Universe Messy Play Kit Guide

Universe Messy Play Kit Guide

Ready to dig into your Universe Messy Play Kit? On this page you'll find detailed step-by-step instructions, ideas to extend the learning, and some links to other resources. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions about your kit. Now go get messy!

Jump To:
Moon Dough
Moon Rocks
Night Sky Painting
Marble Painting Planets
Additional Resources
More Messy Play Kits


Moon Dough:

1. Empty the bag of flour into a mixing bowl and add the glitter.

2. Pour approximately 1/4 of the bottle of oil on top of the flour.

3. Use your hands to mix. The oil will clump together, so be sure to rub the flour between your hands to break apart the clumps and mix thoroughly.

4. Add more oil as necessary, but don’t use more than half the bottle (you need the oil for the Moon Rocks activity as well!). You should have a substance that is soft and moldable. The moon dough will stick together and be moldable, but fall apart with too much pressure, like wet sand.

Moon Dough texture     Moon Dough texture 2

5. Once you have the right texture, play with it! What shapes can you make from the dough? Can you form one large shape without it breaking? How many small balls can you make? Make sure you squish the dough between your fingers; the soft, smooth texture feels so good!

 TIP:Try adding cookie cutters and playdough molds for extra fun!


Clean Up: Remember that any toys you play with will be oily afterwards, including the mixing bowl and your hands. Be sure to wash them thoroughly. You can save the flour in the fridge for a few days before tossing in the compost or trash (the glitter is biodegradable!).

What are they learning?

  • Following instructions: this activity is simple, but there are crucial steps to the instructions that can’t be missed (mainly to not use the whole bottle of oil!). Being able to follow step-by-step instructions and pay attention to the details within the instructions is an important life skill.
  • Creativity: this is a really open-ended activity! Once they have mixed the moon dough, they are free to do with it what they want. That can be empowering for young children, who may not have much experience with making their own decisions and choices.
  • Fine motor control: squishing and squeezing are great ways to build up the muscles in your hands, knows as your “fine motor” muscles. These are important for pencil grasp and many other important tasks.

Moon Rocks:

1. Empty the baking soda into a mixing bowl.

2. Use scissors to cut the tip off the pipette of liquid watercolors (small) and empty that into the baking soda. Keep the pipette for later!

3. Use a spoon or your hands to mix the color into the baking soda thoroughly, until the baking soda is a light green. You may need to rub the baking soda between your hands to break apart all the liquid clumps.

4. Add the citric acid to the baking soda and stir to mix.

5. Add 1/4 of the oil to the powder mixture and mix thoroughly. Continue adding oil and mixing until your mixture clumps together well. The mixture should hold its shape when you mold it.

6. Make your moon rocks! Grab a handful and roll and squish it into roughly a rock shape. Lay it on a baking sheet and continue with the rest. Try making some smaller rocks and some larger.

7. Get ready for the fun! Using the now-empty pipette, squirt some water on top of one of the rocks. Watch as it bubbles and fizzes! Continue with the rest of the rocks. 

Moon Rocks Fizzing   Moon Rocks Fizzing 2


Clean Up: Any leftover mixture can go down the drain. Baking soda and citric acid are both great cleaning agents, but be sure to scrub the sink afterwards to clean out the oil. 


What are they learning?

  • Science: This is an exciting chemical reaction! You’ve mixed an acid (citric acid) and a base (baking soda) together with water, which creates carbon dioxide gas. The gas is what bubbles up and creates all the fizzing fun! This is also an endothermic reaction, which means that it will feel cold as the reaction is occurring.
  • Fine motor control and hand-eye coordination: using a pipette to drip water on top of the rocks takes fine motor control and hand-eye coordination to get the water to land in the right spot. Great practice for holding a pencil!
  • Cause and effect: There is an immediate reaction when water is squirted on top of the rocks, and it’s easy to notice. This helps build a foundational scientific concept of cause and effect, where one thing is the reaction or effect of another.

Night Sky Painting:

1. Use the crayons to draw the night sky on a piece of art paper. Your sky might have planets, or stars, or a meteor, or aliens, or other astronomical things.

Night Sky crayon drawing

2. Use scissors to cut the tip off the pipette of liquid watercolors (large) and empty the pipette into a bowl. Add 3 more pipette-fulls of water to the color.

3. Place your artwork on a tray or surface that can get painted on. Using the paintbrush, paint the entire paper with the black liquid.

Night Sky painting  Night Sky Painting 2

4. Look how the black fills in the background of the paper but not the crayon! Crayons are made of wax, which is hydrophobic, meaning it repels water. So the black water won’t color over the crayon!

5. Use a paper towel to blot the extra black liquid off the crayon and lay your artwork out to dry.

Night Sky Painting completed

6. Repeat with more drawings if you’d like. Use up to 4 pieces of paper for this project, making sure you leave some for the Marble Painting Planets

 Tip: compare the crayon drawings to one made with colored pencils or paint. What happens when you paint the black liquid over those? Can you tell a difference with how the black liquid behaves over crayon versus other art materials? It works best she the crayons is drawn on very heavily so it makes a solid barrier for the liquid.


Clean Up: let the artwork dry and then choose your favorite to display! The liquid can be washed down the drain and the brush washed and saved.

What are they learning?

  • Vocabulary: “hydrophobic” is a word they probably haven’t heard that often. “Hydrophilic” is the opposite, meaning something that attracts water. Look around your house and see what examples you can find it hydrophobic and hydrophilic items (look it up online if you need examples!).
  • Creativity: an open-ended art project allows for a lot of creativity! Your child can draw a night sky or whatever they want. 
  • Science: learning about material properties (such as hydrophobic or hydrophilic) is scientific learning. Learning about it through art and play is a really enjoyable way to learn!

Marble Painting Planets:

1. Place a piece of art paper in the bottom of the open Messy Play box. Open the top of each of the paint colors and set the paint next to the open box.

2. You can do the next step in 2 different ways:

    1. Drop one of the marbles into a paint color and scoop it out with one of the craft sticks, dropping the paint-covered marble onto the art paper in the box.
    2. Use the craft stick to drop a blob of paint onto the art paper in the box, and place a wooden marble in the box.

Marble Painting Planets 1

3. To paint, hold the edges of the box, and tilt the box from side to side to make the marble roll around! Tilt the box in all different directions, but be careful to keep it upright so that marble stays inside.

Marble Painting Planets 2

4. Add more paint and keep rolling the marble around until your paper is covered as much as you’d like. Repeat with the remaining 3 pieces of paper (making sure you leave 4 pieces for the Night Sky Painting activity). Let the artwork dry.

Marble Painting Planets 3

5. When your artwork is dry, use scissors to cut circle shapes out of it. This is easiest if you trace the bottom of a cup on the back of your paper and cut around it. Make circles in various sizes, but aim for them to be 3-4” in size (large enough to see the paint on the front). You now have marble painted planets!

Marble Painting Planets - tracing a cup   Marble Painting Planets cutting out circles    Marble Painting Planets circles

6. You can leave the planets as is, or make rings for some of them! To do this, cut a long and thin oval out of the construction paper, so that the oval is longer than the circle planet the ring is for. Then cut out the inside of the oval, making a hollow oval shape. Slip the circle planet into the middle of the oval, so that the oval wraps around the front and back of the circle planet, looking like a planetary ring.

Marble Painting Planets making rings    Marble Painting Planets making rings 2   Marble Painting Planets finished!


What are they learning?

  • Different paint techniques: This helps to broaden the idea of what “painting” or “art” means.
  • Fine motor control: using scissors to cut out something along a line is excellent practice for using scissors and develops fine motor control.
  • Use this to broaden your understanding of planets! Look up what planets look like and see if you can replicate that with the paint. Or learn what planet rings are made of and why some have them and others don’t!

More Universe Play!

There are so many ways to continue learning about space. Here are some of my favorites.

  • Check out the Astronomy Picture of the Day from NASA. This is a great way to capture the interest of budding astronomers- the photos are incredible, and the descriptions are written by professional astronomers and contain lots of links to learn more!
  • Make a Nebular Jar! This is a really easy project to do with materials you likely already have at home!
  • Do your own experiment on surface tension! It's not related to space, but it is a really cool science experiment related to chemistry and the molecular makeup of the ingredients. Scholastic has a great writeup of the experiment as well as some questions to ponder (and an explanation!).
  • Follow an astronaut's blog! Captain Chris Hadfield blogs from the International Space Station here. Follow other astronauts on twitter too: Sam Cristoforetti from Italy is @AstroSamantha. Reid Wiseman from the US is @astro_reid. Astronaut Abby isn't a real astronaut, but her blog is really informative!
  • This YouTube video by Cary Huang is a great way to explore the Scale of the Universe.



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