This activity will always remain one of my favorites! I am lucky that I get to have so much fun at my job as a teacher. With summer around the corner, I was looking for some fun summer activities that I could do with my kids at home and my students at school.
As a kid I remember playing outside with sand and dirt and adding water to it to create mud pies. I loved the feel of the mud and all of the creative things that we could make.
With school ending in a few weeks, I wanted children to explore some of classic childhood summer activities and sensory play. So we rolled up our sleeves and got a bit messy.
Who doesn’t love making mud pies? This activity is a twist on this classic summer activity, and instead of mud pies, we created mud meatballs.
I wondered if all of the children would want to get a bit muddy. As always children have a choice if they are comfortable and want to get muddy, but all of them participated.
Some kids had never played with mud before. So it made my day that all of the children that I did this sensory play with took part. That’s over 100 3-6 year olds.
There is no way around getting a bit muddy, but we set some rules that only hands were to get muddy. We were successful that everyone went back into the school mud free.
For more ideas to try this summer check out a list of Free Summer Activities for Kids. You can even print and post the list to give you, and your kids, ideas all summer long.
Once you’ve tried some of hands-on sensory play this summer, head inside for some quiet, but engaging fun with a collection of Word Search Summer Printables.
You don’t need anything special for this activity, and I encourage you to use what you have on hand.
- Dirt (Make sure that no chemicals etc. have been added)
- Empty Spice Shaker(s)
- Cookie Sheets
- Large Bowls
- Towels and Clean Up Supplies
Since I did this activity in a classroom setting, I wanted to make it a learning experience and integrate some language/reading into it.
To start this activity, we read the book, “On Top of Spaghetti”. It is a great book to introduce the activity. There is also a song, based on the book, that you can play for children to learn the story.
It’s a great song, and it got the children excited for our activity. The story also gives structure to the activity because children had a task to do and specific goal during their mud play.
After reading, we pretended to be chefs and we ventured outside to our mud pie kitchen.
With the song “On Top of Spaghetti” playing in the background as our inspiration, we began making our own meatballs… with dirt!
Before starting, make sure to clarify with children that the meatballs are only pretend and not okay to eat. I did not want anyone doing a taste test of the mud and our creations.
Mud Meatballs Summer Activity Set Up
I put a few cups of dirt into several large bowls. 2-3 children were grouped at each bowl. Children then broke down the dirt with their hands.
Next, I gave each group a large cup of water which they then added to their bowl. Children got their hands into the bowls and started mixing. They experimented by adding the water until they felt they had the right consistency for their “meatballs”.
They then mixed and squeezed and got their hands dirty!
Once the dirt was all mixed up, children then began to make their meatballs. They rolled the mud into balls of different sizes.
Once they had formed a meatball, or two, that they were happy with, they added ‘spices’.
I collected a few old spice containers that I emptied out and added a label “SPICES” onto the side. The ‘spice’ was really sand.
Children brought their meatballs to the area with the spice and added it on top of their meatballs. They shook the sand onto their mud balls. The sand worked really well because it shows up on top of the brown mud – just like spices/seasoning.
After their ‘meatball’ was made and the spices had been added, we put them all together to ‘cook’.
I had some old cookie sheets that I bought at a second hand shop. (Do not use cookie sheets that you will later use for food.) Children placed their meatballs onto the cookie sheets and we set them aside.
Do not cook the meatballs. We simply set the mud meatballs aside to dry in the sun.
Children were really proud of their cooking and they loved the opportunity to intentionally get messy at school.
After cooking, I had set up a large container with soapy water that students rinsed/washed their hands in. I was so proud because they all took their job as chef very seriously and I had hundreds of muddy hands, but no one covered in mud!
It was a wonderful activity that I just had to repeat at home with my own kids! The meatballs are a fun twist on regular mud pies and it helps to create a more structured environment for messy play. There are so many summer activities to do with kids and it’s okay to get messy!
Although sensory play and mud meatballs are messy, the benefits of the sensory activity are a meaningful learning experience for all children. The mud can be washed off, but the memories will stay.
You could create many other things out of mud. Children can become chefs by creating cakes and other things from mud. Try using cookie cutters or even wooden spoons and let children pretend and create.
Letting the meatballs dry in the sun is another interesting activity to include in this summer activity. Have children check the meatballs after a day in the sun. Do they feel different? Do they crumble? What happens if you get them wet again?
More Hands-On Teaching Ideas
If you are looking for more learning and summer activities that you can do at home, or school, below is a collection of my favorite and most popular activities. From outdoor learning activities and escape rooms to crafts and building challenges, there is lots to keep kids learning and having fun.