As parents, teachers, and guardians - we have a massive influence on children’s earliest experiences.
When they reach adulthood, what do want we them to remember? Well, we certainly don’t want to bring to mind worry about making a mess or only playing nicely indoors.
Children should be allowed to enjoy all kinds of play – and that includes mud. After all, hands, clothes and toys can be washed, mud swept, but happy childhood memories can last a lifetime.
I believe learning should be a sensory experience that incorporates nature and the great outdoors. Not only does this type of activity promote gross motor skills through exercise, but studies also show that in a sanitised environment, outdoor play can help build a child’s immunity to disease.
What’s more, soil is believed to contain friendly bacteria that can boost happiness, meaning that outside play can further children’s health both physically and mentally. In a more obvious sense, being in nature can also help to calm and balance children, providing them with an outlet for frustration and excess energy.
Maintaining hygiene is still crucial, of course. It is always important to check that the area of play is safe and free from debris and animal droppings. It goes without saying that children should wash their hands after playing outdoors, too.
Then again, a little mud won’t do much harm. I was an advocate at an early age, serving my baby sister my seven-year-old invention of ‘mud chocolate’ (a deluxe concoction of mud and paddling pool water). Yes, she did drink it and lived to tell the tale, but please don’t try it at home! To my sister, if you’re reading this - I’m so sorry.
To illustrate the wealth of learning opportunities mud can provide, here are a few fun ideas to get you started. (Those little hands will thank you).
I’ve seen so many nurseries and childminders that have ‘mud kitchens’ - a natural wooden kitchen bench with pans, spoons, and of course mud. Instead of playing with plastic, this allows children to play with real tools and use their imaginations to cook up a storm in their very own kitchen.
This activity also grants children the opportunity to explore their thoughts, extend their vocabulary, and further social skills by playing with others.
Hard hats, fluorescent jackets, cones and shovels can help create a fantastic construction site. This mud activity incorporates role-play, encouraging group play and lots of imagination.
Cars and diggers
Mud is a great tool for diggers and building. Little ones can scoop and dig the mud, allowing children to play together. There’s lots of chatter and communication needed here, so it can be great for improving language skills.
Mini beast investigations
Children love exploring insects in their natural habitats, so why not allow them to discover these mini-beasts with magnifying glasses? This activity can help their general knowledge, and also encourage extension lessons as children can then draw or write about what they have found.
Allow children to make a concoction of mud, food colouring and water to create their own paint.
Too much water will make the mixture too runny, however this can also be part of the discovery process. By working out how much food colouring and water is needed, they’ll be making good use of their cognitive skills. Then, they can let their creative juices run free!
So, there you have it - proof that mud can in fact be good for us. There really is no need to be afraid of a little dirt.
Mud pie, anyone?