Written by Caressa Govender Summerhill Grade 0 Teacher
Its 2pm. You arrive at Summerhill Nursery to fetch your little one. She comes running towards you covered in mud. Flashes of a muddy car and muddy footprints on your carpets come to you as soon as you lay eyes on your child. Only negative thoughts come to mind, but they are quickly forgotten as you see the huge smile on her face.
Is playing in mud bad? Aside from the mess it creates, does it have benefits for your child? As teachers we observe the joy it brings to children and how it can keep them occupied for hours on end. Summerhill has created special “mud kitchens” in various sections of the school but children don’t often confine themselves to these spaces. At any time of the day, you can find a group of children huddled over a muddy puddle with sticks in hand, creating something from the depths of their imaginations.
According to Victoria Hacket from handsongrow.com, dirt and mud play is often overlooked as an essential teaching tool for young children. She outlines the main reasons why we, as teachers and parents, should let children engage in this messy form of fun.
Hacket says that children’s social and emotional development increases during mud play. Children are forced to interact, listen to each other, share a space and equipment and problem solve.
Another beneficial area of development that is strengthened during mud play, is fine and gross motor skills. Think about using kitchen utensils, adding small items to a mud pie or transporting heavy containers of mud and water around. Small and large muscles are being put to work.
One of the most crucial benefits for children is that mud contains microscopic bacteria that can aid in building a child’s immune system. Your child will not only be happier by playing in the mud but also grow a stronger immune system over time.
Let’s try to overlook the mess and let children enjoy themselves in this free, fun and beneficial way!