Marvelous Mud

[ 2 ] June 14, 2011 |

By Carly Baumann, Education Programs Coordinator, Providence Children’s Museum

A favorite childhood summer activity, my sisters and I used to spend hot days filling a little green plastic pool from the backyard hose to keep cool.  But so much of the fun was what was happening outside the pool; we loved to splash the water straight to the ground, making muddy puddles.  I remember how sun-warmed and sensational the mud felt on my bare feet, creating suction as I pulled them up and down.  A Children’s Museum colleague shared an accidental mud discovery she made with a group of preschool children.  Playing with a homemade slip-and-slide on a hill, children were just as drawn to the mud they made in the process, noticing the fascinating downhill rivulets being formed as the water and soil met, the kids changing the directions of the paths.

Despite its sometimes dirty reputation, mud stands strong with sand and water as an excellent open-ended play element for children to explore, allowing them to shape their environment while engaging their senses.  Dirt and water can come together in endless combinations for mixing and molding, giving kids permission to dig in, experiment and make mistakes because of the endless supply.  At the Museum, we’ve celebrated mucking around with mud using lots of topsoil, water and inspiring materials.  Children used old kitchen pans and utensils to roll and form mud pies, each one uniquely constructed and adorned with toppings like gravel, dry beans and sprinkles of sand — some artfully arranged, others piled just for the experience of it.  While most kids darted straight to the mud pit and other activities, not everyone was without hesitation.  We loved how one mom pushed through her doubts, shook her head with a smile and said, “Why not go for it?”

When we asked Museum visitors to respond to the question, “What ways do you play with dirt and mud?,” they shared ideas from “make a restaurant that serves mud” to forming mud balls and muddy face paint.  Mud play can be a messy, full-body outdoor experience but it’s also an art medium to explore indoors.  We mix mud and sand for a gritty, spreadable texture, perfect for painting and stamping on paper with brushes with natural materials.  Connecting with dirt and mud — basic elements of the earth — in different ways is wondrous, creative and just plain natural!

Dig in for some messy hands-on fun at Providence Children’s Museum during Mud Play programs on June 22, 25 and 26.  Also take home inspiration for outdoor play with the “Play in the Dirt!” kit in the Museum Gift Shop, packed with hands-on activities compiled by the Museum’s play specialists.  And check the Museum’s website for more great opportunities to get down and dirty AND enjoy good clean fun!

Category: play, Providence Children's Museum

Children's Museum

about the author ()

The mission of Providence Children's Museum is to inspire and celebrate learning through active play and exploration. The Museum creates and presents interactive play and learning environments and hands-on programs for children ages 1 - 11 and their families. Located in Providence's Jewelry District. Museum educators and other staff contribute monthly articles about topics related to children's play and learning. Articles advocate for the importance of play to children's healthy development and are full of great ideas and resources, activities to try at home, and much more. For additional ideas and resources, visit the Museum's website and blog. Also join the conversation about the need for play on the Museum-hosted PlayWatch listserv (

Comments (2)

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  1. bhardt says:

    My daughter started painting with mud on the neighbor’s garage. Its fun and easy to hose off!

  2. Janice says:

    This just in: June 29th is International Mud Day! Stories, resources and puddle-licious photos here:

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