Forest Tots Online Week 3 – Mud Play with Tots


Messing about in mud is one of my favourite things to do. Plus, it is good for you. Did you know that there are more microorganisms in one teaspoon of soil than there are humans on the planet? Well. It’s true. And scientists think that some of those microorganisms may help to activate neurons in the brain that help to regulate our mood and keep us feeling good. So, let’s get outside with the tots and get mucky with this fun activity.

Mud volcano

This is best done in the garden but is possible to do indoors somewhere the mess can be easily cleaned up like the kitchen. This activity is guaranteed to delight your tot so is worth the effort!

You will need: Large plant pot or bucket full of mud, trowel, vinegar, baking soda or bicarbonate of soda, teaspoon, and a plastic bottle. Optional: red food dye.

  1. With their trowel ask your tot to dig a deep hole in the centre of the mud. The hole needs to be deep enough to submerge two thirds of the plastic bottle.
  2. Carefully pour the vinegar into the bottle until it is around two thirds full then replace the cap. If you have any, you could add some red food dye to the vinegar here.
  3. Tell your tot that they need to build a mud mountain around the bottle. Make sure they leave the bottle cap poking out of the top a little. If the mud is dry, dampen it up to help the build.

Fill the bottle with vinegar, add the red food colouring and bury it. Decorate your mountainside and then quickly add the baking soda

  1. Once this is done your tot may want to decorate the landscape. Search for items that may resemble trees, homes or even miniature animals or people.
  2. Unscrew the bottle lid and ask your tot to drop two or three heaped teaspoons of baking soda into the bottle as fast as they can.
  3. Watch the mud volcano erupt and enjoy the show!

When I did this with my son, we also made a mud volcano with a larger opening on a flatter hill to compare which gave the best eruption. We used a jam jar rather than a plastic bottle but you could use anything with a similar shape (see photos).

Your tot may want to know that the earth’s crust is made up of plates, which fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. Volcanoes are made when the plates move and the magma (molten rock) from underneath the crust works its way to the surface. Pressure can build up when the plates and magma move. An eruption happens when the magma finally escapes from the volcano to form lava flows and ash clouds.

It may help your tot to understand this by using role play. When I have done this previously with Wilbur, it led to talking about anger explosions. Tots can often feel angry as they have limited understanding and ways communicate. Using play to talk about big issues like how to express our emotions can be so effective. Your tot may enjoy learning that anger is normal and that it can sometimes feel so overwhelming that we explode like a volcano. Reaching out to your child when you are both calm can be a perfect opportunity to talk about strategies to safely express anger.

If you have access to a garden, this activity could be extended to any form of mud play. If you have any old pots, pans or kitchen utensils you could pop them in a muddy part of the garden and ask them to make you a delicious meal. When they are digging, they may come across animals like worms, snails or beetles. Support this curiosity by showing interest in what they find. This kind of open-ended imaginative play can engage tots for ages, and even buy you some time for that cuppa that keeps going cold!

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