Mud is malleable, sticky, versatile and easily available- all the makings for a perfect art material for kids! In this activity, kids explore the many possibilities for mud play by transforming dirt and water into paint. And once made, the creative uses for mud paint are endless!
Set Up: Gather some old fabric or paper, some paintbrushes, a stick for stirring, some containers and water. Then, head outside and set up your materials in an area with a patch of dirt.
Invite Play: Wonder aloud, “Do you think we could make our own nature paint today?” Crouch down somewhere with open earth. “Do you think we could make paint out of the dirt? This dirt feels a bit dry. How do you think we could make the dirt feel and act like paint?”
Make Mud Paint: Set out some water, containers and stirring stick. Then, watch to see how your child chooses to use the materials. Invite your child to experiment with the dirt and water to change the consistency of the mud paint. Notice together what shades of brown you see. Explore different patches of dirt to see if you can find different shades of brown. To make colorful mud, add a couple of drops of food coloring to your mud containers or invite your child to crush up some colorful chalk to add to their paint. Or, offer some colorful spices like turmeric and paprika or soft berries to mix in and add color.
Make Mud Art: Offer paper or a piece of old fabric and a paintbrush and wonder what the mud paint would look like on a canvas. Welcome your child to explore and create with their mud paint in any way they imagine. Or, try some of these fun ways to make art with mud:
Mud prints: Model putting your hands or feet in mud and then pressing them on rocks, the sidewalk, cardboard or paper. Notice aloud the mark that your hands and feet left behind and welcome your child to try it out. Invite your child to move like different animals or insects. What kind of hand and foot prints are made by moving that way?
Mud collage: Mud can be a great adhesive! Use mud to paint a base design on a flat surface outdoors or on a piece of paper, and then collect some nature treasures to stick into the painting to make it three-dimensional.
Mud stamps: Dip leaves and other objects into mud and stamp them on pavement to make different shapes.
Mud mosaics: Plop a bunch of mud on the ground or on a plate. Then, start to arrange small nature treasures like pebbles or acorns in a design (e.g. a spiral). Welcome kids to finish yours or make their own mosaic.
Creating art with mud is a terrific way to simultaneously engage the senses and kids’ creativity. And, when kids are invited to create using only the objects they can find around them, they are developing flexible thinking and problem-solving skills. Using objects from nature in their art also supports observation skills and helps kids tune in to the colors and textures of nature.
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By creativity, we mean the ability to both imagine original ideas or solutions to problems and actually do what needs to be done to make them happen. So, to help kids develop creativity, we parents need to nurture kids' imaginations and give them lots of chances to design, test, redesign and implement their ideas.
"Creativity is as important now in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.”
Why, you ask? For one, it is through being creative that a person is able to get senses, sensibility and spirit working together. Simply put, without creativity, we don't think our kids will live a full life.
On a more practical level, it's also the means by which humans of all ages make an impact on the world and other people around them. A lot of heavy stuff is going to go down in our kids' lifetime, and their generation will need to imagine and implement solutions to big and very complicated problems. Although our kids are still far from public office or the boardroom, today's political and business leaders worldwide are already pointing to creativity as the most important leadership quality for the future.
Although years from the art studio or design lab, little kids can learn to think and act creatively if you give them time and the right practice.
What is Sensory Development?
Although some scientists classify as many as 20 senses, when childhood educators talk about "developing the senses," we typically mean developing the five standard senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. In addition to honing these senses, educators care about sensory integration, which is the ability to take in, sort out, process and make use of information gathered from the world around us via the senses.
Why does it matter?
The better kids are able to tune and integrate their senses, the more they can learn. First, if their senses are sharper, the information kids can gather should be of greater quantity and quality, making their understanding of the world more sophisticated. Further, until the lower levels of the brain can efficiently and accurately sort out information gathered through the senses, the higher levels cannot begin to develop thinking and organization skills kids need to succeed. Senses also have a powerful connection to memory. Children (and adults) often retain new learning when the senses are an active part of the learning.
So, if kids have more sensory experiences, they will learn more, retain better and be better able to think at a higher level. Makes the days they get all wet and dirty in the sandbox seem better, doesn't it?