More Than Mud

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Kids love mud. And if the rise in popularity of ‘Tough Mudder’ style events is anything to go by, many adults love mud too.

But mud for kids is about much more than just good dirty fun. Mud play encourages creativity. It can be soothing and relaxing, providing an outlet for children to express their feelings through their senses and exploration.

In addition to this there are proven health benefits of exposure to the friendly bacteria in soil, which can release endorphins and lead to happier, healther children. It’s important that children have uninterrupted time to play with mud imaginatively outdoors and to experience nature. This facilitates opportunities for them to problem solve, create and explore ideas and exercise their minds.

Mud play is important for children to develop and practice their fine and gross motor skills, increase awareness of their senses, particularly touch, improve hand/eye coordination and develop their social and emotional skills, including taking turns and leading/following directions.

Through mud play, children develop a sense of self and belonging – a sense of their place in the world. They feel a connection with nature. And being in and around nature provides children with opportunities to explore, ground themselves and learn to care for the environment and the world around them.

Mud play is about learning to play and playing to learn, free from restrictions with maximum benefit. It is focused on the process, not the product, and this is what makes mud play so enjoyable for children. 

Ideas for mud play at home

  • Create a mud kitchen with old pots, pans, trays, mixing bowls, patty pans and any other items your child would enjoy
  • Make mud castles using buckets, spades, leaves, feathers and stones to decorate
  • Create mini mud bricks using ice trays to create structures, cubby houses, or whatever your child imagines.
  • Try tray play: tray play is about using a big tub or container either on the ground or on a table to engage in various forms of play including water, sand, slime, spaghetti or in this case mud! Ideas for a mud tray play might include making a dinosaur swamp with muddy water and toys. Or you can make a construction site with trucks using a mixture of dry and wet mud. Your child might have some ideas for what mud tray play they would like to create.
  • Get your hands into it with mud painting! Whether you use concrete, paper, canvas or other surfaces, encourage your children to get painting with mud. If your child is old enough you can encourage them to talk through their drawing or write a story to match their mud painting pictures.
  • Make some mud sculptures. Use some firm mud to mould into people, creatures of whatever your child likes. Use leaves, sticks, pebbles, stones, flowers or bark to decorate your sculpture.

Top Tips

  • Dress your children in old clothes suitable for mud play
  • Join in with your child! Model that it is okay to get your hands dirty
  • Keep water nearby for washing hands and cleaning up
  • Provide props, equipment or toys that can enhance children’s play experiences
  • Encourage discussion, singing and experimentation
  • Ensure that children are appropriately supervised

By Natalie Francis

This article was originally published in State of Play, Issue One, March 2016