As a parent, the mere thought of your child playing in mud or dirt can give you the jitters. The first thought that comes to your mind is germs or infections.
You will be surprised to know that playing in the mud might do a lot more good than harm to your kids. It is not only fun but also healthy to expose your kids to mud, especially in their early years. Read on to know why.
What Is Mud Play?
Mud play refers to any form of outdoor play that involves mud, such as building sandcastles on the beach or playing in a sandbox. Mud play is all about getting creative and having fun with mud, typically wet mud, which kids can squash, mold, and even throw.
It is an activity that doesn’t require you to spend a dime as Mother Nature offers it to your children in abundance.
Is It Safe For Children To Play In Mud?
Mud play is generally safe and healthy for children if you keep a few necessary precautions in mind. Studies suggest that children who grow up in farms, villages, etc., are less prone to developing asthma and allergies of any kind. When children have early exposure to microorganisms, they may have better immune responses and adapt better (1).
Keep the following points in mind while letting your child engage in mud play.
- Ensure the dirt doesn’t get into their eyes, ears, nose, and mouth.
- Ensure you take your kids to a safe environment, perhaps to a place that isn’t near any chemical or toxic waste dumps.
- Ensure they wash their hands with soap or sanitize their hands after play.
Playing in the mud is not only safe but also offers a plethora of benefits. Read on to know more.
Benefits Of Playing In The Mud For Children
1. Makes children happy
Mud play enables children to go outdoors, engage in exercise, and be one with Mother Nature. Studies indicate that light tends to elevate people’s mood, and physical activity relaxes and cheers people up (4).
Researchers at Bristol University also suggest that M. vaccae, a bacteria found in soil, was shown to activate a group of neurons that produce the brain chemical serotonin, which helps enhance feelings of well-being (5).
2. Improves immunity
Playing in the mud and making mud balls are not only fun but also healthy for children. When parents are over-sensitive or make their children grow up in very clean environments, they are more prone to allergies and asthma. Experts suggest that early exposure to bacteria and other microbes can help build immunity in children and prevent allergies, asthma, obesity, and other noninfectious conditions (6).
3. Makes your child active
Being outdoors and in the mud automatically makes your child move around and be physically active. Your child will have to use their hands and legs to dig, create, throw, sit, and stand, thus improving their fine and gross motor skills.
It also gets the children of today away from gadgets and video games and encourages them to be more active.
4. Improves creativity
Mud play encourages open-ended play and creativity as there are no rules or restrictions. It’s unstructured and gives wings to your child’s imagination. Here, children are free to build or create what they want in whatever way they want. Besides, playing with mud engages most of their senses — sight, hearing, smell, and touch — and is therefore great for multisensory learning.
5. Creates fond childhood memories
Engaging your children in outdoor activities such as playing in the mud, gardening, digging holes, or making toys out of mud can help them build friendships and relationships that last a lifetime. As adults, when we look back at our childhood days, such activities always bring back fond memories, don’t they?
6. Helps your child get Vitamin D
Playing outdoors amid nature also means children are directly exposed to the sun. Your children will get an unlimited amount of the essential vitamin D. Vitamin D is vital for the development of a good immune system and bone health. Also, epidemiological studies suggest that it may help fight certain health issues such as cancer, depression, heart attacks, and stroke (4).
Creative Mud Play Ideas For Children
Here are some creative mud play ideas for children so that they derive the maximum benefits.
Painting with mud can be a fun and creative exercise for young and budding artists. Children can use different shades and concentrations of mud to paint landscapes, objects, and settings. They can also draw different cartoon characters.
Your child can mold mud to make any object. You can encourage them to use mud to create a kitchen or living room complete with people, tools, furniture, etc.
Children can also use mud to construct buildings and castles. They can make small rooms or caves for their imaginary people or animals to hide inside or tunnels for cars and trucks to pass through.
Awaken your child’s curiosity by taking them on a walk in the garden or the park. Talk about the plants and animals you see around. Draw their attention towards tiny organisms in the soil and talk about them too. This activity will help them be more aware of their surroundings and instill a love of nature.
Let your child get their hands messy by playing with mud. If you have old cake tins and molds, ask them to make mud pies in these tins. Send them scouting for twigs, pebbles, leaves, etc., to decorate the mud pie.
Good parenting is not only about pampering your child with unlimited love and care, but also about nurturing them in a way that makes them strong individuals in the future. So, send your children outdoors and encourage them to engage in mud play more often – the benefits are aplenty.
2. Mud and Dirt Play: Embracing the MessThe American Society of Landscape Architects
3. 5 reasons to let your child play in the dirtLife Education Australia
4. A prescription for better health: go alfrescoHarvard University
5. The Dirt on DirtNational Wildlife Federation
6. Let Them Eat Dirt (Or at Least Play in It);Mayo Clinic
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