Children visually explore life in the soil, taking note of plants, animals and other things above and below the ground. Through this activity, children will feel more connected to and aware of their surroundings. Younger children can enjoy this as a sensory, mud mud painting activity! Created by Joanne Endahl, RHA Educator

Duration: 45 minutes to 1 hour

Setting: Backyard


  • Clipboard, piece of cardboard, or something to lean on (one per child)
  • Heavy Paper
  • Light colored crayons
  • Kitchen strainer
  • Small plastic containers
  • Water and an old towel for washing and drying hands

Background Information:  Outside, there are many plants and animals that we can see right in front of us. We might see trees, flowers, squirrels, chipmunks, bunnies, deer…and if we are lucky, maybe even see a fox running quickly by! Did you know, there is just as much life underground?

The Activity:

Optional: Hang a large piece of paper or cardboard outside as an extra large, mud-painting canvas!

  • Give each child a clipboard with a piece of heavy paper and light-colored crayons to draw with.
  • Ask them to draw a horizontal line across the middle of the paper which will represent the surface of the ground.
  • Above the line, have them draw a scene that includes animals and plants that live above the ground.
  • Under the line, have them draw a scene of what they think might be underground (except for the dirt).
  • When their drawings are finished, it’s time to finger paint with mud!
  • To prepare the mud, sift some dirt through the strainer into the plastic containers. Add some water to turn the soil into watery mud.
  • The children can finger paint with mud on the underground area of their picture to represent the underground soil! The crayon will repel the wet dirt.
  • Afterwards, they can share their pictures and discuss the similarities and differences of their drawings.
  • Hang their drawings to dry and then the children can wash their hands using the water and towels.

Curious Questions: 

  • What are things that you can see around you?  Do you see trees, plants or animals?
  • If you see a plant or tree would there be something right underneath it in the soil that makes the trees and plants grow?
  • What animals or creatures do you think live underground?  (moles, worms, insects, etc.)
  • Do you think there might be anything else under the ground in the soil? (rocks, roots)
  • Are there any creatures that live both above and below ground? (groundhogs, insects, worms etc.)

How did you like this activity? Please share any questions, comments, or photos that you and your child have on the Raritan Headwaters Learning Community Facebook Page!

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