Featured in Let's Take It Outside! by Kathy Charner, Mary B. Rein, and Brittany Roberts, this Mud Dough Letters activity for children ages 3 to 6 connects alphabet learning with hands-on experiences in the outdoors to engage children's excitement about literacy. In this activity children will learn to follow directions, form three-dimensional letters and identify them by sight, and use uppercase and lowercase letters when they are ready. Children are able to do all of this while enjoying the many benefits of being outside!
Mud Dough Letters
- bucket or tub
- dry sand or gravel for sprinkling
- flat piece of wood, cardboard, or a big baking sheet
- 2 cups of mud
- 2 cups of sand
- 1/2 cup of salt
- enough water to make the dough pliable
- natural materials, such as pinecones, crushed dry leaves, small twigs, and so on
- plastic cups and containers
- play clothes
- scrub brush
- The children should wear comfortable, washable play clothes.
- Have a hose or bucket of fresh water handy for rinsing hands and an old towel for drying. Thorough washing can take place at a sink with soap and warm water at the end of the activity.
What to Do
- Choose a place to create, such as the sidewalk or grass.
- Let the children help mix the mud dough by hand. The dough should be pliable.
- Encourage the children to explore the dough in any way, eventually rolling “snakes.”
- Ask them to make any letters they know with the snakes, perhaps letters from their own names.
- Make a letter, and ask the children what letter it is. They can imitate making the same letter.
- Look around—if you made an S, do you see the sun or a stick? Talk about letters and words. Continue, enjoying making letters and talking about their sounds and shapes.
- When nearing completion, encourage each child to make a mud dough letter that can be decorated with sand, gravel, crushed leaves, and other outdoor collage finds.
- Place the letters on a baking sheet or a piece of cardboard or wood to dry. You may wish to etch each child’s name onto the bottom or side of her letter with a toothpick.
- When done, use a hose, bucket, scrub brush, or whatever is necessary to clean the mud dough area, especially if it was on a sidewalk or playground area. Grass may just be rinsed.
- Dry the letters overnight.