The verdict is in. Mud and dirt are good for kids. The germs are needed to build up immune systems. New research even suggests that certain microbes in soil have an antidepressant effect on us—making us happier! Plus, mud is an amazing sensory experience for kids. And in the day of Sensory Processing Disorder, our kids really need to squish their fingers through mud sometimes!
But we understand. When your kid jumps in a mud puddle with new sneakers or rolls in a mud pile with clean clothes, a parental instinct is to flash forward to the tremendous clean-up effort headed your way, not to mention possibly extra expense for new shoes perhaps or a complete overhaul of the day's plans if you need to take your kiddo home to change.
So how do we make room for mud play and still keep extra work and possibly extra expenses to a minimum? We're parents-- we plan of course!
Start out by stockpiling old clothes, shoes, kitchenware. When you're ready for mud play, get them geared up in their mud day clothes and let them at it!
You can easily set up a container or natural mud patch in your backyard or even a mobile mud patch. Stock your mud patch with containers, large bowls shovels or old spoons for making mud soup. Encourage your kid to scour the area for "ingredients" such as twigs, pebbles, and flowers.
For the artist, ask your child to make a mud painting. Bring out old paintbrushes and let your child's imagination soar. They can add colorful accents from nature like flower petals or leaves.
One of our favorite mud-based activities is to give a tree a smile or snarl, or any expression that seems fit with a mud face.
As always, simpler is often better. Just letting your kids run wild through the mud, doing whatever feels natural for them, will make them happy as a pig in mud 🙂 This is possibly a rare occasion when they can get as messy as they want! Let them get wild squshing their fingers through the mud, stomping in puddles, slipping and sliding away.
As for the cleanup, when the stomping and squishing is done, be ready with a bin or a plastic garbage bag to contain the outer layers and deal with them when you can.
Early Childhood Ireland has more great ideas for playing with mud including mud masks and mud people! And with all of that rain, the Irish get their fair share of mud to play with!
Speaking of the Irish, International Mud Day, which started as a touching collaboration between kids in Nepal and Australia, actually launched in Belfast in Northern Ireland. International Mud Day is, of course, an excellent time to plan for some mud play but, when it comes to mud, we think the more mud play the better!