Make Mud

For many adults, making mud is not a clear winner. It's so common (and understandable) to ask, "Making mud? Is it really worth the mess?" 

The simple act of making mud is a universally powerful pastime for young people (and not bad for us big kids, either). Yes, kids get messy. But, with few exceptions, kids get completely absorbed in mud play. The great news for parents is you can do this virtually anywhere too. Play in the mud along with your kids, and you’ll inspire immediate smiles as well as a lifelong comfort, even pleasure, in mucking around. Slow down and let kids enjoy the process involved in making and playing with mud. The recipe is simple, the ingredients easy to source, but the learning mud play offers is rich and well worth the mess!

This activity is featured in our Tinkergarten Home Spring Creativity series. Not yet signed up? Click here to sign up or to try a free Tinkergarten Home lesson.

The Guide

Step 1: Prepare yourself for mud play.

We get it. Messy mud play is not always a grown up's dream. No matter how you and your kids feel about mud, you can still get all the goodness. It's just a matter of finding out your way to do mud play. Watch this humorous video from our Just Between Us Grown-Ups series about how to make mud play work on your terms. Once you've picked a time and a place that works for you, follow the steps below.

Step 2: Pack a few materials.

Unless you’re near a water source, you’ll need to bring it with you. We like to have around ½ a gallon of water per kid so they can play and experiment for a while (less if it's rained recently). Bring a small pail or container for each child so they can transport and pour water as they see fit. 

Step 3: Clear your spot.

If you’re in a high-traffic area, check to make sure that there are no obvious hazards (e.g., broken glass, metal, dog doo, trash) where you’ll be making your mud. As you scan the ground, grab some sticks for stirring and mushing mud. If it's dry, rough up the earth a bit so water collects and the soil is easier to work with.

Step 4: Pour a little water. Then, let them do the pouring.

Trickle a small amount of water on the ground, and discover together what happens to the dirt. You can take a stick and even do a little mixing. Then hand a bucket to your kids, inviting them to transport water and see what happens when they add it to dirt. Stand back, and watch them get to work.

Step 5: Explore mud recipes.

Allow (or help) kids to fill up their pails or cups and dump water as often as they like. Even though mud is made from just two ingredients (dirt + water), there are unlimited mud recipes that can be made by experimenting with different amounts of soil and water. Invite kids to see what happens when they combine different amounts of each ingredient. How do different mud recipes look and feel?

Try out some of our favorite mud recipes from these downloadable recipe cards and discover which ones your child likes the most. Or, create your own recipes! Give kids an opportunity to describe the different muds using words such as soupy, thick, chunky, dry, wet, or sticky. Such a gripping sensory experience is a great opportunity to build language.

Step 6: Blend in other ingredients.

Ofer kids some additional ingredeitns to blend into their mud mixture. Some of our favorites are dried lavender, herbs, kitchen spices, chalk and flower petals.

Step 7: Support mud play.

For many children, experimenting with mud immediately brings joy and curiosity, while others need to take it slow. Every child (and adult) has a unique sensory system, and mud can push some kids too far out of their comfort zone. We call these mud mindsets and each can be supported in their own way! You may find your child’s mud mindset changes day by day, so it’s important to get a sense of how your child feels about messy play before we dive in. 

To gauge where your child is at today, try these tips:

  • Prepare your hands for play with some exercises that activate kids’ sense of touch.
  • Model a little mud play yourself and let kids decide if they want to try it out.
  • Provide tools like sticks or leaves to make mud more manageable.
  • Let kids go as "deep" as they want. Each child has their own threshold for sensory stimulation, and if we trust them to lead their play, they will manage that quite nicely.
  • Substitute mud with materials like forest putty, shaving cream or even water which offer similar benefits with more control and less mess.

Extend the Play!

If kids appear ready for more, simply start to build alongside them. Make a mud pie by forming a fistful of mud into a patty and plopping it down somewhere. Start to combine mud and sticks to make a structure of some kind. Gather nature treasures to decorate the mud. Kids will likely get intrigued by what you are doing and want to try it too. Want more mud play ideas? Try our Mud Faces for Trees DIY, make Mud Art or cook up a feast in the Mud Kitchen. For more blending play, invite kids to blend recycled artwork and water to make pulp for new paper. Read the full Make Paper DIY activity here.

Why is this activity great for kids?

Combining two materials to make something new (dirt + water to make mud) gives kids practice in the creative act of blending. Playing and experimenting with ooey, gooey mud also helps children to strengthen their sense of touch -- and we know that the better kids are able to tune and integrate their senses, the more effectively they can learn. Once kids know how to make and manipulate mud, they have a tool for play and building with virtually unlimited uses. When kids transform the shape, texture, or nature of materials (in this case, turning dirt and water into mud), they also engage in a universal behavior pattern called the transforming schema, which supports brain development. Such a gripping sensory experience is a great opportunity to build language and communication skills. Best of all, when you let kids lose themselves in play and give them room to mess around, you offer them the openness and freedom they'll need to develop true creativity down the line. If all this isn’t compelling enough, research also indicates that playing in the dirt is just plain good for kids' health. So go on, get dirty!

Try a Free Lesson

T4t hero

Tinkergarten for Teachers

Teach Tinkergarten in your community or classroom!

Tga hero

Tinkergarten Anywhere

Enjoy Tinkergarten as a family anytime, anywhere!

Ready To Get Started?

Choose a Product

New To Tinkergarten?

Try for free Invite Friends To A Free Class