By Hyahno Moser, Nature Play QLD
21st February 2015
As a child, I was drawn to mud. Some of my fondest childhood memories saw me covered in the stuff, head to toe. This grubby, gooey, sticky substance always seemed to have magical powers as a child. In its presence, so much is possible. Simply standing in it fires up my imagination! And if I’m honest…kind of grosses me out at the same time, as well making me gloriously happy.
Even when I am holding mud in my hands today, I still feel as though I can create anything. And there is no greater pleasure than giving yourself permission to get dirty!
Playing in the mud is not only fun, it’s good for kids too! I have been researching mud play, and have uncovered some surprising facts behind this magical material, as well as some amazing and interesting statistics related to why our kids need to get their hands dirty.
THE SCIENCE OF MUD PLAY
There is a growing body of research into why kids have an inbuilt need to play in mud.
There is evidence suggesting that mud play is a basic biological need, and this type of play has many physical, psychological and emotional benefits for children.
MUD MAKES YOU HAPPY – New research has shown that exposure to friendly soil bacteria (Mycobacterium Vaccae) stimulates the immune system causing the brain to release serotonin, the endorphin used to regulate mood.
MUD REDUCES YOUR SUSCEPTIBILITY TO DEPRESSION – Given the link of the friendly bacteria in mud and its ability to make you happy, scientists say that regular exposure to mud will reduce a child’s vulnerability to depression
MUD PLAY BUILDS CREATIVITY – The open-ended nature of mud play is perfect for the developing brain. There is no end to the creations, ideas and games children will invent. During this type of unstructured, outdoor play, children are not only exercising but are building their ability to form ideas, problem solve, and think critically, as well being innovative and inventive.
KEY MILESTONE DEVELOPMENT ACHIEVED THROUGH MUD PLAY – As children grow through their formative years, mud play will help them achieve many key developmental milestones, such as fine and gross motor skills, sensory awareness, balance and coordination. Mud play will also create opportunities to practice social skills and help children to make sense of the world.
FOUNDATIONAL LEARNING THROUGH MUD PLAY – While playing with mud, children are learning and testing theories, as well as developing foundational understanding of maths and literacy.
MUD PLAY CAN REDUCE CHILDHOOD ANXIETY AND STRESS – There is now scientific evidence linking the restorative effects of outdoor play, which can reduce levels of anxiety and stress in children.
MUD PLAY CREATES CHILDHOOD MEMORIES – Positive childhood experiences while playing outdoors will help to create and strengthen kids’ concept of the outdoors, and reinforce the intrinsic benefits and interest in playing outdoors and being active.
BUILDING AN ADVENTUROUS SPIRIT THROUGH MUD PLAY – While kids are braving the mud, sloshing and squelching around, they are challenging themselves, expanding their experiences and in turn, their world. Instilling and nurturing this constructive foundational style of critical thinking and risk assessment in children builds and strengthens their values and attitudes toward adventure, and develops important skills that can be carried through to adulthood.
MUD BUILDS A CONNECTION WITH NATURE – Playing with mud is a foundational activity that could lead to children further developing a strong and empathetic connection with the natural environment.
MUD IS FUN! For most children, mud play is intrinsically fun, plain and simple. While adults like to understand the full sphere of why mud play is so good for our children, kids will just instinctively play in it. Especially when their parents encourage them to! Children don’t need to understand why this type of play is important to their development. What’s important is that we provide opportunities for them to do it – and give them permission to get dirty!
Mud play is amazing, as it not only delivering a great play experience for our kids, but it’s easy and affordable to get involved.
Check out the Mud Play Fact Sheet on the Nature Play QLD website for ideas on how to get started on having fun in the mud.
Click here to access Cool Australia’s Marvellous Mud early learning activity.