This is the kind of mess I really like: no stains on the carpet.
A friend of mine with a daughter just 5 weeks older than Lorelei gave us this for L's 1st birthday (container decorated by her little toddler), and it has been a go-to activity for us ever since. The puff balls can be purchased at your local craft store, and their uses are endless! Cut a hole in a piece of cardboard or in the top of an oatmeal container and let her stuff them in; practice throwing accuracy by tossing them into a box a few feet away; have a "snowball fight" that doesn't hurt anyone; group them by color to work on categories; toss them around the room and have fun putting them away (really - I didn't invent that game, but L thinks it's the best!).
If you're looking for a cute, cheap gift you and your kiddo can make/assemble together to give at toddler birthday parties, I'd highly recommend this one!