Doh muncher, constantly tries to tip over the little paint tubs. With this little art pack, the paint is on the page. Kids simply wet the included paint brush, dab it on the dried paint, and paint on the same page. It’s a great concept, but hard to pull off. The paint dries darker than it paints on, and if they wet the same paint spot too much, the paper will tear. But it’s still cleaner than traditional paint. Unfortunately, baby brother tried it too, and mostly just attempted to stab himself in the ear with the paintbrush. He’s sworn off painting until he’s a little older.

2. Sticker Art

Whether you’ve got a stash of leftover Frozen stickers, garage sale price dots, or even Target stickers, give your kids a blank sheet of paper and all the stickers and let them go to town! They can form letters, make a caterpillar, or follow their imagination wherever it leads them.

3. Safety Scissors Skills 

We also got a safety scissors skills book, but if you’ve got a color printer and an imagination you could easily make your own. Simply grid off a paper, add clip art or images of fruit/animals/anything, and let your child cut along the gridlines. The book we got is also by Melissa and Doug, and gradually increases difficulty (from straight lines to curved) as the child progresses. My older son adores his safety scissors, and we put everything he cuts out in a Ziplock bag (a train, a ‘puzzle’ they can take apart and put back together) because he can’t bear to throw away something he just cut out. That was hard work!

4. Magic Coloring

Y’all, these magic coloring books have saved my life. There are two main kinds: magic paper with one marker for all colors or markers that only color on special paper. I love both! The MagicInk brand has the color already in the paper, and coloring on it with the special marker reveals the image. This is great for younger kids who feel like they’re doing a magic trick. Crayola makes for a more traditional coloring experience, with markers of varying colors that only color on special paper.

5. Paint in a Bag

Mix water-soluble paint, baby oil, and glitter in a gallon-sized Ziplock bag (of a brand that you really, really trust!), seal the top with packing tape, and let your kids ‘finger’ paint without any mess. They can move the paint around, create different patterns, and the baby oil should keep the paint from mixing and being a big mess. All the fun of paint without the mess!

Whether your little ones go clean or messy for craft time, I recommend buying at least one of those big plastic placemats from the dollar store. It’ll ensure your dining table stays in the same condition as it was before craft hour! If you’re really worried about it, spring for a couple plastic party tablecloths or a washable vinyl one. Worried about storing all of those craft supplies? Check out Lyndsey’s post on the wonderful Caboodle!

What are some of your favorite clean crafts?

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Hey, y’all! I’m an adventurous wanderer who put down roots here in East Tennessee back in 2014. My little family moved here from the wilds of suburban Alaska in 2014. We love exploring Knoxville and the surrounding areas, especially the Smoky Mountains. I’m a freelance writer and teacher who loves looking at the mountains when my nose isn’t in a book. I’m a mom to two bookish kids, a wildly clingy dog, two cats, and a fish I’d be in trouble for not mentioning. Since becoming a mom, I’ve been able to add Lincoln Log architect, LEGO contractor, and mediator to my resume. I’ve always been a bit of a jack of all trades, as I’ve been a tutor, teacher, circus instructor, bookseller, amateur baker and, of course, writer. I remind myself of this as I tell my kid not to sit on my other kid’s head while stopping the dog from chasing the cat and the other cat from jumping on top of the fish tank. I have a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing and am currently pursing my Master of Fine Arts while keeping all these creatures who live in my house alive. I survive on coffee, writing fiction, reading, Disney, and snuggles. You can read more of my work at



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