Tip-Toeing Into Mud Play

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This post is intended to help parents and caregivers of young children who’ve never embraced mud play tip-toe a bit closer to the mud pit.

For non-mud-play people, images like these may be off-putting:

Mud is messy. Mud at the above scale is intimidating. Mud is not what we do here. What will (parents, the director, Miss Kathy in the room down the hall) think if I let the kids play with mud?

I understand all that–and you should still tip-toe into mud play because mud is awesome.

Why Mud Is Awesome

Here’s a quick look at some reasons you should consider embracing mud play:

  • It’s Inexpensive. There are few play materials that are as budget friendly as mud.
  • It’s Readily Available. It doesn’t take much effort to find mud in the wild. And if you don’t happen to be near the natural habitat of free-range wild mud, the ingredient to make it, soil and water, are probably nearby.
  • It’s Easy To Make. Here’s the recipe–mix soil and water. It can’t get much simpler than that.
  • It’s Engaging. Young humans seem magnetically attracted to mud–drawn to interact with it.
  • It’s Variable. It can be mixed up in different consistencies and textures from soup-like-almost-water to thick-and-doughy. It also changes consistency while it drys, going form ooey and gooey to hard or flaky.
  • It’s Friendly. It plays well with other materials. Whether you’re a bucket of grass clippings, a baby doll, a toy truck, a wooden spoon, a catapult, or a plastic dinosaur, mud says, “Hey, buddy, let’s play!”
  • It’s Learning Rich. Among other things, playing with mud can hone small and large muscle strength and control, improve sensory awareness, build hand-eye coordination, and improve social skills.
  • It’s Easy To Clean Up. See the mud-covered little humans in the above photos? It took 5-10 minutes to get them cleaned off after their full-body mud play adventure. And that time was nearly as much fun as they mud play.

Speaking of fun, mud play is also FUN:

video by Sharon Hopson

Tips For Tip-Toeing Into Mud Play

Look Inside

Take some time to reflect on why you’ve avoided mud play. Is it the mess? Is it the work involved with setup and cleanup? Are you hauling around mud-related baggage from your childhood?

Plan Ahead

The better you plan, the better things will go. Some things to consider:

  • Did you pick a location that’ll make cleanup easy?
  • Did you make sure the kids are dressed (or undressed) for mud play?
  • Did you plan how kids will go from muddy to clean post play?
  • Did you block out plenty of time for play?
  • Did you think about how you’ll assist a child who gets mud in their eye or mouth?

Start Small

Full body mud play can be intimidating. Start small.

Really small.

A tiny bit of mud is a good place to start if you’re new to mud play

Mix a cup of soil with a small amount of water to form a little bit of thick mud. Then let a child or two play with the mixture. Use this as an opportunity to test out all your planning before trying mud play with more mud and/or children.

Seek Assistance

As you consider tip-toeing into mud play, you may want to seek out a peer who has embraced this type of play for further advice and support. I don’t think I’ve ever met a mud advocate who was not eager to help others slip and slide into the slimy world of mud play.

An Idea For Easing Mud Play Cleanup

Still hesitant about tip-toeing into mud play? Here’s something to consider: You can make mud play cleanup easier by following it up with (or combining it with) water sprinkler play.

  • Before the mud play, have everyone get into their swimsuit or mud/water play approved clothing.
  • Set up for mud play on one side of the outside play space and set up a sprinkler on the other side.
  • Then you can turn on the sprinkler as the mud play wraps up and direct the kids to rinse themselves as they play in the water.
  • If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can make mud play and sprinkler play available simultaneously and urge them to wrap up their play with a rinse in the sprinkler before moving on to something else.

Conclusion

Here are a few more resources:

I’d love to hear about your mud play adventures, insights, and opinions in the comments!

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Content Creator and Curator at

Jeff is an early learning speaker, toymaker, podcaster, content creator, author, and founder of Playvolution HQ who is really bad at getting his picture taken.

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