Books · Messy play · Sensory Play

“Mud! Thick Oozy Mud”*

*We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, London, Walker, 1989.

This week we are focusing on bear stories in our play! We started with a trip to the library to see if we could find anything new; I was quite overwhelmed by how many bear stories there actually were, so we narrowed it down to “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” (which we already own) and a variety of “Goldilocks and the 3 Bears” stories (there are many variations on the original and the library had quite a selection; I couldn’t choose between them so we took them all).

We started by reading each of the books in turn, and then I asked them what they would like to play. Both A and E wanted to start with a “bear hunt”-themed activity, and all A really wanted to do after her first day back at preschool was get messy. So messy “bear hunt” play it was!

Rather than set up a whole bear hunt small world with everything included (we’ve done that before and the separate elements of the story just get lost very quickly with my two), I wanted to concentrate on just one of the environments at a time. Obviously they wanted to start with mud! As it hasn’t rained for a while there isn’t any proper squelchy mud around the park, and I didn’t really want to bring mud into the garden (we’ve done that before too, and then struggled to dispose of it in our paved “yard”), so we decided to make it instead! I also decided that gloop would make a perfect mud, and it did…

Gloop has the right consistency to make that thick oozy texture, and makes a wonderful squelch and squerch sound (in some ways, better than real actual mud). It is also very simple (and cheap) to make, requiring just cornflour and water (and something to make it mud-coloured in this case). I pondered over a few ingredients that would make it mud-coloured, including food colouring and paint, but in the end I thought coffee might give an interesting effect.

To make the gloop we took a standard roasting tin and added enough cornflour to cover the bottom of it. We then dissolved about half a cup of instant coffee granules in about two cups of water, and mixed this with the flour. (The exact quantities of flour and water don’t really matter as long as there is a lot more water than there is flour. If it is too dry it makes something quite different – fascinating, but different, see below). The nature of cornflour makes the whole thing difficult to stir, so I stirred it by myself to minimise the mess. This did take a bit of work!

Once it was finally ready I put the roasting tin into the tuff spot and A and E got stuck straight in. I gave them spoons to stir it with but they instantly requested extra stuff from the play kitchen for scooping and pouring, so I gave them a bowl each!

After a short while they became a bit more daring and tried putting their hands in. They were so excited by the texture. E squealed with delight every time he touched it. They quickly recognised it as “mud”, and made squelching and squerching sounds squeezing it in their hands. I was surprised at how much E enjoyed it; considering he hates being dirty I did not expect him to like this one bit, but he played for as long as A!

We talked for a while about the colour, the texture, the sounds and the smell (the coffee was strong and I found it quite unpleasant after a while, but A and E loved it so who am I to argue?). Then they obviously had to get in the tray and stomp it with their feet.

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They repeated the lines from the book a few times and then they proceeded to rub it over their legs and watch it fall from a height.

I left them playing for a while, and then I noticed that A had taken some of the gloop out of the tray and arranged it on the tuff spot. This opened up a whole new world of discussion! As it had come out of the tray it was no longer submerged in a pool of water and so was much drier; this is sometimes called oozo or oobleck and is technically completely different and scientifically fascinating. So I thought I would just question her for a minute to see what she thought of it…

I asked her whether she thought it was a liquid or a solid. She ran her fingers through it for a while, making marks, and then she tried to scoop it up. It fell through her hands so she decided it had to be a liquid.

I then told her to quickly and forcefully pick it up and try rolling it into a ball. She managed this and so thought that it must be a solid (I, however, didn’t manage a picture of this as she was too quick to let go)! When she let go again it flowed back through her fingers.

She concluded that it was obviously magic!1

After this they decided to have a fight with it and things got a little crazy :-S!

I adore gloop as a material, for both sensory play and scientific exploration/experimentation. It was a wonderful hour of concentrated play though it did leave me wondering what on earth I was thinking!

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What was I thinking???

1In this dry form gloop is a non-Newtonian fluid, which means that it can behave as both a solid or a liquid depending on how much pressure is applied.

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37 thoughts on ““Mud! Thick Oozy Mud”*

    1. Thank you! Yes I would always recommend one 🙂 for me it is the best thing ever as it allows us to do things like this! The only problem I have with it is storage – our house is very small, but as we use it on a daily basis it is worth the its problems!

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  1. Wow, I am so impressed by how creative you are with your little ones. Although it looks very messy, it looks like just the type of activity my little one would love. You’ve definitely got me thinking about how I can get more creative with our sensory play! Emily #FamilyFun

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    1. Oh thank you! I have definitely become more creative since having children and use Pinterest a lot, but I find most Pinterest ideas are just too complicated-looking and expensive (amazing, but completely inaccessible to me with no money) so I am trying to write about our simple (and cheap) play, using things we already have, or things that can be bought at little cost!

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  2. Like your previous commenter I’ve been considering getting a tuff spot. We tried out some slime a few weeks ago, it was a disaster! I should try again with gloop! Thank you for linking up to #familyfun. I hope you can come back next week 😀

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    1. Oh no why was it a disaster? I am sure it wasn’t – your play ideas always look amazing! I would definitely recommend a tuff spot, because it means we can make mess like this indoors, but they are so versatile and can be used for so much outdoors too. They are huge though – storage is an issue here 🙂

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  3. I love, love, love this!!! I especially loved seeing the transformation of your kids in the pictures. They start out so proper and in the end, they are having a blast!! I am going to try to do this for my boy who also loves mud and dirt and sand and basically anything that toddler life insanely amazing :)) Thanks for the detailed info. I am not sure what gloop or tuff spot are but I am off to Google them #familyfun

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  4. Oh my look at that! I must say that looks fab and what a cool mum you are letting them so that. I think my OH would melt down if he saw us doing that in the House lol – just as well he’s at work all day eh. That’s definetly an activity to pin for when my two are perhaps a little older to really enjoy it? I don’t know though I bet my two year old would get stuck in now… Thanks so much for sharing at #familyfun. Hope you can come back next week xx

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    1. Thank you! Yes my husband despairs, but thankfully he is at work all day too! My youngest is nearly 2 and a half and just starting to enjoy messier things, but my 3 year old has always loved mess, and been making it since she could sit up. It is amazing how different they are!

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  5. You are so good at letting them do this indoors! I wouldn’t be able to cope, my youngest would just step out and get it over my floors!!! I have to save any messy play for outdoors of taking them to messy play activities elsewhere. You are so creative with it. Thank you for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove X

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  6. Wow, you’ve inspired me to purchase a tuffspot! I’ve been considering it for ages, but been put off as my son doesn’t like being dirty, and can be ‘iffy’ about sensory type activities sometimes. But I’m impressed that yours embraced this despite not liking being dirty – I guess there’s ‘dirt’ and ‘gloop’! Thanks so much for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove – I really hope you’ll be back again next week!

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    1. I would definitely recommend them – though I do have trouble storing ours. But my daughter has always loved anything messy/sensory so it has always worked. My son is the complete opposite so I probably wouldn’t have bothered getting one if he had come first!

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  7. Wow this looks amazing! Look how happy they are!! I’m a terrible mummy and messy play is limited to play centres and playgroup! With four of them to clean up after, I’m not adding to it with all that mess! But well done you! #kcacols

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