Digging for Bugs in the ‘Mud’

We’re beginning a brand-new CAMPING thematic unit! The one thing that I like the least about camping is all the bugs…but they seem to be absolutely intriguing to kids.

Want to encourage your child to dig for bugs in the “mud” without getting muddy (or coming in contact with real bugs)? This is a fun chocolatey-smelling version of playdough that can double as mud!

Here’s what you’ll need:


And the recipe for chocolate-scented playdough:

4 cups flour
1 cup cocoa
5 cups water
2 1/2 cups salt (just about the equivalent of an entire container)
3 Tablespoons cream of tartar (I ran out after 1 Tbsp…see the substitution below)
10 tablespoons oil (vegetable or canola)

 1. Mix the dry ingredients.

2. Add the water and oil.

I ran out of cream of tartar after 1 tablespoon, so I had to use vinegar to make up the difference. Just double the tablespoons when using vinegar (1 tablespoon cream of tartar= 2 tablespoons vinegar). If you use vinegar, just make sure to add a little extra flour (like 1/4 to 1/3 cup) so that it will still be the right consistency. And don’t worry about your playdough smelling like vinegar…as it cooks, the smell goes away.

3. Stir all the ingredients together and cook over low-medium heat.

4. Keep stirring (you’ll get your forearm workout for the day in). The mixture will start to thicken up and pull together. Keep going a little bit longer until…

…it is no longer sticky when you squeeze a piece of the mixture between your fingers.

5. Once it’s no longer sticky, dump it out onto a clean surface.

6. While still warm (but not hot) knead together until smooth.

7. Cover with a dishcloth for about 20 minutes and then place inside a gallon-size plastic bag. Leave the bag open until there is no longer any condensation. Press all of the air out of the bag and seal. (Once it was completely dry, I wrapped it in plastic cling-wrap first before putting it into the gallon-sized bag since I wasn’t planning to use it for a few weeks.)




This playdough is also lots of fun for making tracks with your trucks! :)




  1. Love the idea but couldn’t help think it looks like poo! Must be the toilet training mishaps lately preying on my mind lol

    PS Doesn’t mean I’m not going to use it ;P)

    1. Yep, I was a bit apprehensive about making this for that very reason. We had this as one of the activities at Big Brother’s camping birthday party and I was just sure SOMEONE would say something…but no one did. :)

  2. Love it! I wonder if having “mud” play-dough around the house will keep my middle kid from digging in the real mud? ;) I can’t wait to read more from your camping theme! We hope to make camping our Father’s Day tradition starting this year. No doubt mud play dough will be a great lead in before we go!

  3. Thanks for the fun recipe, since it was rainy and we couldn’t go outside this afternoon I whipped up a batch and my 4 year old son has been playing with it for the past two hours! He’s having lots of fun digging in it with his dinosaurs, bugs, and toy trucks! :)

  4. This is a ten for play dough! It makes so much and was super fun. My son enjoyed practicing writing letters with toothpicks in the dough. I wish I had seen this before his farmer themed birthday party a few weeks ago. It would have been an awesome activity and I could have sent it home as party favors.

  5. aweome! I can’t wait to make it! I bet the cocoa smells wonderful too! (Are you posting this now in hopes of an early spring?? Hehehe)

  6. We had so much fun with this today. My nephew who is in my pre-k class came over. We called it in school suspension, He did all the measuring and stirring. We got out the kitchen tools and made alien space ships. My mom made Valentines. Now my playdough is ready for my art center on Monday morning.

  7. I love this idea! It’s something I can do with both my 8-year-old and my 3-year-old, and that’s a challenge sometimes. Thanks for sharing this!!!

  8. WOW! My grandson and I just made this … It smells so good and he is so ready to play… Thanks for the recipe. I can see hours of playing..

  9. How fun! I just made this playdough with my daughter (3). She is excited to make mud pies! This was the first time I made homemade playdough, why didn’t I try sooner – so easy! Oh and it smells delicious! Thanks for the great tutorial.

  10. Hi there! We saw this post on Pinterest and recognized our toys! Just wanted to say how much we loved this idea. Thank you so much for sharing your creativity with others :)


    Kateva Rosato and the Safari Ltd. Family
    [email protected]

  11. Thank you, this is a fantastic recipe! The dough smells amazing and, according to my preschoolers, looks like hot chocolate! We spent one morning hiding plastic ladybugs and butterflies in the “mud.” One of the best play dough recipes that I’ve tried.

  12. Made this today with my girls aged 7 and 4. They had such a wonderful time and played with it for hours using various cookie cutters etc. This is the best play dough I have made for ages. Great consistency and not sticky, also smells wonderful. Great idea!

    1. for anyone looking for an answer to this, I made this tonight and it made 6lbs 4.5oz! I split it into two smaller batches, one to take with us camping, and the other to gift to a friend :)

  13. Thank you for this fantastic post Jenae! I made this dough with my preschool and kindergarten children this morning, and it is really great dough! International Mud Day is June 29th, so we are having a mud theme all week at school. I’ve blogged about today’s muddy fun, and linked back to this post, so hopefully more people can find your super recipe. I’m so glad you shared, thank you!


  14. Love this recipe. I want to try it for my toddlers as we are doing dinosaurs! But how long does it keep? And does it have to be kept in the fridge? Thanks for sharing the recipe and activity!

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