•  Mud, mud, glorious mud
  • Nothing quite like it for cooling the blood
  • So follow me follow, down to the hollow
  • And there let me wallow in glorious mud.

- The Hippopotamus Song

Do you have childhood memories of splashing in mud puddles?  Or making mudpies and letting them bake in the sun? How about letting squelchy mud ooze through and tickle your toes?  Not only is playing in mud a whole lot of fun, but it has great benefits for kids (and adults!) too. More and more of children in today’s world are finding themselves inside being sedentary, rather than getting outdoors and engaging in unstructured nature-based play. Because of this, there’s a grassroots movement focusing on getting kids back outside where they can discover, take risks, connect with nature and get dirty of course!  And mud play is one of the most satisfying ways to do this.

What are the benefits of mud play?  Here are just a few…

mud

  • Playing in dirt builds a stronger immune system.
  • Kids are happier and more relaxed when they’re playing outside.
  • Children learn best when they use all of their senses – something that mud play definitely allows for.
  • Playing in nature helps children develop resilience and learn to how to take measured risks.
  • Mud play encourages open-ended play and creative thinking.
  • Mud play is soothing and has therapeutic qualities.
  • Mud play with friends helps to develop social skills such as sharing, turn-taking and negotiating.

Mud play at preschool doesn’t have to mean having a dedicated space for mud play (though a mud kitchen is definitely a great project to aim for with the children!)  Start small by heading outside after (or during) the rain.  Splash, squelch, make mess and talk with the children about how the mud feels and sounds.

If it hasn’t been raining for a while, fill a water-play tub with dirt and water and make mud with the children.  Or, dig a small mud patch with the children to splash around in.  If a permanent mud kitchen is something that sounds more appealing, have a look at these inspiring links:

What materials can be added to enhance mud play?

After the children have spent time exploring the possibilities of the mud without tools, ask them what equipment and tools they want to add to their play.  Ideas could include:

  • Tools to move the mud – shovels, buckets, rakes
  • Vehicles such as diggers and excavators
  • Paint brushes and buckets for mud painting
  • Cooking equipment – pots and pans, cake tins, ladles, cutlery, pasta drainers, old Tupperware
  • Loose parts – plumbing pipes, plastic guttering, funnels, tubes
  • Natural items – sticks, stones, cut herbs, flowers, leafy branches, seed pods

Want even more muddy fun?  Take part in International Mud Month

International Mud Day began in 2009 when the students of Bold Park Community School in Australia connected with children from the Panchkhal orphanage in Nepal to celebrate the wonders of mud. Ever since, schools from around the world have taken on the challenge to play in mud each June.  However because many schools are on holidays at this time of the year, 2015 will mark the beginning of International Mud Month.

Schools and preschools are encouraged to establish a connection with a school community across the other side of the world – just as the children from Australia and Nepal did in 2009. The main goal of the day is to connect children and communities around the world through the joy of playing in nature and mud.

You can find more information here.

 

This article is written by Wenone Hope (Australia).

Wenone was born and raised in the farming region of Wagga Wagga. Being a teacher for 13 years, she has a background in Early Childhood education, Special Education, Early Intervention and ESL Teaching.

Wenone is currently teaching in the Blue Mountains of Australia, abd is also an Early Childhood Consultant at Lipa Learning. In the past she has developed a curriculum for young ES learners, and has also been a Preschool Educational Leader in the Blue Mountains, an ESL teacher in the Czech Republic, and a Primary School Educational Director in Canberra.

Wenone is an advocate for inclusive education, where diversity in the classroom (and life) is celebrated. When she’s not in the classroom, she’s out hiking and camping, playing roller-derby, travelling, or enjoying a good book.