The “Dirt on Dirt”
The “Dirt on Dirt”
Mud, Oh Marvelous Mud!
Do you remember that feeling, when you were little, when you couldn’t resist jumping into the puddles that your front or backyard sprinkles made? Or how about the mud puddles during or after a rain? What happens to us and our inner struggle to let children enjoy the mess that nature plans for us?
There are many benefits related to our physical contact with mud. Yes! You read that right. Let your children play in mud. All children are drawn to mud puddles and dirt as a part of their play. Just think about the time when you were a little child and enjoyed mixing soil, water, and other natural materials like pebbles, leaves, or grass to cook, build, assemble, and pretend play. Mud is not only “a way to play” and an approach to have fun, but it also provides health benefits.
The Benefits of Mud
According to research, children have been right all along! To play with mud is not only fun, but also, scientists affirm that dirt contains microscopic bacteria called Mycobacterium Vaccae that is found to nurture and further develop the immune system. In addition, the bacteria “increases the levels of serotonin in our brains, an endorphin that soothes, calms, and helps us to relax” (Rupiper, 2018). How often do we read about or hear stories related to the topic of depression and vulnerability or neurosis among young children and young adults? Now, more than ever, the age limit for these experiences has gone further down, targeting little children and young adults. We hear people often say, “It’s not possible! They are only 10.” Well, believe in the power of the overstimulating world, and take action for preventing the inception of roots for depression.
According to science, frequent exposure to mud and the beneficial bacteria may help target these modern day “anomalies.” In other words, playing in mud helps reduce a child’s susceptibility to depression. The main predicament is the moment of happiness that happens during a mud play.
To further the conversation, playing in mud can also affect your general heath. In today’s “sanitized world” children, more than ever, develop allergies and asthma. So let’s expose children to mud and YES, the dirt and germs that actually work to prime a child’s immune system to prevent allergies.
Did you know that mud is an excellent medium for learning?
Again, according to scientists, dirt has also been shown to improve cognitive function. There are many aspects of mud that contribute to enriching the learning process. The mud texture and rich engaging sensory aspect help children engage in play through individual and group creativity. Children also work on developing and refining their fine motor skills, not to mention their social skills, such as cooperation, negotiation, communication, and sharing as they work together.
For those of you that wonder about academic skills, mud offers a myriad of opportunities for emergent math and science skills that are practiced as children make the “before” and “after” comparisons, solve problems, test theories, and measure and count ingredients for their mud pies. This is the scientific process in action! Mud is a wonderful art medium. It is in ample supply, can be easily molded to create endless sculptures and responds differently than clay or play dough. The open-ended nature of mud encourages creative thinking and allows children to freely create without fear of making mistakes. This also contributes to a child’s sense of self, helping to build a strong inner sense of competency.
Let’s look at Rupiper’s (2019) thoughts:
“Mud play is inclusive of all children. It allows children to play at their own developmental level. Mud is an open ended material that meets the diverse needs and interests of different children. Younger or less skilled children might focus on the sensory experience whereas older children may have more specific goals in mind for their mud play. Some children may thoroughly enjoy the sensation of mud between their toes while others are only comfortable poking a finger into the mud. Allow children to explore the mud at their own comfort level. With mud, there is something for everyone, and there are no wrong answers. Playing in the mud inspires children to feel a connection to nature and develop an appreciation for the environment. Many children today have limited opportunities to play outdoors, and it is difficult to care about the environment if you have not had the chance to spend time in nature. By providing time outdoors and the chance for muddy, messy play, you facilitate a love of the earth. But maybe the greatest benefit of mud play is the memories being created by the children. Mud play and the wonder and joy associated with it are the stuff that fabulous childhood memories are made of!”
iLEAD Agua Dulce VIDEO
“Because the water will dry, the mud will wash off, but the memories will last a lifetime! And… quoting the learners, “This was the best day EVER!” #ileadaguadulce“
Many of us have fond memories of creating mud pies, digging for worms, or making streams and valleys in the mud. But it’s not just about fun. Children benefit from messy, muddy play.
This is why iLEAD Agua Dulce has mud kitchens and encourages the learners to immerse themselves in nature. Dirt not only contains bacterium Mycobacterium Vaccae, which helps to stimulate serotonin (the chemical in the brain that makes you happy), it also builds the immune system! We should give our children many opportunities to play in the dirt, foster a love for nature, and allow them the experiences they need for their physical and mental well-being. Besides, children are 100% washable!
Rupiper, M. (2018). Community Play Things, Play England, National Trust. .Muddy Faces. Retrieved from http://www.communityplaythings.com/resources/articles/2016/the-benefits-of-mud-play
So what can you do to provide opportunities for children to play in the mud? It can be as simple as allowing children to explore a muddy puddle after a spring rain. But if you are up for it, there are many ways you can implement a variety of mud-related play activities. Here are some ideas:
- Paint with mud–provide different types of soil to create different shades of “paint”. Or you can add food coloring or tempera paint to watery mud for more vibrant colors.
- Make mud sculptures–encourage children to sculpt and mold mud, adding pebbles, twigs, or leaves to individualize their sculptures.
- Build with mud–use mud as a mortar to build with stones, sticks, or even real bricks.
- Construct roadways and waterways—add toy dump trucks, excavators, and back hoes to build roadways in the dirt. Provide cars and trucks to add to the play. Offer pieces of PVC pipe to build waterways and pipelines.
- Create animal homes—add plastic animals or dinosaurs to the mud area and have children add leaves, sticks, and stones to create a forest, jungle, or even Jurassic Park!
- Throw mud balls–facilitate large muscle play by encouraging children to throw mud balls at an identified target (a large sheet hung on a fence works well).