Today is international mud day, a day when it’s more than okay to get a little messy.
I like the idea of having a mud day for many reasons. First of all, it promotes being messy and sometimes messy play is the most fun. It also promotes being outdoors, no matter what the weather, which I think is important. The beauty of mud day is if it rains, it actually makes more mud and therefore more fun. Finally, I like that mud is completely open ended, you don’t have to be a certain age to play in mud and there are so many possibilities. Once you get into it, playing in mud is freeing, it is an experience for the senses, its a way to let go of “product” activities and keeping things tidy and just allow the children (and yourself) to explore.
Online, I always find myself drawn to blog posts or photos or even videos of mud play. I am always inspired by early childhood programs that made mud a part of their everyday practice or even devote entire days to exploring mud. There is something about mud that fascinates and engages children and I think that they don’t always get enough opportunities to follow that interest and really explore with mud. However, we know that children are always learning and that they learn best when they’re engaged in something that really interests them.
Using the ELECT Continuum, here are just a few of the many different ways that children learn when playing with mud.
5.3 Tactile Discrimination (touching, rubbing, squeezing materials)
Infants and toddlers love sensory play. They almost always enjoy getting dirty and they learn best when they can completely immerse themselves and use all of their senses in play. Mud might be dirt-y but it’s all natural, so it shouldn’t hurt them if they try to check it out using their sense of taste. Infants don’t need any props in their mud play, just complete access so they can explore with their arms, legs, hands and feet.
4.1 Attention Regulation (maintaining attention for increasing periods of time)
4.4 Spatial Exploration (exploring containment by putting objects in containers and by dumping them)
5.3 Sensory Exploration (using all senses in the exploration of properties and functions of objects and materials)
Society often portrays very young children as having short attention spans, but those of us who have children or work with children know that when something really catches their interest, and we allow them the freedom to play uninterrupted, they can do so for significant lengths of time. Toddlers, like infants will enjoy exploring mud simply with their bodies, but at this age, you might also want to add different sizes of containers or even strainers and funnels to let them fill and empty with mud. At this age, you may also begin to see imitative or pretend play; their first attempts and mud pies or even mud soup.
3.5 Using Descriptive Language to Explain, Explore and Extend (using new vocabulary and grammatical constructions in their descriptive language)
4.3 Representation (using a variety of materials to build with and express their ideas & sustaining and extending their socio-dramatic play with language, additional ideas and props)
4.5 Observing (using all senses to gather information while observing)
Preschool and Kindergarten age children may enjoy exploring mud using a mud kitchen or even a mud laboratory. At this age, they engage in a lot of pretend play and will probably enjoy creating with the mud. They are also doing a lot of experiments, they are able to make predictions and solve problems they encounter in their play. There are many opportunities for language through mud play, just think of all the different ways we can describe mud- gooey, runny, sticky, bumpy, oozing, malleable, etc. They might enjoy making their own mud, experimenting with consistency and adding other elements from nature, such as grass, leaves, sticks or even flowers.
For us adults, I think that we should all spend some time with our hands in the mud. It’s relaxing, it’s freeing and it allows us to recapture the joy of playing and having fun!
Happy Mud Day!
For more mud reading, check out these links:
From Community Playthings: The Mud Center: Recapturing Childhood
From The Imagination Tree: An Outdoor Concoctions (read: mud) Kitchen
From Let The Children Play: Mud Play at Preschool
From Growing a Jeweled Rose: 30+ Mud Activities to Celebrate International Mud Day
Photo from Flickr- FreeLearningLife