Mud Families

  • Children icon Age: 0 to 8+
  • Clock icon Time: 1 hour+
  • Leaf icon Materials: Dirt, water, objects from nature, container for collecting
Talking with kids about who is in your family is a wonderful way to help them develop a sense of belonging—the roots that let them feel grounded in the world. You can also use this super sensory, creative activity to help kids learn about and celebrate the beautiful diversity in all families.

This activity is featured in our June Activity Calendar. If you do not yet have your free copy, get it here.

The Guide

Step 1: Talk about your family. 

Start by asking kids who is in their family. This is a chance to help kids think about the people most important to them and the ways in which their family is unique. 

  • Which family members live in your child’s house? Which family members live farther away? 
  • Who are the neighbors, caregivers or friends who are a part of your family’s extended community? 
  • If you can, look at photos of family members together to spark discussion. What makes each person special? What are your child’s favorite memories or things to do with each family member?

Step 2: Launch the activity.

Grab a container of water and head outside to a tree or a flat surface on the ground. Ask kids, “Do you think we could make a mud face for each of our family members?” Prompt imagining and planning by asking things like: What would the mud faces look like? What features would they each need? What objects could we use for the features? Want to see this activity in action? Watch our "How to Make Mud Faces" video.

Step 3: Gather materials for faces.

Send kids off to gather objects to use for the various features of their family faces. Offer a container (e.g. a small cup, a bindle, yogurt container, small bag) to collect and carry objects.

Step 4: Make and plop mud patties.

All dirt is different, so add water gradually until your mixture thickens to the right consistency (think thick brownie batter). For each face, make a softball-sized mud patty, flatten it a bit, then give it a good plop onto the bark of a tree or on the ground, giving it a few finger pushes around the edge to help it really stick.

Step 5: Guide as they create.

While kids work, remain available to help them if they ask, but let them do as much as they can. If kids' faces fall apart, help them collect the mud, repack and re-plop. Celebrate your mud family! Invite kids to tell you as much as they can about each face and which family member it represents. If you can, invite family members to come see the mud faces or take photos and send them to family members. Loved ones will feel celebrated knowing your child was thinking of them as they played.

Extend the Play

  • Celebrate family diversity. Talking about families and love is a marvelous way to naturally help kids see, celebrate and internalize the beautiful diversity among all families. Each family is unique, and when we base the definition of family in love and care instead of any particular family constellation, we prepare kids to recognize and understand the concept of "family" that includes all families—families that look like the families in most TV shows and families who have: grandparents, older siblings or other guardians at the helm; parents of the same gender or no gender; families formed by adoption; large extended families; small, strong single-parent families; blended families; and more. Talk with kids about the diversity within your own family and within families that your child knows.
  • Make a family that looks different from yours: Make some more mud (or just grab art supplies) and keep making families, real or imagined—and include families that are different from yours. What other families do we know who are different from our family? What families did we see or read about in the books we read? Enjoy talking, making or even just slowing down to notice how wonderfully different families are. There may be no better way to prepare kids to love and respect all humans!

Why is this activity great for kids?

Every family is unique. Whether your family’s definition of family includes kin and/or those who hold special significance in your lives, helping kids identify who is a part of their family gives them a sense of belonging and pride in their own unique family makeup. Making faces is also a super way to help kids tune in to facial expressions and emotions. And, playing and experimenting with ooey, gooey mud 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. 

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