Playing in dirt is not high up on the list of things you thought you’d have to do as a parent. But, here are some new ideas to get your kid outside and in the muck.
- The Secret Garden. Just like the book, give your child their own space to garden. Let them dig up soil, pot plants, water flowers, or pull weeds. You can also have your child plant seeds in a cardboard egg carton or a plastic 2-liter bottle cut in half. If you have space outside, try a square-foot garden to mix up the types of plants.
- Start a science experiment. Get different types of recyclable containers, soil, and seeds to see how each can grow. What plants grow better in the sun/shade? What plants can grow in soil, or clay, or sand? You can also use seeds/starters from your kitchen scraps, like green onion bulbs, the root ball from celery or lettuce, seeds from peppers or watermelon, avocado pits, onions, etc.
- Build a terrarium. Take the dirt inside and let your child get creative. Use a shallow plastic bin or an empty fish tank as a container. You can bring in other outside elements like rocks, mulch, moss, and sticks. Toy dinosaurs, animals, or fairy garden figurines will help create interesting scenes. They can change these scenes daily.
- Make some mud. Have dirt? Got water? Let your child mix the two together and let the messy creativity begin!
- Put on some rubber boots and jump in mud puddles
- Play in mud with toy figurines and cars
- Explore mud properties and what’s in it with magnifying glasses, water, and tweezers
- Make mud pies
- Build a mud castle or tower
- Paint with mud
- Play Mud soccer or Mud dodgeball
- Make mud bricks by adding sand to the mixture and putting them in molds, allowing them to dry for 3-4 days
- Make a mud run filled with obstacles
*Make sure that you’re using clean, fresh soil, and potable water. Do not use stagnant or standing water.
- Search for earthworms. Worms aerate the soil to allow air, water, and nutrients into the ground. Have your child dig in the ground and find them (they are easier to find after it rains). If they are feeling brave, let them hold a worm in their hand or gently pick it up. This not only provides a sensory experience, but also an understanding to respect these animals. The worms can join your new garden after you dig them up.
*Research has noted that exposing your child to different insects and animals at a young age can reduce their fears of these creatures as they get older.
- Clean those dirty toys or tools. After all of this mud and gardening fun, get the hose out and have your child help wash and rinse the shovels, rakes, and pails. They can also have a quick hose down before going back inside.
- Do some yardwork. Okay, so it’s not fully immersing your child in dirt, but it at least gets them involved with nature.