A few weeks ago, I wrote about the new study that confirmed what most green parents already know: Kids need dirt to be healthy. For most kids, all they need is a nod of the head and they will dive neck-deep into the dirt. But others may need some ideas to get acquainted with the mud.

Here are some fun — and messy — ideas from the National Wildlife Federation that will let your kids have some good, clean, dirty fun outdoors:

Be an artist

  • Give your child a stick and a muddy surface to draw on. Mistakes are no problem. Just smooth them over and start again.
  • Mud balls can become out-of-season snowmen or abstract sculptures. If your child’s creation isn’t sticking together, just add more water.

Be a builder

  • Children can make buildings of all shapes and sizes if they use sticks to create a frame and pack mud on to it. Houses or forts perhaps, a castle with a moat, or a stable to put toy horses in.
  • If they also like the idea of large-scale public works, have them make a river by digging a trench in the mud or dirt. Then, add water as needed and a dam.

Be a biologist

  • When it rains, take a walk through your neighborhood to see which animals go under cover and which come out in wet weather. Kids may also see birds swooping down to take a bath in nearby puddles.
  • This is also a fine time to study worms that surface to breathe when their burrows fill with water. Then, enlist the kids in a Worm Rescue Squad and move any worms they find on the sidewalk back to the dirt so they don’t dry out.

Be a chef

  • If you’re going to play in the mud, why not make some mud pies? If you have some old cake or pie tins, great. Otherwise, shallow plastic containers work just fine. Once the pies are “baked,” it’s time to make them beautiful. Encourage your children to scour the yard for pebbles, petals, and leaves that will make perfect decorations on top.
  • Collect dirt, grass, leaves, twigs and acorns in a large container for a bountiful nature salad. Add some water, and it’s mud stew.

With the benefits to immune systems, hearts and skin, as well as kids’ emotional well-being and learning skills, doctors may well soon prescribe Make two mud pies and you won’t need to call me in the morning.”

Have fun in the mud!

How to help kids get dirty
Messy and marvelous ways to help your kids get down and dirty in the mud.