What if trees had faces? Help your kids unpack that question while they make a mud pie by forming a fistful of mud into a patty and plopping it onto the bark of a tree. Then, help them use bright flowers, nuts and berries, sticks and twigs, fuzzy bits of moss and other natural treasures to turn a mud patty into a fully featured face. Simple and rough as the final works may be, they are beautiful every time. These faces can be self portraits or representations of the important people, characters or animals in kids’ lives. To really engage their imaginations, get them to dream up a personality for the tree itself and create a face that matches.
Just be sure to have plenty of mud on hand--one mud face always seems to lead to another.
So often “crafty” activities give kids the materials and the step-by-step instructions they need to make the final design look just like it is “supposed to look.” This activity, on the other hand, offers only a goal (i.e. make a face) and a few constraints (i.e. use mud and nature to make it happen). The materials are natural, irregular, and entirely up to kids to gather—kids today rarely enjoy that kind of choice and entertain those kinds of possibilities, and yet this is just the kind of experience that develops true creativity.
Kids will likely cope with challenge in the process of making a mud face making this a great way to develop persistence and grit. If pushed too far, mud faces fall. Some noses are just too heavy. Sometimes the result just doesn't look like kids imagined. No matter the struggle, mud is wonderfully forgiving. If kids don’t like how their face is coming along, they can just reshape the mud and start fresh. If it falls, they pack it back up, plop it back on and keep going.
For many kids, the chance to get muddy is a thrill, while for others it is a true sensory challenge. No matter which, playing with ooey gooey mud helps children to strengthen their sense of touch. Plus, research indicates that playing in the dirt can help build kids’ immune systems.