There's more to mud than mess

I must confess…I relish in mud play.  Whether it’s joining my preschooler in the backyard, prepping the pots and water at playgroup, or meeting a tip truck on a frosty Winter’s morning to unload 4 cubic metres of loamy soil for an event - it fills me with joy.

Why does the prospect of soil + water = mud bring so much happiness? Maybe it’s the microscopic bacteria, Mycobacterium Vaccae, which stimulate increased levels of serotonin in our brains working their magic on me, or the anticipation of kids exploring and playing with curious faces and big smiles, or that I too love the sensory feel of squish.

I definitely don’t feel alone in my love of mud.  In celebration of International Mud Day 2018, 245 parents/carers and kids turned up for Sticks and Stones Nature Playgroup’s big mud kitchen event.  An impressive turn out in the middle of a Canberra Winter.  For two hours we played, cooked, made rivers, dug, constructed, destructed, painted faces, splashed, cooperatively shared one hose, slid, rolled and explored.

So what is International Mud Day and why does it exist? The creators of International Mud Day wanted to find a way to help all of the children of the Earth feel closer to each other… and decided what better way to do it than through the Earth itself? International Mud Day began in 2009 at a World Forum event, when Gillian McAuliffe from Australia and Bishnu Bhatta from Nepal got together to talk about ways to encourage feelings of community and appreciation for the world around us. The collaboration that followed has inspired educators, children, and families across the globe, from Holland to Nepal to the United States and Australia, to celebrate International Mud Day together each year on June 29. 

Even though ‘fake dirt’ products have found their way onto our shelves promising the experience of playing in soil without the mess.  You really cannot beat the real deal.  The benefits of true mud play well outweigh the mess, the grit wedged under nails, and spattered clothes.  As Michelle Rupiper explains in her article - Mud, Marvelous Mud! - mud play has many benefits. It’s definitely worth reading Michelle’s full article on why Mud Play is so good and her simple ideas on where to start for your child(ren) or early learning centre.  To get you started, I’ve pulled out a few points below.

Benefits for Mud Play

  • soil contains microscopic bacteria called Mycobacterium Vaccae which stimulate the immune system and increases the levels of serotonin in our brains, an endorphin that soothes, calms, and helps us to relax. In short, playing in mud makes you happier!
  • exposure to dirt and germs works to prime a child’s immune system to prevent allergies.
  • the rich, engaging sensory play children partake in while playing with mud allows them to express their creativity while enhancing their fine motor skills.
  • the open-ended nature of mud encourages creative thinking.
  • mud play is inclusive of all children. It allows children to play at their own developmental level.
  • playing in the mud inspires children to feel a connection to nature and develop an appreciation for the environment.
  • mud play and the wonder and joy associated with it are the stuff that fabulous childhood memories are made of!

Simple Mud Play Ideas

  • explore a muddy puddle after the rain
  • make a mud kitchen
  • paint with mud
  • make mud sculptures
  • build with mud
  • construct roadways and waterways
  • create animal homes
  • throw mud balls

Want to read more on mud play?  Head on over to Nature Play QLD - Why playing in the mud is more than just fun.

I hope you feel inspired to enjoy the simple joy of mud play and the many benefits it offers you and your children.  Perhaps you’re even interested in hosting your own International Mud Day event on June 29. Sticks and Stones Nature Playgroup’s free 2018 International Mud Day event was made possible with the support of ACT Government Nature Play Grants Program.



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