The Magic of Dirt: 10 Benefits of Mud Play
The Magic of Dirt: 10 Benefits of Mud Play
What is your childhood memory of playing in the Mud? Do you remember the squishy feeling of wet mud between your fingertips, making mud pies and spending hours covered head to toe in the dirt? These memories may impact how to choose to teach and parent.
Are you a teacher or parent that dislikes dirty, muddy kids? Do you eliminate Mud Play in your Outdoor Space? Maybe you know the benefits of Mud, yet steer children away from it because you don’t want kids coming inside dirty. When you think of Mud Play, do you get stuck in dread thinking about all the extra clean up work there will be for you?
Well, I have news for you! Dirt and Mud Play are often overlooked as essential teaching tools for young children. We need to spread the word. Getting dirty and playing in Mud has enormous benefits in all areas of child development! Check it out!
1. Encourages creativity and offers opportunities for creative expression. (Emotional Development)
Mud Art: Think mud sculptures, mud pictures/designs, and mud body painting.
2. Offers opportunities to problem solve both independently and in groups. (Cognitive Development)
Cooperative Play: Think of all the negotiating, communicating and sharing that goes on in a kitchen. Children can also work alone in the Mud Kitchen and problem solve.
3. Invites children to use their fine and gross motor skills. (Physical Development)
Kitchen Jobs: Think of the variety of tasks the Mud Kitchen offers children. Weighing, measuring and adding small loose parts to a Mud Pie with utensils all require fine motor skills. Mixing mud flour in a large saucepan, transporting heavy buckets and reaching up high for a hanging pot all require gross motor skills.
4. Allows children to practice listening and taking turns. (Social Development)
Role Play: Think how children act out whatever they are learning. Mud Play is a sensory experience. Therefore, provides an abundance of things for children to talk about. The Mud Kitchen offers a platform for them to practice many of these life skills.
5. Plays a Role in Our Mood. Mud Makes us Happier. (Emotional Development)
Scientific Studies: Think how happy children are after playing in the Dirt. The magic is in the Dirt. Recent scientific studies have connected the happy, relaxed and calm moods after Mud Play to the dirt that contains microsopic bacteria called Mycobacterium Vaccae. This bacteria increases the serotonin in our brains. Now think about children who are not playing in the Mud? Do you see a difference?
6. Develops skills in how to care for the environment. (Social Development)
Connection to Nature: Think how vital it is in today’s world to get children outdoors to reconnect with nature. With nature-deficit disorder on the rise, Mud play creates memories and a relationship with our Earth. Planting a seed, nurturing a plant and harvesting a garden will, in turn, inspire a connection to the care of our environment in the future. I call this, “Planting seeds of inspiration.”
7. Invites inclusive playful learning opportunities. (Social, Emotional, Cognitive, Physical Development)
Open-ended Play: Think about adding Mud Kitchen Challenges. These are great ways to add additional learning in an open-ended play environment. Take the Outdoor-Classrooms Mud Kitchen Challenge! It’s FREE!
8. Builds stronger immune systems. (Physical Development)
Scientific Studies: Think about the kids who get really dirty and how often they get sick. Now think about the kids who are constantly applying antibacterial potions and never going outside. You will find it is the dirty kids who are healthy. Scientific studies show the same microsopic bacteria in the dirt has proven beneficial to the immune system.
9. Invites a Total Sensory Experience. (Physical Development, Social & Cognitive)
Sensory Play: Think of soaking your hands in a bucket of cold, mushy mud. Ahhhhh…..What is happening to you? Are you loving it? or is this a difficult thing to do? Research shows that sensory play builds nerve connections in the brain’s pathways, which lead to the child’s ability to complete more complex learning tasks.
10. Benefits the heart and skin. (Physical Development)
Therapeutic: Think of the world of Mud Baths Spas. Adults pay good money for what the children have known all along. Mud relaxes and soothes! This is all good for us!
Do you want to learn more? Check out the More than Mud Pies: Making an Outdoor Mud Kitchen, an e-course facilitated by Victoria Hackett.
Now I want to hear from you. How do you play in the Mud with kids? Have you ever thought about adding a Mud Kitchen? Share your Mud Kitchen stories in the comments below.
Victoria Hackett, MEd.