March Mudness at Cherokee Marsh: Tips on hiking with kids on a muddy day


Stump standers. Show kids how to enjoy nature. Photo by Emily Kuntz.

Forget Basketball.
March is all about mud, sandhill cranes and those glorious first warm days.

A few weeks ago, I took 12 kids and two adult volunteers to Cherokee Marsh for some mudilicious fun. We also had fun tromping on the ice, playing with sticks, spotting sandhill cranes and soaking up the warmth of the day. Here are a few tips for a happy mud-filled day.

1) Carry plastic bags: If possible, make sure everyone has proper footwear before heading out. We had two girls with woefully inadequate footwear who complained the whole time – to no avail. In the future, I will always have a few plastic bags on hand. Kids can slip their feet into them before putting on their shoes. The bags will keep their feet mostly dry.

2) Ignore the whiners: No sooner had we gotten out of the van and a few kids were complaining about the mud. It didn’t take long for them to realize that mud is a lot of fun.

3) Get Dirty: Don’t worry if the kids get a little dirty. A bit of mud will not hurt them at all.

We are here at Cherokee Marsh.

We are here at Cherokee Marsh. Show don’t tell.

Teach kids to be bold in the face of sloppiness and how to prepare for it.

4) Don’t forget the binoculars: In a group of 12, it’s good to have about 3-4 pair.

5) Do Nothing: Don’t worry about “doing” anything on your hike. Some kids just don’t get what to do outside so you have to show them. I picked up a stick and started poking at ice. We looked at the ice and how the ice was melting. We stomped on it and inspected leaves stuck in the ice. We spotted birds and listened to sandhill cranes. We found a patch of moss, just starting to grow. We felt its softness and warmth and enjoyed seeing a spot of green color in a sea of brown and white. At the end of the hike, I laid on my back on the warm cement. Several kids joined me. We looked at clouds and listened for birds while soaking up the warmth. Give kids time to invent their own activities. By just hanging out and doing nothing, Matt started mixing up water, mud

and leaves in a cup to make a delightful mud stew. Other kids just enjoyed their snack. There is no need to plan activities all the time.

Are we having fun yet? No caption needed here.

Are we having fun yet? No caption needed here.

6. Have Fun! Be enthusiastic and show them how to look and listen. They will follow your lead. And don’t worry if you don’t

think you know enough about the outdoors to lead a hike. All you need is a good attitude and the willingness to explore. The kids really don’t care if you know the names of birds or animals. What they care about is having fun and exploring. You can also go back and look up the animals and see if you can find them in a book or on the internet. If you need help, just send me an email at I know you can do it.

How do you teach kids how to have fun in the mud? Post your ideas. 

You can find Diane planning for bike club this summer and developing plans for new programs in Madison, Wisconsin. Contact her with ideas on how to get kids outside. 

3 thoughts on “March Mudness at Cherokee Marsh: Tips on hiking with kids on a muddy day

  1. I have two favorite things in life…. Children and Nature. When they come together life is magic! Thanks for sharing your experience and tips and for taking the children to touch the earth.
    In the spirit of sharing….
    Before commencing, I always make a circle and ask the children to be miserable, pull faces and whine… While they do that I ask them to feel how heavy their bodies are. Then smile, laugh and be happy,,,,, jumping… and ask them then to feel how light they are. Then I tell a little story of a man who left his baggage behind so he could walk faster and happier. If they feel that they have any heaviness to leave behind we can put it under the tree, and it will be there when we get back. When they then complain while walking I remind them that they are making themselves heavy or that the only way to get them lighter is to …. Be happy…. And we laugh and jump and get excited about what we are seeing…

    • Thank you so much for your comment. It is very important for kids to see how they are responsible for their own moods and how playing in nature is a time to put troubles aside for awhile. I will try your technique in the future.

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