News flash, we’ve got the latest dirt – playing in the mud is beneficial! Dirt and germs can be good for your little princess! Getting messy outside benefits the heart, skin, immune system, and of course let us not forget how much fun it is!
“Children should go barefoot in the dirt, play in the dirt and not have to wash hands when they come in to eat.”
When I was growing up it seemed as though we were all making houses with sticks and mud, that we were up to our knees at the local creek or constantly splashing in every available mud puddle left over from the days of rain deluge. How many do that now? Is it fears associated with what dangers might be lurking in the muck?, parents don’t want to get their children’s clothes and their houses dirty or is it just a perception of over sanitisation that keeps families from letting kids do what comes naturally, which is to go outside and get a little messy.
“If your child isn’t coming in dirty every day, they’re not doing their job.”
Dr. Mary Ruebush
We’ve heard it all before – ‘Don’t track mud in the house!’, ‘Wash your hands before you eat!’, ‘You can’t play with that, you don’t know where it’s been!’, ‘Don’t make a mess!’. There are so many benefits to making the perfect mud pie in a purpose built mud kitchen, rolling down a hill, building a mud castle or splashing in a muddy puddle that it forms part of your child’s early development.
So, what benefits does mucking in the mud hold?
- It can make your child happier – dirt contains microscopic bacteria called Mycobacterium vaccae which increases the levels of serotonin in our brains, helping to relax, soothe and keep calm.
- Assists with hand-eye coordination – while scooping, mixing, pouring, carrying pots full or mud, transferring materials and serving up mud children are increasing their eye hand coordination
- Helps your child connect with nature – creates happy memories with the one most primal element in our world: nature.
- Opportunity for pretend vs. real life play – mud stations allow children to develop real skills using real life instruments, working in a real kitchen, working with real resources (even though its done in a pretend way)
- Helps your child learn cause and effect – a child learns through experimentation and observation, and with mud play, they realise mud blocks the sink, the large pebbles don’t fit through the funnel, dirt and water makes mud, mud settles at the bottom of the pot, bark chips float to the surface and so forth.
- Stimulates many senses while engaging your child in play – Sensory stimulation is a necessary part of brain development. Children can listen to nature sounds of the outdoors, mud/water/slopping sounds.
- Makes your child healthier – research shows that playing in the dirt – including very wet dirt – is good for a child’s immune system.
- It can make your child smarter – the same release of serotonin that occurs when playing in M. vaccae dirt has also been shown to improve cognitive function, so, words out – throw away those flash cards!
- Creates open-ended play – gives opportunity for creativity and imagination. Mud kitchens and mud stations are child led activities
- Enhances a child’s imagination and creativity – through open ended play and utilising mud, a child’s imagination develops as they role play, story tell, chat away in their own fantasy world, create things and make things, pretend real life scenarios and so on.
- It will make your child learn and develop – sensory, hands-on play feeds children’s brains.
- Develops gross motor skills – as your child handles materials and work around the mud station, carrying buckets, pushing a wheelbarrow, lifting and pouring containers, stirring and scooping with utensils they are being active and using important gross motor actions.
- It will help your child develop positive dispositions – provides a space for children to retreat to for some time alone in a soothing sensory experience or to play with peers co-operating, communicating, negotiating and sharing.
- Mud is a fantastic art medium – mud can be moulded and decorated and it responds differently than sand, clay or playdough.
So, when your little one wants to play in the mud, don’t see potential mess, dirt stained clothes and hazardous germs, see sensory fun and giggles, splashing and opportunities to explore and enjoy the outdoors, all of which are avenues for imagination and creativity.