Many parents see their young child heading for a mud puddle and see potential mess, dirt stained clothes and hazardous germs so they stop them.
When we, at Early Years, see a mud patch, we see potential sensory fun and giggles, splashing and opportunities to explore and enjoy the outdoors, avenues for imagination and creativity.
Did you know that studies have found a good bacteria in soil that has been linked to improved quality of life and happiness? There is an abundance of information on how playing in the mud boosts a child immune system so it is not only healthy for you but makes you happy.
Open ended play
This gives opportunity for creativity and imagination. Mud kitchens and Mud stations are child led activities and allow self-soothing that becomes a somewhat therapeutic relaxing event where the child can connect to the outdoors with the freedom to let their mind wander wherever it wishes to.
Open ended play leaves doors open so a child can develop the independence and confidence to play within their own limits, the way they feel comfortable.
Stimulation of many senses while engaged in play
Sensory stimulation is a necessary part of brain development. Children can listen to nature sounds of the outdoors, mud/water/slopping sounds, birds and so on. They gain tactile stimulation through touch and the different feelings of dirt, pebbles, sticks, water, mud, and the different textures. They can see how materials mix, mash, pour, transform, squish through different methods of play.
Mud kitchens provide good practise of eye hand coordination and help further develop the neural pathways responsible for these movements. While scooping, mixing, pouring and carrying pots full or mud, transferring materials and serving up mud children are increasing their eye hand coordination and through moving around the different weighted materials, balancing them and having steady control of them, they are strengthening all those important muscles that are still growing.
Cause and effect
Something that is often overlooked in outdoor free play is how a child learns through experimentation and observation. For example, the mud blocks the sink, the large pebbles don’t fit through the funnel, dirt and water makes mud, mud settles at the bottom of the pot, bark chips float to the surface and so forth.
Pretending Real life Play
Mud stations allow children to develop real skills using real life instruments, working in a real kitchen, working with real resources. This leads to learning real consequences and learning through exploration. Whether they are role playing being a chef, making a mud pie or just enjoying splatting mud like an erupting volcano they are utilising natural materials.
Imagination and Creativity
Open ended mud play leads to creativity. After all mud is an art medium. We’ve all heard of mud pies but have you ever tried mud painting? Through the freedom of open ended play and utilising rich coloured mud a child’s imagination develops as they role play, story tell, chat away in their own fantasy world, create things and make things and pretend real life scenarios.
Gross Motor Skills
As with all forms of outdoor play, mud play enhances gross motor skills. As the child handles materials and works around the mud station, carries full shovels of mud or balances full pots of water, lifts and pours containers, stirs and scoops with utensils, squats, stands, sits and physically moves around doing their thing, they are being active and using important gross motor actions.