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The Joy of Mud Play

While playing with mud, children are learning and testing theories, as well as developing foundational understanding of maths and literacy.

Written by: Bellbird  

The Joy of Mud Play


Typically when we think of mud play it might conjure up an image of the mess or that it is just for the warmer months of the year and limited to outside play.


The open-ended nature of mud play is perfect for the growing brain, with endless possibilities to create and invent.

It is natural to expect that you would set up a mud play area where it naturally occurs, and if you do, to a specific part of the outdoor place - such as a mud kitchen so that the exploration can begin with plenty of space and materials. 

The incredible array of learning opportunities from this type of sensory play could be easily set up within an indoor environment too - especially for those who are curious but not necessarily interested in getting completely immersed from head to toe! During this type of unstructured play, children are gaining multiple benefits including strengthening their minds and bodies, problem solving and developing their sensory awareness. It can also create opportunities to practice social skills, such as turn taking and sharing their ideas while testing theories, that help children to make sense of the world.

Many children will naturally use simple prompts like old pots, pans and kitchen utensils to create food and drinks with either wet or dry dirt and sand. For those who especially enjoy cooking food they could be prompted with mud-kitchen-process-stones and mud-kitchen-activity-cards, that support children with learning and testing theories, as well as developing foundational understanding of maths and literacy that could be added to a mud kitchen or tray, with wet or dry mud and materials such as the tuff-tray which can be used anywhere, on the ground or at children’s height with the legs added.

When setting up messy play spaces, watch and listen to what the children are wanting to learn and know about the materials.

Start with a small area of the garden or indoor area

Have access to old clothes or aprons that are (easy to get on and off)

Set up a bucket of clean water for clean up

Set out different types of materials that can be used for easy access

For children who are curious, but don’t like getting dirty, set up an experience in a see-through tray for clear-exploration or include things like a magnifying-glass or wheelbarrow to transport around the garden. Including items such as stainless-steel tools can encourage the children to develop practical skills, whilst developing their hand eye coordination, as well as problem solving skills. 


Develop your child’s interest in fossils and insect play too, by providing items like the dinosaur-footprints and adventures-outdoors-mud cards which invite children to compare and sort. This helps children build and strengthen their values and attitudes toward caring for nature, and develop life skills that can be carried through to adulthood.

Simple Mud Play ideas with found materials can include: 

Old pots, pans and spoons

Muffin tins or cups

Sticks,leaves and flowers

Toy cars and tipper-trucks

Sand toys including buckets, scoops, pvc pipes and rocks

Paint brushes

Wooden bowls, plates and cups home-corner-tableware 



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