Muddy Hand

5 Ways Not to be a Stick in the Mud

As my daughter once famously said, “What point is there in being a kid if you can’t play in the mud?” And despite the mess, the endless laundry, the muddy shoes lined up outside the door, I couldn’t argue with her. I think we all remember the glorious feeling of mud coating our bare feet and sliding up through our toes. Not to mention the sound—the splunking, sucking, slurping of mud grabbing hold. It’s hard to disagree with the fact that mud and kids are meant for each other. Studies have even shown that dirt is good for children’s developing immune systems.

The Art of Mud Play

Close up of hands putting flowers on ice cube trays filled with mud

At HABA, our favorite part of mud play is that it gets kids outside, in fresh air, creating, and playing with the best ingredients around- nature! So roll up your sleeves and your kid’s sleeves, put on some old clothes, open the door and let’s get muddy. This post is all about mud but really it’s about providing opportunities for kids to be engaged away from screens out in the fresh air. We have tips for some fun mud activities from mud pies to mud monsters. Mud masterpieces will be created making muddy memories to last a long time. But first you need to gather your mud play essentials, or in mud-speak; set up your mud kitchen.

Mud Kitchen Basics

Some of my favorite dining experiences ever were when my children served me at their mud cafes. Menus were passed out with such items as mud puddle soup, grilled mud sandwiches, grass gumbo, mud loaf, and mud pies a’la mode for dessert. All these treats were cooked and assembled in their mud kitchens which were well stocked with their sand toys, things gleaned from our kitchen, and items we picked up along the way at yard sales. But having the following supplies handy makes cooking a’la mud much easier, more successful, and more fun.

Other items that add some extra mud play fun: 

Found objects for your mud kitchen:

  • Smocks or aprons
  • Recipe cards and pencils
  • Pots, pans, cooking lids
  • Cooking utensils and silverware
  • Recycled spice jars: Fill empty spice shakers with toppings such as crushed eggshells, tiny pebbles, saw dust, dried coffee grounds, and crushed dried leaves.

5 Mud Activities 

So once the mud kitchen is set up, here are 5 things to do with mud that actually will create something lasting or at least a really good story.

  1. Mud Pies

    This one directly comes from the mud kitchen because few things in the wonderful world of mud capture the imagination as much as a mud pie. Perhaps because you are combining two of the best words in a kid’s vocabulary—mud and pie. The beauty of mud pie making is that it can start simply and be added to over time with elaborate recipes and kitchen set ups. But to start all you really need is a good patch of dirt, some water, and some meal ideas—pies, pizza, tacos, muffins, soup. Once your child gets the hang of making a really good mud pie, they can move on to the next couple of activities which use mud pies as the base.

  2. Mud Seed Bombs

    A seed bomb is basically a mud pie mixed with some seeds and a little bit of clay to hold it together. The idea is to help Mother Nature in places where flowers are needed because as the seeds germinate, the tight ball actually anchors to the ground. To assemble a seed bomb, mix together 2 parts soil, 5 parts clay, 1 part water, and 1 part seeds of your choice. Mix everything together in a big tub and set out to dry for 24- 48 hours. After the seed balls dry, find areas in your yard, on the sides of roads, or in parts of your town that could use some color, and throw your seed bombs out into the world. These dynamite little balls don’t need to be tucked in or watered. Mother Nature will get right to work on them!

  3. Mud Monsters

    Moving on from the mud pie and the mud seed bomb, your child is now ready to take their skills to the next level and create a creature from the dirt, A.K.A. a mud monster. Simply make a mud ball and then add monster-like features, such as three eyes from tiny pebbles, a horn out of a pointy shell, pine needle fur, sticks for claws, tiny pine cones for teeth. Truly anyone or anything, monster, person, or animal can be made from a ball of mud and a few sticks for arms and legs!

  4. Mud Painting

    For almost as long as humans have been on this earth, they have been painting. And long before paint came in metal tubes from the art store, early artists used paints mixed with natural materials, most often mud. Ancient artists created mud murals on cave walls, inside their huts, and even on hand woven cloth. This activity encourages your young mud enthusiasts to take up their brushes and turn mud into paint to create a mud painting. To make a mud masterpiece, find an old white T-shirt or a white sheet and set up an outdoor table. Collect some mud or make some using garden dirt or potting soil and water. Now get your kids ready to paint. Pull out some brushes and set up a big bucket of water for cleaning up. Now let them paint whatever design or image they are called to create. Once the designs are finished, hang the cloth to dry in the sun. Once the mud has set, usually by the end of the day, rinse off the mud to reveal the magical mud stained design.

    *Note: Mud paintings should never be washed in a machine as machine washing will make the design fade more quickly.

  5. Mud Scratch Art

    Maybe the above activity is a bit too messy and time consuming, if so, this simple mud art activity is perfect. Find a piece of wood and have your child cover it entirely with mud. While the mud is still wet, they can use a thin stick to create designs. This is nature’s version of scratch art. The beauty of this version is that your kids can wash the wood off repeatedly until they have a design to keep. When that magic moment happens, just set the mud out in the sun to preserve this masterpiece.

***Activities adapted from Muddy Boots and Other Childhood Adventures by Liza Gardner Walsh, published by Downeast Books.

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