Nature Play,  Outdoor Play,  Sensory Play,  Tuff Tray Play

Stuck in the Mud Tuff Tray – How to embrace messy & muddy play

I’m going to be honest…

Messy play is hard for me!

I am way more relaxed than I used to be but it still takes some effort for me to set up an invitation to play that is messy…

I can’t be the only one, right?!

But I have a secret weapon! A way to embrace the messy play and also enjoy it!

It’s called, the great outdoors! Well actually it’s just my garden 😛

I have discovered that I am way more relaxed when we’re out in the garden – for years I only let my kids paint outside! (We do now paint inside too but honestly it took me a while!)

So I want to encourage you, if you are a mum who fears the mess (it can’t just be me!) Then start outside, make the most of the warmer weather, and let your little ones get messy – when you see how much fun it is and you can relax a little you’ll wonder why you held back!

These muddy play activities increase in mess as you go through them so you can ease yourself in!

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Muddy Play for Beginners : Digging for Worms

We have been experimenting with growing grass in a Tuff Tray (you can see our results here!) And so after we had done with all our small world play, we were left with a tray full of soil with bits of wilted grass in it – and so I decided to set up this first activity:

Super Worm Activity

What you'll need:

  • Tuff Tray (you could also do this on a smaller scale with a deep baking tray or similar)


  • Tape (I used green duct tape as it’s what we had in the house, but masking tape, or brown tape would work just as well)


  • Soil / Mud (The consistency is really up to you!)


  • Brown Pipe Cleaners (Or green if you wanted to do caterpillars!)


  • Tongs or tweezers (pegs would work too)

How to set up and play:

  • Fill your tuff tray with some damp soil and then you can begin setting up your muddy play worm activity!

  • Use the tape to create a grid across your tuff tray (depending on how much tape you have you could make the gaps either really small or quite large depending on the age of your child)

  • Create some worms to place into the soil underneath the tape grid (again depending on the age and ability of your child you may wish to hide them in the soil or have them more on show)

  • Collect the worms using the tongs, or for smaller children it may be easier to use their fingers – either way, this is a great activity for developing fine motor skills as they grasp the worms using the tongs or their fingers


This muddy play activity is a great beginner idea for messy play as it isn’t all that messy (we even did this one inside!)

This would also make a great activity to use along side the story of Super Worm!

Muddy Play Next Steps : The Mud kitchen

A few days later, once we’d finished digging for worms, we took the tuff tray outside and took the messy play up a notch with a mud kitchen activity:

tuff tray muddy play

What you'll need:

  • Tuff Tray – or any kind of tray or play space you have outside (this is definitely an outside activity!)

  • Saucepans – we used our IKEA kitchen play set which is just perfect for a mud kitchen – if you don’t fancy a trip to IKEA you can also buy them directly on Amazon here:

  • Utensils – We used our IKEA utensils and added some plastic spoons and a pizza cutting toy we had – you can use anything you already have in your kitchen really so long as it’s safe


  • Containers – we added some containers mainly to hold water such as jars and jugs – I also washed out an old coriander pot as the holes in the top made a great sprinkler

    These Tuff tray mud activities are perfect for some DIY mud sensory play for toddlers and preschoolers with a tuff tray mud kitchen, a stuck in the mud sensory tray and some super worm activities for developing fine motor skills. If you are a parent who struggles with messy play then this post will ease you in to muddy play with fun muddy tuff tray ideas for beginners! #mudplay #muddyplay #mudkitchen

  • Baking Trays – we used some mini baking trays to make cookies and spoon mixture onto – a normal tray would be fine too as it’s all about the imagination! My daughter decided to use the base of the tuff tray stand as an oven (check out how to make your own wooden tuff tray stand here!

    These Tuff tray mud activities are perfect for some DIY mud sensory play for toddlers and preschoolers with a tuff tray mud kitchen, a stuck in the mud sensory tray and some super worm activities for developing fine motor skills. If you are a parent who struggles with messy play then this post will ease you in to muddy play with fun muddy tuff tray ideas for beginners! #mudplay #muddyplay #mudkitchen

How to set up and play:

There really isn’t much to set up with a mud kitchen – it’s super simple and doesn’t require much thought at all – it can be put together very quickly!

Let your child get imaginative and get busy in the kitchen! We added some flower petals, leaves and twigs along the way and made all sorts of concoctions! The amount of water you add will determine how messy it all gets but just try and embrace the fun 🙂

For those who are wondering about the mess – after we’d finished, we just took everything off the tray and hosed everything down, it was super quick and easy to do!

Extreme Muddy Play : Mountains of Mud!

By the time we’d finished with our mud kitchen, it was pretty muddy, and we had a lot of water in it (It has also rained a bit!) So this next activity was REALLY messy but the results were great!

Muddy Play

What you'll need:

  • Tuff Tray – There are other places you could do this probably but the tuff tray worked perfectly for this activity

  • Large Bowl – I used a large mixing bowl but you anything that you can fill will work – maybe try a sandcastle bucket?!

  • Small branches with leaves – Our garden is surrounded by trees so we used a few branches lying around in the garden


  • Plastic container – we used a spreadable cheese container but anything small that floats will work


  • Play Figures – we used some Duplo figures as these are easy to wash and a plastic Elsa figure!

How to set up and play:

  • Pack your bowl with mud – this was so much fun! We just piled all of the mud into the bowl and squished it as hard as we could to make it stick together – every now and then I would pour the water out and we’d keep adding more mud!

  • Once your bowl is full (or you’ve used up all the mud!) turn the bowl upside down and much like you would with a sandcastle, pat the bowl to make sure no bits are stuck and lift off the bowl to reveal your muddy mountain!


  • Add some greenery – we used leaves and some branches but you can choose to decorate your little mountain with whatever you choose!


  • Make a boat using your plastic container – you don’t need to make anything elaborate, we didn’t add anything to ours but you could if you wanted to – if your little one loves pirates this would be a great pirate activity with a pirate flag on your boat!

  • Play! We had fun blowing our boat around on the water and watching the dog fall in the water – we rescued Elsa when she got stuck in the mud, and we washed them all off in the muddy water!!

This muddy play activity is pretty messy but when you’re outside it’s just a lot of fun! You could certainly add more to this and make a full on small world play area with different characters, or make more of an island feature!

Embracing Muddy Play Recap

So there you have it! Ease your way into some fun muddy play activities 1 step at a time!

  1. Dig for worms with a simple soil tray and some tape!

  2. Embrace the mud kitchen contained to a tuff tray

  3. Get really messy with our muddy mountain play!

I can’t wait to see what you get up to with your muddy play activities – if it’s your first time playing with mud then let me know I’d love to hear how it goes! Drop me a message here

Have an awesome time getting stuck in!

Louisa | Mum’s Creative Cupboard