Let Them Grow: Learning Activities for Mud Season
Mud Season Activities
Mud Season is the time between winter and spring. It is when the snow disappears and the grass has yet to grow. It’s when mud is the primary ground cover. It is still often too cold to take your toddler out for long periods of time, but it is warm enough to get out there for a short spell and get dirty. It is in between snow boots and galoshes; ice and mud puddles. It is the time of year that we start to think about spring but it isn’t spring enough to be able to act like spring yet… or is it? Here are several learning activities you can take advantage of during mud season with your young children that have hints of spring and loads of fun:
Maple Sugaring: This is always at the top of my list. I love maple sugar season. I love the process and children do as well. If you can’t tap a tree in your yard or neighborhood, visit some of the local sugar shacks and talk about what these amazing trees can do. Most local sugar shack will be happy to give you and your little ones the low down on the process. This is an educational and fun activity for the entire family.
Planting Onions: I love to talk about where food comes from with children. How the farmer plays a role. How we can all be farmers too. Onions are one of the first crops to start and they sprout quickly, so it’s easy for toddlers to get the instant gratification of seeing them grow. Along with planting onions, onion prints are a fun way to pass an afternoon. Use older onions that are not too potent. Cut them in half and use a stamp pad (or a sponge lightly soaked in paint) to create amazing prints. You can turn the prints into to cards, gift-wrapping or just amazing little graphics.
Seed Eggs: This is a very fun and tactile activity for even your youngest toddlers. Tear up a bit of toilet paper and with some water turn it to mush. Allow your child to have a fun sensory experience with this. Add some of your favorite seed to the mush (flowers work best). Help show your child how to make a ball by rolling it in their palm. After the balls are created. Allow them to dry in an egg carton. Follow the planting guide on the seed pack and then plant your seed eggs outdoors or in a pot. Watch them grow!
Clean Mud: Another fun toilet paper activity is clean mud. This stuff lasts forever and is a sensory fantasy. Using a bar of Ivory soap, a roll of toilet paper, water and a drop or two of dye, you can create your own clean mud. Microwave the Ivory soap until it expands into a giant ball in the microwave. Allow it to cool slightly (it will be extremely hot) and add it to a bowl of pre-shredded toilet paper. Shredding and ripping the paper is fun for any age. Once you add the soap, also add enough water to make it pliable (approx. 1 cup per roll). If you’d like to dye your clean mud, add the dye to the water before combining with the paper and soap. Use the clean mud as you would any other play dough. Squish it, roll it, mold with it and enjoy!
Bird Feeders: This is a great time of the year to think about the birds that have migrated. Talk about what “migrate” means with your child. Explain that it is often too cold for some birds and they need a “vacation” to warmer climates. They will come back in the spring, when it warms up; hence migrating. Children even at a very young age can understand these concepts that will help them become better tuned with the greater world around them. I love bird watching. In the Pioneer Valley we have some really eclectic and beautiful birds. Our favorites are the Woodpeckers. You can make a really easy and fun woodpecker feeder with your toddler that is guaranteed to bring the Harrys, Downey’s and the Red Bellied Woodpeckers to your yard:
Using a small log or a piece of a two by four board, drill ¾” to 1” diameter holes. Fill the drill holes with suet. You can either buy suet or make some by combining birdseed and rendered animal fat. The suet should be stuffed in each hole tightly. Woodpeckers will go gaga for this. If this is too advanced for you or you don’t have the tools to create a woodpecker feeder, simply roll a pinecone in peanut butter and then roll it in a tray of seeds. This too is a surefire way to attract birds to your yard. Hang with an eyehook attached to string, somewhere in eyesight (but perhaps not too close to the house so the birds feel secure). Watch and enjoy.
Mud season means mud! Utilize this as a learning experience. Hike to look for animal tracks down by the river. Talk about how fossils are made. You can visit the Beneski Museum of Natural History at Amherst College (it’s free) and explore the dinosaur tracks that were created millions of years ago in the mud. You can also paint with brown paint and call it mud painting. Create your own fossils in this “mud” by using found objects (leaves, shells) to stamp, or use trucks and toy farm animals to create tracks on the paper. You can always play mud the old fashion way and go outside and get muddy!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Candice Chouinard has worked with youth of all ages and backgrounds, creating and implementing programing for children. She revels in hand-on, long-term, messy projects that are both fun and educational. Candice comes from a background in creative writing, as well as, child development and psychology. She owns and operates a day care in Northampton, MA.