My own mother will probably faint when she reads this but... I love mud play!
Even though I grew up in the country, I did NOT like to get dirty as a young child. When I went into early childhood education, I vowed to change the way I saw dirt, because I learned how beneficial it is for children's development… and health! Researchers have proven that a bacteria found in mud can actually boost our immune system and mood!
We have participated in "International Mud Day" a few times by hosting an event during our summer programming at our early childhood center, but mud play is something you can do any time!
My mother-in-law recently reminded us just how easy, cheap and engaging mud play can be. My husband's parents have just finished building their new home and the last thing left to do is the seeding of their lawn. While all the adults didn't have the chance to have a time-out as they were busy moving furniture and unpacking boxes, The kids sure did! Grandma stuck them in the back yard with sand toys and sprayed the dirt with her hose.
What came next was literally hours of free play! The kids were occupied and engaging in play that encompassed several different development levels. Observing my kids that weekend (as I took a timeout from unpacking), I watched my daughter practice her gross motor skills by hopping over the puddles and mounds of dirt, and saw my son calmly experiment with how the water flowed when he dragged his sticks to make little rivers between puddles.
Remember when I said that I hated to get dirty as a child? Do you have a child like this? Here's how you can encourage and inspire them (and yourself!) to explore mud play gradually:
Gardening: Involve your kids with the planting of your flower beds in the spring. Plan out a vegetable garden by drawing up a map for your backyard, plant seeds in peat pellets, dig out your garden plot, then transfer your little seedlings.
Paint with Mud: Sometimes it's best to ease your way in to playing with dirt. So before you use your hands, use an old paint brush to paint on some paper. (A thick watercolor paper would do the trick.) Build your way up to getting messy by painting yourselves next!
Make a Mud Kitchen: Pick up some old kitchen utensils at a garage sale or thrift store, or if you're brave enough (I wasn't haha!) bring your child's cooking toys outside. Have fun making an old fashioned mud pie with them. If you want mud play to become a regular thing, search those garage sales and invest in an old sink to leave in your sand box!
Grandma had so much fun that weekend watching the kids play and she didn't even mind one bit when it came time to wash up in her brand new bathroom. She's now seriously considering delaying the landscaping company from starting the grass seeding process.
Do you play in the mud? What’s your favorite way to get messy with the kids? Leave me a comment below!
Melissa is a mom, wife, and early childhood educator who blogs about her journey looking for new experiences for family time.