Case study: celebrating Mud Day at a woodland playgroup in Staffordshire

August 11, 2017

A woodland play setting, with an established mud kitchen, finds other ways to celebrate & suggests some things to think about.

a group of mums & children in the woods, with a mud-painted sheet

Age Range: all ages

Duration: all day

Location: anywhere

Time Of Day: any time

Season: any

Tags: case study, early years, language, mark-making, motor skills, mud, Mud Day, numeracy, woods

Category: outdoor play

Celebrating Mud Day at Tree Tots Woodland Playgroup in Staffordshire

Age of children: 6 months-4 years

Photos and text copyright Caroline Allen APIOL, BSc (Hons) Director, Forest Schools
practitioner & trainer – Earth Life Company 01543 432038 / 07530 104806
Facebook page: (no longer trading)

Our Mud Day event took place at Tree Tots Woodland Playgroup, in Staffordshire. We run two sessions a week in the woods, as a stay and play session with parents. Our children range from about 6 months to 4 year olds.

The mud kitchen is always in place, so we wanted to do something a bit different for Mud Day. Instead I got a big white sheet and gave the kids free run to mark-make, and place and arrange their muddy potions on the fabric. It was a great success – alongside the cooking and baking of mud pies, soup, dumplings and other delicacies, we experimented with consistency, texture and moisture.

a woman and 2 kids using their hands to paint mud onto a sheet

The number of early years skills practised on the day included gross motor of running through a mud pit and leaving wellie marks, hand prints, through to fine motor painting, pouring and manipulation. Creativity was rife, with loads of imaginative play and role play. Even language and numeracy got covered, through talking about the different senses of mud play, drawing shapes and counting how many hand prints there were, how many children – had everyone done one each?

We also built dams in guttering and experimented with how much water it took to wash them away.

a child in the woods, with a red tub full of mud, painting a tree trunk


I am confident that the site is not contaminated with fragments of glass or other waste – this is an obvious hazard to take into account. Soil can be sieved beforehand, or compost used, if in any doubt.

I had already warned parents that we would be celebrating Mud Day so to dress their children accordingly; clothing and the feeling of needing to stay clean can be a huge limitation so get a few warm-up ideas planned to ease children into the zone.

Have spares of everything ready (from home) and buckets/flasks of warm water and soap on hand to rinse off with before sitting in cars or going back into school. Why not have equipment ready for a water fight afterwards? – Rinses children and playground in one.

a toddler feeling mud, held in a grown ups hand