Engineering with Mud Bricks. Preschool STEM activity for spring.

April showers bring…mud play!! We’ve had a few days of rain this week which means we have an abundance of mud to play with (hesitant about muddy play? Check out our Tips on Playing in the Mud post here!). Playing in the mud is a great sensory experience for kids and we are dedicated to sharing all the fun ways to enjoy it with our #mudplaychallenge on Instagram. Make sure you check out the whole gallery and add your photos to it!

Today I thought we would get some preschool STEM (science,technology, engineering, and math) activities in with this simple mud brick building activity. I’m calling this a preschool engineering activity because the kids will be learning about how to make and stack the mud bricks, but there’s so much to learn from this activity- and it doesn’t end with preschoolers! Read on to find out more!

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We started by packing mud into ice cube trays to form bricks. My boys were totally digging this, but they were just slapping the mud in the tray without caution. We had a quick lesson on how to pack the mud into the ice cube wells to make the best bricks. A good experiment here would be to let the kids prepare two trays- one with the dirt packed in and one with the dirt slopped in- then hand over the trays and let the kids investigate the differences. They’ll see pretty quickly why it’s a good idea to pack the mud tightly into the trays!

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Once the mud was nice and packed into the ice cube trays, we let them sit in the sun and “bake” for a couple hours. This is another opportunity to show kids that very wet mud (even if well packed) doesn’t hold it’s shape well. I explained how we needed the mud to dry so we would have strong bricks (there’s a science lesson around every corner of this activity!).

Fast forward about two hours and the kids were eagerly dumping their bricks and ready to build!

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The gravel mixed in with the mud made our bricks a little bit crumbly, but they were still great to play with. If you’re looking for more ways to extend this activity, have your kids make bricks from different types of mud. Let them experiment to see which bricks are the strongest. If you teach/homeschool upper grades as well, you can add a research component by asking students to research how some Native Americans made adobe bricks. They can compare and contrast that process with this simple backyard brick making investigation (as a former 4th/5th grade teacher, my mind always wants to jump ahead of the preschool lessons! Nonetheless, this is a great chance for kids to learn through play with an opportunity to extend their learning year after year!)

Now, back to preschool mindset…

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Once the kids remove the bricks from the ice cube trays let them start building! We built a wall and talked about staggering bricks to make it stable. I think they made it three layers high before it tumbled, but they were proud of that simple accomplishment! How will your kids learn and play with their mud bricks? Show us on Instagram!

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