Top tips for mud play

Jo Baranek, Early Years Consultant


Mud, mud, glorious mud… Children love mud, but why? Early Years Consultant Jo Baranek explores.The Ark Nursery - mud kitchen

So why do children love mud? Well, mud can be anything they want it to be. There is no fixed agenda for this resource and children can use it in a variety of ways. 

One of the most popular uses for mud in the early years (apart from planting seeds in it!) is the mud kitchen. 

Mud Kitchens allow children to combine the safe place of the home corner with the beauty of the outdoors and the great resource of the mud! 

Creating your mud kitchen

Mud kitchens do not need to be all singing, all dancing expensive resources  - a simple structure using crates and planks will work just as well as long as you have a range of resources to engage children’s imagination.

Little Miss Early Years - child playing in mudHere's a “shopping list” for your mud area, but this is not to go out and buy, this is to ask your parents for. Of course, if you struggle then try your local charity shops and car boot sales. This list is not exhaustive and you should add anything that will provide children with provocation for play:
  • Pots and pans
  • Kitchen scales
  • Utensils such as spoons, ladles, potato mashers, spatula, forks
  • Teapots, tea strainers and teacups
  • Jugs, funnels, sieves, turkey basters
  • Kettle, microwave, grill trays
  • Plates, bowls, beakers, mugs, egg cups.


The Hollies Day Nursery - Mud Kitchen

Adding other materials to the mud area will provide children with “ingredients” for their creations:

  • Flowers
  • Conkers and acorns
  • Gravel and sand
  • Herbs and spices
  • Powder paint
  • Washing up liquid
  • Flour
  • Anything else that the children feel they would like to introduce. 

Mud activity ideas

Girl playing with mudOf course, there are many other ideas for mud play!

Mud art

Adding paint to the mud and mixing them together provides you with a new art opportunity. Why not get an old sheet and string it up outside for the children to paint on? You don’t have to use brushes either, all the utensils from the mud area will act as great painting tools - or why not just use your hands? 

Mud sculpture

Mud sculpture is another great use of the sludgy stuff! Children have to use a lot of problem solving skills to get the right consistency for sculpting the mud and adding in different materials to make the sculptures stand upright, and of course there are the sensory benefits of playing with squidgy mud too! 

Boy covered in mudKeeping clean!

We all know some parents who will not want their children to get muddy and will not understand the benefits of the different types of mud play. But as early years teachers it is important for us to take our time to explain these benefits. We can also provide coveralls for the children so they do not get their clothes dirty, and this will also give them the emotional freedom to get dirty as they will not be worried about their attire.

Some of the happiest children I have seen have been those knee-deep in muddy puddles splashing for all their worth… we cannot deprive them of this essential part of their childhood. We need to be embracing this and enhancing learning opportunities. In short, let’s get muddy!!!

NDNA resources:

Take a look at our other mud-play resources: