Let’s Get Dirty!

TSGS Note: I saw this post & fell in love. You know how I feel about messy childhoods!

BIG thanks to Jenny for letting me post it here.

See ya outside! ~ The Grass Stain Guru

Ways to incorporate mud play into the preschool program

Once upon a time I stopped kids from playing in the mud.  I’m sorry kids.

Mud play is not only fun, it has as much potential for learning as sand play and water play.  Nowadays I embrace the mud.

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I even let the kids wallow in it!

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Not everyone has a ready supply of mud on their doorstep.  So how do we bring mud play into our early childhood programs?  Here are some suggestions:

1.  Mud patches

This one is for the truly committed amongst us.  If you have the room and the resources creating a permanent digging patch works well (12 square metres is a good size).  You can buy the dirt from a nursery, your local council or a building supplier.  Mix in approximately 1/3 sand to 2/3 soil to provide a more friable and diggable mix.  Props for the mud patch are limited only by your imagination.  Here are a few ideas:

  • Cooking appliance—old range or box made into an oven
  • Tree stumps or tree cookies to use as table surfaces
  • Pots, pans, cooking tins
  • Large metal or plastic bowls
  • Cooking utensils
  • Recycled containers
  • squeeze bottles
  • funnels
  • trucks
  • animals / dinosaurs
  • natural materials
  • sifters / colanders
  • molds
  • gardening tools

2.  Mud Puddles

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Does your playground have a patch of ground that gets muddy after the rain?  Why not embrace the mud and give the children some time and space to make mudpies; cook; dig trenches or create roadways?

I’d recommend assembling a mud bucket or tub with materials such as :

  • Old containers
  • Large wooden or metal spoons
  • Old measuring cups
  • Plastic scoops, like those found in coffee cans
  • old pots, pans, or cake pans
  • moulds
  • Natural materials such as pebbles, sticks and seeds

This way you are always prepared for mud play and when the puddles appear you are good to go!

3.  Mud in the sensory tub

Don’t have a supply of dirt in your backyard?   Why not take a couple of buckets to your nursery and buy some clean fill, black dirt, and sand. The investment is very small, and the joy your kids will have are worth it!  You could add:

  • child sized gardening tools
  • an array of containers
  • flower pots
  • rocks, seed pods, sticks
  • plastic insect or dinosaur models

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This image is from the marvelous blog Irresistible Ideas for Play Based Learning.  Their post on mud play is full of inspiration for introducing mud into the preschool.

4.  Mud in baking trays

Create personal mud patches in baking trays or shallow containers.

5.  Mud and dramatic play

In the short article The Mud Centre: Recapturing Childhood one preschool tells how they made the decision to provide mud play every day through the creation of a mud center combining dramatic play and mud play.  

6.  Mud in the art/craft area

  • Make mud prints. Place your mud-covered hands and feet on a clean sheet of paper to make an impression. Concrete floor or wooden pallets are good substitutes for paper.
  • Take an old table outside.  Instead of paint, fill your paint tubs with mud and let the children explore with brushes or their fingers to make marvelous mud paintings.
  • Add a small quantity of white glue to mud for a different finger painting experience.


Here are some of our favorite things to do in the mud:

  • Make mud pies and cakes.  This is an oldie but a goodie.   Use old containers to “bake” in and decorate with small pebbles, flowers, or leaves.
  • Make mud houses using sticks for supports. Include tunnels, secret rooms, and even a moat.
  • Make mud balls by shaping mud into balls by rolling the “dough” in your hands. Decorate the balls with flowers, leaves, rocks, or small twigs. Stack the mud balls on top of each other to create a unique sculpture.
  • Make rivers and dams. Dig a river in the dirt and add water. Build a dam to form a small puddle.
  • Construction zone: bring in the trucks, the hard hats and the shovels.

I’d love to hear some of your own ideas!

Guest Blogger Bio: Jenny is an early childhood teacher, teaching and learning from children in a progressive preschool setting nestled in the beautiful Australian bush. Her blog, Let The Children Play, is filled with ideas and inspiration. You can follow her on Twitter @preeschoolplay.

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