What is your favorite childhood memory of playing in the mud? Guest author Victoria Hacket shows us why (and how) you can keep those memories alive for your kids, too!
Do you remember the squishy feeling of wet mud between your fingertips, making mud pies and spending hours covered head to toe in the dirt? These memories help inform how you teach and parent.
Dirt and Mud Play are often overlooked as essential teaching tools for young children. We need to spread the word. Getting dirty and playing in Mud has enormous benefits in all areas of child development!
Are you a parent or teacher that dislikes dirty, muddy kids? Do you eliminate Mud Play in your outdoor space? Maybe you know the benefits of Mud, yet steer children away from it because you don’t want kids coming inside dirty.
When you think of Mud Play, do you get stuck in dread thinking about all the extra cleanup there will be for you?
Here are 10 excuses to let the kids play in the mud today!
1. Encourages Creativity (Emotional Development)
Mud Art: This offers endless opportunities for creative expression. Think mud sculptures, mud pictures/designs, and mud body painting.
2. Builds Problem Solving-Skills (Cognitive Development)
Cooperative Play: Think of all the negotiating, communicating and sharing that goes on in a kitchen. Children can also work alone in the Mud Kitchen and problem solve.
3. Uses Fine and Gross Motor Skills (Physical Development)
Kitchen Jobs: Think of the variety of tasks the Mud Kitchen offers children. Weighing, measuring and adding small loose parts to a Mud Pie with utensils all require fine motor skills.
Mixing mud flour in a large saucepan, transporting heavy buckets and reaching up high for a hanging pot all require gross motor skills.
4. Practice Listening and Taking Turns (Social Development)
Role Play: Think how children act out whatever they are learning. Mud Play is a sensory experience. Therefore, provides an abundance of things for children to talk about. The Mud Kitchen offers a platform for them to practice many of these life skills.
5. Plays a Role in Our Mood. Mud Makes us Happier! (Emotional Development)
Scientific Studies: Think how happy children are after playing in the Dirt. The magic is in the Dirt.
Recent scientific studies have connected the happy, relaxed and calm moods after Mud Play to the dirt that contains microscopic bacteria called Mycobacterium Vaccae. This bacteria increases the serotonin in our brains.
Now think about children who are not playing in the Mud? Do you see a difference?
6. Inspires caring for the environment (Social Development)
Connection to Nature: Think how vital it is in today’s world to get children outdoors to reconnect with nature. With nature-deficit disorder on the rise, Mud play creates memories and a relationship with our Earth.
Planting a seed, nurturing a plant and harvesting a garden will, in turn, inspire a connection to the care of our environment in the future. I call this, “Planting seeds of inspiration.”
7. Invites Inclusive Playful Learning Opportunities (Social, Emotional, Cognitive, Physical Development)
Open-ended Play: Think about adding Mud Kitchen Challenges (like in the photo above). These are great ways to add additional learning in an open-ended play environment.
8. Builds Stronger Immune Systems (Physical Development)
Scientific Studies: Think about the kids who get really dirty and how often they get sick. Now think about the kids who are constantly applying antibacterial potions and never going outside.
You will find it is the dirty kids who are healthier. Scientific studies show the same microscopic bacteria in the dirt that can make you happier have also proven beneficial to the immune system.
9. Invites a Total Sensory Experience (Physical Development, Social & Cognitive)
Sensory Play: Think of soaking your hands in a bucket of cold, mushy mud. Ahhhhh….. What is happening to you? Are you loving it? Or, is this a difficult thing to do?
Research shows that sensory play builds nerve connections in the brain’s pathways, which lead to the child’s ability to complete more complex learning tasks.
10. Benefits the Heart and Skin (Physical Development)
Therapeutic: Adults pay good money for mud bath spas — a secret that children have known all along. Mud relaxes and soothes! This is all good for us!
Do you want to learn more? Check out More than Mud Pies: Making an Outdoor Mud Kitchen, an e-course facilitated by Victoria Hackett.
Have you ever thought about adding a Mud Kitchen? Share in the comments below!
About Victoria Hackett: My mission at Outdoor-Classrooms.com is for every child in every school to have access to an Outdoor Classroom. Therefore, I inspire educators to teach outdoors and I lead an online virtual community of Natural Teachers all over the world to create their own Outdoor Classroom story.