Five Tips for Messy Indoor Games

Five Indoor Messy Games Tips- Messy Games are a staple of youth ministry, right up there with lock-ins and Mountain Dew. 

But does it mean we have to ditch the mess and sit quietly instead when the weather is uncooperative? No! Messy Games are huge, gross spectacles outside, but you can scale them to fit within your indoor setting with these tips!

1. Drop it like it’s hot.  A Dropcloth, tarp, or poly sheet will be crucial with most scaled indoor messy games.  On wood, tile, or vinyl floors, a covering taped down can protect the floor surface and designate a “Mess Zone” that helps to clue in dirty participants to stay put. I like to get the rolls of carpet protection plastic for carpeted spaces.  It is a bit more expensive but worth it in clean-up ease!

2. Less is more.  You are likely not asking youth to shower down before the next activity, so consider messy games as a way to get people’s faces messy instead of their entire person.  With that said, things that you don’t mind on your face are great ingredients, like whipped cream, chocolate syrup, pudding, sprinkles…you’re not just recreating last night’s dessert. You’re creating a tasty and face-friendly mess.

3. Run the route.  When I host a messy game fest outdoors, I usually keep the doors locked to prevent the mess from entering the building and salvage my relationship with the building manager.  But, in a messy indoor game, keeping the mess away is much harder!  In addition to a “Messy Zone,” be aware of the route to the nearest bathroom and prepare that space.  Youth will want to get cleaned up, so prepare the route so they can drip, ooze, flake, and splatter along the way.  And BONUS TIP: be ready to clean the bathrooms before you leave, too.

4. Inform the masses.  If you want to maximize your spectacle and use a kiddie pool of Jello or something on stage, let participants know ahead of time.  Even if you think you’ve prepared for all possible contingencies, it’s nice to let youth avoid wearing their favorite sweater or Grandma’s diamond earrings.  Have extra towels, paper towels, wet naps, dry naps, claptraps, and any other hand-held self-cleaning tools at the ready.

5. Do you gear what I gear?  Another creative option in the indoor scaling of messy games is using protective gear for participants.  Paper or plastic bodysuits, shower caps, plastic gloves, and shoe booties… are all options to create a mess barrier for clothes and are usually stark white, which makes a playful contrast to messy materials.  I use water-based craft paint diluted for games like this because the colors are bold and bright for pictures and videos.  Afterward, participants can strip off the protective gear right into a trash can within the “Mess Zone,” minimizing contamination of other areas.

* BONUS TIP:  Don’t utilize a space that you aren’t ready to explain, ruining the church elders or head pastor.  Even with the most preparation, accidents can happen, and getting craft paint out of the altar dressings before the wedding on Saturday might be a bigger job than you want to handle.

Outdoor messy games are a great summer spectacle and can be a super event, but indoor messes can hit the mark, too, if you think it through.  Planning, preparation, and precision are key, but if you put in the work and follow your plan, you can have a fun mess just about anywhere!  If you want to go big, go outside, but you can have your cake and smash it if you can be smart.

Want more Messy Games ideas? Check out this resource:


Kellen Roggenbuck is a Methodist pastor and author in Wisconsin. Born in Denver, he grew up outside Chicago in Oswego, IL, and has worked for almost two decades in the church. He is also a ukulele enthusiast, taco truck aficionado, and all-around okay guy.

He is also a children’s book author, of popular books like: “My Dad Has a Beard”,My Mommy is Always Right” and “The Awkward Dinosaur” (Click Here to Check Out More TItles)