Inside: Mud play fosters your child’s creativity, happiness, and health. Read on to find out the benefits of mud play + best mud play activities.
Playing in the mud was a big part of my childhood. So, it might come as a surprise that when my first child touched mud with his hands for the first time, I picked him up and rushed to sanitize his hands.
Education is to blame. Before having children, I took a couple of food biology and chemistry classes in college. After that, I became acutely aware of all the bacteria and viruses living around us, especially in the mud! E Coli for one (22 participants in a mud race in Nevada contracted E Coli), and flesh-eating bacteria for another (a woman loses her sight after catching the flesh-eating disease in mud).
It took a lot of researching, reading, and thinking to re-evaluate my mud-itude. The evidence was showing that mud play was not just essential but absolutely crucial for balanced child development.
It wasn’t an overnight transformation, though.
When my second child fell in a dirty mud lake, I wasn’t on a full red alert, but for days I fretted about her swallowing muddy water until it was clear that she hadn’t contracted some horrible disease.
By now, I’m a mud play convert. I let all my four kids crawl in the mud and explore it. But they do scrub their hands before eating 🙂
Here is everything you need to know about mud and what to do with it.
Benefits of Mud Play
Mud makes us healthier and calmer.
Not only does playing in the mud stimulate our immune system, provide valuable minerals, and improve our health, but it actually makes us happier and more emotionally balanced. Hard to believe? Scientists have discovered that bacteria Mycobacterium vaccae found in mud protects against stress, reduces anxiety, and makes you calmer! When researchers tried using these bacteria with lung cancer patients, they observed astonishing results.
Mud increases brain activity.
Pies, dam building, brick making, and playing with mud is a sensory-rich experience that promotes a higher level of brain functioning such as problem-solving, flexibility of thinking, abstract thinking, concept formation, and complex perception. Mud stimulates the blood flow to the brain and helps us think better (increased blow flow and oxygenation is the reason we think better after exercise).
Mud is good for the body.
Balancing in slippery and sticky mud is a great exercise, but that’s not all. While playing in the mud, kids are constantly moving: adjusting their position, changing direction, standing up, squatting, repeating, and coordinating different body parts in unusual ways. Playing in the mud strengthens the body and increases body awareness.
Mud fosters creativity.
Mud doesn’t come with a set of printed instructions. It naturally encourages exploration and experimentation. A handful of mud can be turned into a pie, a building brick, or paint for a fence.
Mud stimulates the senses.
Did you notice how kids run their fingers through mud or grab a handful and let it slowly ooze between their fingers? It might not seem like much, but in those moments, kids build important nerve connections in brain pathways. Children are instinctively drawn to activities that engage all their senses because that’s how they learn and retain best.
Mud play fosters self-directed learning.
Self-directed learners expand and improve their own education. When children play with mud, they learn at their own pace without adult interruption, fueled only by their own curiosity, and motivated only by their own interest. This is the kind of activity that nurtures self-direction. Being self-directed learners means being able to motivate and organize oneself to learn anything (any skill or subject) at any time at will.
Mud Play Ideas
Are you looking for creative mud play ideas for kids? Picking up a handful of mud and letting it ooze through the fingers is usually the first activity for young kids. Making mud pies is a close second. But it’s not the only two ways to have fun with mud.
Building With Mud
Mud sculptures. Use mud and rocks to create sturdy mud sculptures that last for a long time.
Mud bricks. Pack mud in ice cube trays and let them dry. Use these homemade mud bricks for building and engineering.
Bigger mud bricks. You can make bigger mud bricks with empty milk cartoons. Bigger bricks mean bigger structures (don’t forget to take pictures!).
Mud Engineering. Add materials like aluminum foil to make muddy rivers or PVC pipes for a really sophisticated engineering project.
The easiest way to have fun with mud is to set up a backyard mud play area.
Mud kitchen. DIY Garden Co will teach you everything you need to know to start a mud kitchen in your backyard.
Mud pies. Use stones, flowers, and colorful beads to make fancy mud pies.
Mud soup. Or use weeds, leaves, and lots of water to make mud soup.
Mud imaginative play. Add small figurines and trucks to mud for imaginative play.
Mud sensory box. Or put together a mud sensory box outside
Painting with kitchen utensils. Instead of propping up your canvases (as in the above link), you can spread a roll of white paper on the ground for mud painting with kitchen utensils.
Fence painting. You can even paint your fence or garage with mud.
Make land art. Combine leaves with mud to make unique land art.
Muddy bug art. If painting is not your style, try crafting with mud. Mud bugs
“Every child should have mud pies, grasshoppers, water bugs, tadpoles, frogs, mud turtles, wild strawberries, acorns, chestnuts, trees to climb. Brooks to wade…bees, butterflies, various animals to pet, hayfields, pine-cones, rocks to roll, sand, snakes, and hornets; any child who has been deprived of these has been deprived of the best part of…education.” — American botanist Luther Burbank
Are you feeling inspired to add mud to your play repertoire?