The joy of Mud Pies

I posted a link to an article on the benefits of playing in mud around this time last year but following some comments at our AGM last week I thought I would link back to it.

Over the last session at playgroup we have been able to embrace outdoor play so much more and we have seen how much our children have loved and benefited from access to our fantastic garden area. For many parents, however, the reality of this means dirty clothes and an increase in washing. As the mother of 4 boys I can understand and fully appreciate that this is an unwelcome addition to the household workload so, I thought I would just summarise some of the benefits mud play brings and why, in my opinion, that extra load of washing is worth the effort.

Mud is good for you, it has recognised physical, psychological and emotional benefits. The bacteria (mycobacterium vaccae if you want its official name, google it if you want to read  the myriad of research on its effectsin soil stimulates our brains to release serotonin which makes us feel happier and consequently less prone to depression. There is research to show that our 21st century addiction to cleanliness has led to an increase in allergies and asthma, access to mud and dirt consequently should buck that trend.

The physical skills involved in playing mud are also therapeutic – relate it to the stress relief felt when pounding a lump of bread dough or tenderising a piece of meat – the physical contact, feel, texture and consistency which can be altered, amended and adjusted  without limit, then, think of the imagination which children pour into their creations and how it stimulates their thinking and ability to invent and innovate. Maths, science and language are all involved when you consider quantities, volumes, consistency, texture and experimentation. Understanding of nature increase when children have direct experience of their creations freezing or drying out in the sun (wishful thinking here). Creativity and imagination lead to mud pies which are birthday cakes for fairies, ice cream, tomato soup among many, many others. Then we have the social skills, the communication, negotiation, sharing and cooperation that is fostered. Making a mud pie can be a solitary activity but more often it is shared with children taking turns at stirring or mixing while others might be out looking for vital and important ingredients, and, usually, the finished product is presented and served with pride to yet another participant in the play.

Children also are experiencing risk, taking a chance when playing with mud. Children who know their parents are a little unsure about the mess might see this as a challenge, their opportunity to experiment, to push a boundary and this fosters their attitudes to challenge and adventures in later life, to increase the chances that they will be creative thinkers and innovators rather than people who simply follow rules. Mud is an open-ended medium which children can mould, re-mould, discard, scoop up again ad infinitum. With no wrong answers in this type of play, no limits or boundaries children’s independence and confidence is enhanced increasing their feelings of self-worth and self-belief.

So, while I have to say that I regularly look at the muddy hands and clothes and think (worry) “what a mess, what will Mum think” I also take a step back, look at the smiles, recognise the concentration and determination and appreciate the learning experiences that are being achieved. I hope you will too.




Posted on June 29, 2016, in Jane's Blog, Playgroup News and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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