Today is International Mud Day, a sort of different and strange celebration that has been gaining popularity since it began in 2009. The focus of Mud Day is to get children outdoors and experience mud play as a way for them to grow their creativity and sense of adventure. If you’re a proponent of the idea that children still need a childhood with dirt, mud, puddles, trees, sticks, and tadpoles - this day is for you! But, if you’re afraid or grossed out over your child getting mud all over their hands and clothes, don’t worry so much.
According to the National Wildlife Federation’s report The Dirt on Dirt: How Getting Dirty Outdoors Benefits Kids: “When we let our kids play in dirt we're not only allowing them to explore the wonders around them, we are also exposing them to healthy bacteria, parasites, and viruses that will inevitably create a much stronger immune system! Many kids who live in an ultraclean environment have a greater chance of suffering from allergies, asthma, and other autoimmune diseases that we would otherwise be protected from through the simple pleasure of playing with some nice common dirt.”
Yes, common every day dirt – the soil beneath our feet, the Earth. The soil that grows our food, favorite flowers, and provides underground habitats for hundreds of animals. The same Earth we are trying to preserve by living eco-friendly lifestyles is actually good for us. Who would of thought that spending time making mud pies outside and getting really muddy could actually make a child’s body healthier?
The same study reports that making direct contact with soil, whether through gardening, digging for worms, or making mud pies has been shown to improve mood, reduce anxiety, and facilitate learning. Even looking at a green space for a few minutes is good for your mental health causing stress levels to decrease. Spending time outdoors, like in a small backyard, allows children to benefit from nature while they explore, examine, learn, imagine, pretend play, and get healthier.
You don’t need to go far or spend a lot of money to enjoy the benefits of being in nature. Here are a few activities you can do at home to allow your children to play in the mud in honor of International Mud Day. You may have dirt on site already, but if you don’t you can buy a simple bag of top soil at a local garden center for about two dollars per cubic yard. The first activity is a classic, making mud pies.
To get started you’ll need soil and water to make mud. Most any kind of soil will work, but if you’re in a pinch, use potting soil. Mix the soil and water to the desired muddy consistency. Spend some time shaping mud pancakes and cookies with the kids. Take it to the next level with a used cake, pie, or muffin tin from your pantry or local yard sale. You’ll be able to mold the mud into the shape of your desired pastry and easily decorate it without waiting for it to dry. Flowers, pebbles, leaves, sticks, and twigs from your yard will become the beautiful icing for mud cake and the lattice for mud pies.
After you’ve made lots of mud pies, you can use that same mud to build a fort or castle. Put mud in an ice cube tray to make small bricks or simply use a stick to draw some bricks on the mud walls. Dig a trench and fill with water for a moat or river. Or you can make a ‘mudman’, the snowman’s cousin, and make a face and arms with small stones and leaves.
Other activities can include dirt painting or mud painting. Provide participants with poster board or white paper, a tray of dry dirt, cups of water, and paintbrushes. Use the dirt as is or mix with water to make mud that will be a stand in for paint. Add food coloring to the mud mixture for an interesting touch of color.
A bin with moist dirt and several toy dump trucks and dozers is an instant construction themed sensory bin. It’s a fun way for kids to begin to build their own imaginary city. Change the trucks to small flower pots and flower and you’ll have a garden themed bin. Above all, let the children play and be creative.
Don’t forget to provide water, soap, and sponges for kids to get cleaned up after all the fun. Share your photos and fun experience with mud on the official Facebook page here, facebook.com/InternationalMudDay.