How to make the most of mud play with your kids

This past school holiday Marcia Sissing (the creative mind behind the blog ‘Mini Matisse Diaries’) came to the realisation that her three daughters just don’t know how to be bored! For the most part of the holiday, they complained that they didn’t know what to do and asked their mom if she could help them, or if it was TV time yet. The moaning was endless, she said. Marcia shares her boredom-busting mud play tips…

I sat there thinking that I was never like this when I was a kid. I loved being outside; I actually even used to cry when my mom called me inside to come bath cause I wanted to stay out longer. We climbed trees, played with sticks and stones, and were covered in dirt and mud half the time. We used our imagination when we needed to make plans; we played and played hard. I can honestly say that the one thing I looked forward to the most was playtime. I didn’t want my mom’s company – I wanted to be out with my friends playing.

So, on one warm, sunny day after I had heard the 50th “I am bored mom!” I lost it and started lecturing the girls. At one point I actually said the words “When I was younger…”

When my mom said this to me when I was growing up, I rolled my eyes and thought “yah, whatever mom” but there I was using the exact same words! I told them how ungrateful they were and how disappointed I was that in a room full of toys they couldn’t make a plan and just play! I regaled them with tales of my childhood and all the adventures I went on and all the magic my friends and I created with the bare minimum such as using mango pips as dolls, making balls from plastic bags, French skipping, hopscotch, dodge ball although we called it “piggy in the middle”.

“Eventually they got into the swing of things and started to enjoy playing with mud, and mud cakes became a thing to do every other day.”

One of our favourite games was one we called Ciato – the English name would be Jacks. A circle is drawn around a set number of stones, and while throwing another slightly larger stone in the air you try to remove some of the smaller rocks from the circle using a sweeping motion with your hands. Then you throw the larger rock again and use the same sweeping hand motion to return the rocks back into the circle, leaving one out. The game continues as you move up different levels.

Even just plain old mud was glorious for us. We pretended to cook with it and got covered in it while we played. Actually, if I think about it, it was our version of my kids’ play-dough today as we moulded things using mud. Basically, the garden was our oyster box and we relished every minute we played in it.

Their six eyes just stared up at me in disbelief as I told my tales, so I decided to show them exactly how fun it was back in the day. As I looked around my garden for inspiration, I realised that we had plenty of soil and so, without hesitation, I decided to introduce my kids to the “Art of Play”.

Three children playing with mud and chalk
Mud, glorious mud! Image: Supplied

I can tell you that it didn’t go as smoothly as intended. Firstly, one of the kids didn’t want to get messy and we had to wash hands every two minutes. The next one just wanted mainly water and no soil, while the other just wanted soil with hardly any water and it had to be kept in a closed container! Could they have made mud play any more complicated? Eventually, they got into the swing of things and started to enjoy playing with mud, and mud cakes became a thing to do every other day. But our 21st-century kids can only stay fascinated for so long, so I knew I had to up my game to keep the love for mud going. After much Pinterest surfing, I found a recipe for marvellous mud.

I’ll share it with you because, like me, you may be close to the edge or rather close to pouring a glass of gin to drown the umpteenth “I am so bored, mom” ringing in your ears. It’s actually so simple and the effects led to great screams of joy and laughter by my girls. In fact, my youngest daughter was convinced her mud pie was volcano porridge.

Three stages to make a mud pie volcano
Add bicarbonate of soda and then vinegar for a muddy volcanic explosion. Images: Supplied

By adding some bicarbonate of soda into the mud mixture and then pouring vinegar onto it you get some exploding mud! And to up it another notch, we added colour to the mud by sprinkling coloured chalk that we had pounded, so we ended up with colourful, exploding mud – and hours of entertainment for the girls who gained a deeper love and appreciation of mud.

The leader Rasool Allah said it so perfectly: “Children are content with the least of things. Gold and mud are the same in their eyes.”  So, if you need help getting them to love mud again, here is the recipe for the next generation of mud play!

To make marvellous mud you will need:

  • Dirt/soil
  • Water
  • Mixing container
  • Mixing spoon
  • Bicarbonate of soda
  • Pounded chalk/powder paint
  • Vinegar

How to make marvellous magic mud:

  • Mix dirt/soil and water to form a porridge-like consistency.
  • Add bicarbonate of soda into the mud porridge mixture. If it starts to get too thick, add a little water to thin the mixture.
  • There isn’t an exact amount of bicarbonate to add, but the more bicarbonate you add the fizzier the eruption will be. A rough estimate would be about equal amounts of dirt/soil and bicarbonate of soda.
  • Sprinkle the chalk powder or tempera paint on top of the mud. If they want to mix in the colours let them. It’s all part of the exploration process.
  • Then give them a cup of vinegar to pour into the mixture, and watch the eruption take place.
  • If they want to do it again and make another eruption, then just add more bicarbonate of soda into the mixture and pour vinegar again.

Have fun! The results are stunning and perfectly imperfect.

Written by Marcia Sissing. For more perfectly imperfect ideas from Mini Matisse Diaries, visit: