One week the teachers took advantage of the recent rainy days and brought the children out to the playground to enjoy some mud play. Through this activity the teachers wanted the children to experience a very important element in our world: nature!
Mud is an open-ended material that meets the different needs and interests of different children. With mud play, there is something for everyone. This sensory, hands-on experience was great for the children as it helped them to strengthen their fine motor skills.
In the teachers’ observations, the children were very calm and observant of their outdoor surroundings. They seemed to enjoy getting dirty very much as they splashed their hands on the muddy water puddles and developed a very excited and happy persona- laughing and making small talk. Many of them were grabbing at the mud and squeezing it in their hands.
After this activity the children returned to the classroom in the happiest of moods and seemed to maintain this mood throughout the day, which leads to the fact that has already been proven and still many are not aware of; that playing in the mud CAN indeed lift your mood!
Recent studies have shown that dirt contains microscopic bacteria called Mycobacterium Vaccae which increases the levels of serotonin in our brains, helping to relax, soothe and calm. Serotonin is the natural chemical in the brain responsible for regulating brain functions like mood, appetite, sleep and memory. Through this mud play this same chemical in the child’s brain is released and is also known to improve the children’s ability to learn new skills.
Playing in the mud also strengthens the immune system. Research suggests that exposure to germs in early childhood can help the immune system to prevent allergies later in life.
Mud play has many educational benefits: it gives the children a chance to explore the world directly as they learn about textures and different animals that they may find in mud like worms. This type of sensory nature play nurtures social skills and creativity, allowing the children to interact with each other as the create things with mud. The teachers strive to continue to provide the children with as many natural open-ended materials as possible to help them learn to the best of their ability!
“So let your child be a child. Dirt is good. If your child isn’t coming in dirty every day, they’re not doing their job.”- Mary Ruebush, author of Why Dirt Is Good: 5 Ways to Make Germs Your Friends
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