Jumping in puddles and squelching through mud in your wellies are two of life’s simple pleasures, whatever your age, but did you know that it’s actually good for your children to get muddy? There are plenty of surprising benefits of playing with mud, which we explore here.
At the nurseries, mud plays a big part in our daily routine – we build with it, play with it, draw with it and even cook with it – mud pie anyone?
It helps young toddlers with their development, it increases happiness, and it builds creativity.
But messy play has declined in recent years, especially with the explosion of technology in our households, and children are spending more time staring at screens than getting involved with mud, dirt, sand, grass and water.
Worries about germs, dirty clothes and grubby fingers can get in the way of pure fun, exploration and laughter, so put aside any worries about cleanliness and remember why mud is actually a valuable asset for sensory play and early years development.
Benefits of playing with mud:
7. It connects with nature
Spending time playing outside has been shown to improve mood in children and adults. The simple act of spending time outdoors, connecting with the wonderful world around us, is hugely beneficial to the mind and the body.
6. It builds relationships
Spending time together playing with mud in the open air strengthens the relationship between parent and child as you both share the same experience.
Talk to your child about how the mud feels and what they like about it; encourage them to create weird and wonderful creatures and shapes using the mud and any other natural ingredients they can find; get involved in the play yourself.
Sticks, leaves, seeds and stones make excellent accessories for mud pies so go on a nature hunt and see what treasures you can find.
5. It develops imagination
Give your child the freedom to follow their own imagination by creating a mud kitchen in the garden. Let them lead the activity by following their own ideas.
Perhaps they’ll create mud pies, mud art, or perhaps a mud landscape. Open-ended play gives your child the chance to take the play wherever they want, developing their independence, imagination and confidence along the way.
4. It creates lasting memories
Which memories stand out most from your childhood? The afternoons you spent at home watching Danger Mouse with your brother, or the weekends you spent building dens in the garden, climbing trees and riding your bikes up and down the road?
The physical act of playing with mud helps create wonderful childhood memories that matter, ones that will last well into adulthood.
3. It helps with brain development
Any form of sensory play has been shown to have a positive impact on brain development.
Scooping, mixing, carrying, splashing and pouring help develop hand-eye coordination and give children the opportunity to experiment with different weights, sizes and volumes.
These essential skills are constantly developing, helping with balance and movement throughout their early years.
2. It teaches collaboration
Learning to communicate and work with others is an essential life skill that begins to develop from early childhood. Sharing toys, taking it in turns and listening to one another are just some of the benefits of play dates and time with other young children.
Playing with mud helps to build these connections and gives little ones the chance to practise working together, sharing the utensils, helping each other move mud from one spot to another, and working together to clean up when it’s time to go inside.
1. It feels good
Sinking your little hands into a pile of squidgy mud has to be up there with some of the best fun you can have as a toddler.
Those feel-good hormones produced by playing with mud can significantly improve mood, relax busy little minds and soothe over-active brains.
So next time you’re faced with a muddy puddle and an excited toddler, just remember, as well as being a bit messy, it’s also good for them and a great opportunity to let your hair down and have some fun.