two kids playing with mud outside


12 Ways to Play With a Bag of Dirt

Jun 12, 2018

Remember when we used to go outside and play in the dirt all day? Well, maybe not all day, but for large, messy parts of it. Not only is playing in the dirt a simple way for kids to get outside, communing with nature, but studies have shown that outdoor activities can improve a child’s mood and benefit the immune system. I’m personally a fan of less screen time and making outdoor play a priority. I guarantee you won’t be hearing that grating “I’m borrrred” when you toss your kids outside to play with a few easy steps and materials you probably already have around the house. In this case, the main ingredient is good old-fashioned dirt. 

Treasure Hunt Playdate

The goal: to dig in the dirt, sand and muck to find as many treasures as possible to use in other activities! Encourage kids to think outside the box — print off our spring or summer scavenger hunt lists and give them a trowel for digging.

Let them know they’ll be using their finds for 3D nature art, sensory play and to make terrariums.

Play Dough and Dirt

Sounds simple enough because it is! You probably have some play dough at home and if you’re looking at this list as a planner, you may want to pop over to the dollar store to pick up a few cheap materials to round out each activity if you’re missing some items. Of course, you don’t need to let them bring in their “dirt playdough” after making it, because half the fun is in mixing it! You could also make this simple three-ingredient cloud dough to mix with soil. Leave it it in a tupperware container and encourage the little ones to make sculptures out of their mounds, adding in some of their treasure hunt finds as they wish. You can make this as structured or unstructured as you want!

Dig for Worms

Quite literally this simple. The amazement and grins that you'll see while your kids dig and discover squiggly worms is so worth it. My daughter kept a “pet” worm last year, and made them their own little habitat with some grass and soil.

Dino World

We have quite the collection of dinos at our house and I’m sure you have your own similar collection at home. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a dino world — any collection of animals will do. Once they've picked their furry friends, have them create a landscape in dirt similar to their animals' natural habitat. Again, this is where they can use items from their treasure hunt to build up the “environment” and they’ll likely want to go off and gather some more.

Mud Pie Sculptures

If you’ve embraced the idea of letting your kids get dirty, this one needs no explanation. The key is not adding too much water.

You want a nice sculpting consistency that they can build up, shape and carve out with sticks and smooth over with stone. If they use too much water — let's face it, it's more fun — don't worry. Just add more dirt.



You can use mason jars, or something larger if you’re keen to try this one. Add clippings from plants outside to plant in the soil, with little rocks and other treasures. You may want to construct this over time, adding in little beach finds and layering with sand and dirt. You could also plant real plants, like small succulents or miniature ferns.

Mud Bath

This brings the idea of getting dirty to a new level. If you have a plastic kiddie pool and some soil and a hose, you’re set. You might be thinking to skip this one, but just remember those rare times you played — really played — in the mud, completely care-free, covered in muck and vibrating with joy. Who says mud baths are only for the bougie?

Dirt Science

Try some of these great activities: 

  • Weed/prep the garden

Article Author Selena Mills
Selena Mills

Read more from Selena here

A multidisciplinary creative professional and artisan, Selena has over 10 years of experience writing and editing for acclaimed publications, B2B content creation, social management, brand building, design and VA services. Passionate about elevating Indigenous and FNMI stories, perspectives and voices in digital media, she strives to build bridges renegade style. When the chaos permits, Selena is an avid four-seasons permaculture gardener and a hobby “chef” who looks for other parents to revel (and or kvetch) in motherhood with. Clearly, she doesn’t like rules, most visionaries don’t.

Add New Comment

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Submission Policy

Note: The CBC does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that CBC has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Please note that comments are moderated and published according to our submission guidelines.