Play Like an Elephant

Young children and young animals learn through play. Play provides opportunities to build, develop, and practice skills that youngsters need once they become adults. Baby elephants like Penzi need to learn how to protect their skin from the sun’s rays — they do this by playing in the mud! Mud is nature’s best protection from getting a sunburn. 

On Reid Park Zoo’s webcams, you can watch the elephants spray themselves with water using their trunks and then gather up some dirt to toss on their backs. If a puddle of mud is available, watch them wrestle and play in it to cover their bodies in a thick layer. Not only does mud protect them from sunburns, but it also helps cool them off on hot days, protects them from biting insects, and, best of all, is fun!

Try some of these activities at home or come up with your own muddy adventure. 

  • Set up a mud kitchen. Add some materials you find like bark, leaves, flowers, and sticks.  You can also use some items from indoors like pie pans, cookie sheets, mixing bowls, spatulas, toy kitchen sets, etc. Get to work as a mud chef, or open up a mud bakery with mud pies and mud cookies. Let your imagination lead the way. 


  • Instead of colored paints, use mud to make muddy pictures. Sticks, leaves, and small pebbles can even be kept in place with dabs of mud by letting the mud dry. 


  • It’s fun to squish mud between your fingers or, better yet, your toes! Explore mud with all of your senses, except maybe taste. Then, once you’re ready to write or talk about your experience, describe what the mud sounded like, what it felt like, what it smelled like, and what it looked like. What else was going on around you while you enjoyed the mud?  What other sounds did you hear? What other things did you see? Where were you and what was the temperature or weather like? Did you touch anything with your muddy fingers or hands? What did it look like after you touched it? This is a great mindfulness activity that you will remember for a long time–reminding you of how much fun mud can be.