Playing in mud is one of those things most of us passionately loved child, and struggle to understand as an adult. But it seems that children have some inside knowledge on this one… playing in mud has surprising health and developmental benefits for kids.
Why mud play is one of the most beneficial, fun activities for your kids.
Here’s what patting out those sticky pies and smearing around those impressionistic mud paintings does for your kid.
It provides an opportunity for unstructured play, which is essential to healthy development. Play with no directions and clearly defined goals is incredibly constructive for children. Some of its impressive benefits are that it improves logical thinking and problem-solving capabilities, and builds creativity, self-confidence and social skills. Mud is one of the most extravagantly fun outdoor “toys” for free play… you can do nearly anything with it.
It’s is an opportunity for brain-boosting sensory play. Mud engages nearly all the senses. It’s a delight to feel (or that’s what kids think), it has a strong smell, it makes soft sounds and it’s constantly forming new shapes (…are you grossed out already? Hopefully they don’t taste it.) And sensory play is deeply beneficial to kids for several reasons, but mostly because it helps to form neural pathways by boosting brain activity.
It’s calming. For some weird reason, playing with mud is therapeutic. If you’ve ever had a mud treatment at a spa, you’ll be able to vouch for this statement. As they engage their senses and relax in a soft, judgement free zone where they can express their creativity, kids everywhere start to feel good inside.
It builds physical capability. Playing in mud one of the best all-round gross motor activities for toddlers. Besides the other health benefits, your little ones use their whole body as they balance or stomp their way through a mud patch, smear out a giant painting, collect objects to put in their pies and carry around their creations. It develops those essential fine motor skills for toddlers as they squish mud through their fingers and work with smaller objects to bring their creations to life. Kids in nature also develop physical strength when exercise grows their muscle tone.
It doses them with microbes that may boost mental health. It seems that a certain friendly little microbe – Mycobacterium vaccae – that calls soils in your kids’ garden “home”, might fight depression and make us feel happier by boosting our immune systems. When kids play in mud, they come into contact with this microbe.
It’s an opportunity for forming a connection with nature. Mud play is essentially outdoor play. It’s the “nature school” in your toddler garden, where kids get comfortable with spending time outdoors, and start realizing the vast possibilities for having fun there. And loving the outdoors is a significant step in learning to love nature, respect it, and care for it.
Educational mud play idea: buy your kids a child’s garden tool set to use in their mud pit. Your kids will love using these adorable child sized gardening tools to “plant” and water all sorts of objects in the mud. Tools like these develop gross and fine motor skills for toddlers, and help them get familiar with basic gardening techniques.
Written by Rifke Hill
About the Author
Rifke Hill was raised on the sort of farm your grandparents told tales about – milking cows, gathering eggs, hoeing the soil, and building fires to heat water. She now spends part of her time copywriting online as a freelancer. The rest of it is spent nurturing and teaching her four energetic children, growing vegetables, baking bread, reading voraciously, having coffee with the neighbors, and enjoying the sunny slopes of the smallholding where she lives, in the Garden Route, South Africa.