From the Head of Junior School

Marvellous Mud

Playing in the mud is beneficial to children!
The digging patch in our ELC playground is a very popular zone, with many a delicious ‘chocolate mud pie’ coming out of their bush kitchen. With all our children, including our ELC students, spending more time down on ‘The Flat’ exploring the bush, building cubbies, kicking a football, playing soccer, and enjoying PE classes, I am reminded of a study completed in London where scientists discovered something that children have always known – playing in the mud is beneficial. In a recent article published by Eco Explorers (an organisation formed to encourage families to spend more time exploring the natural environment), the merits of getting down and dirty were explained:

Playing in the mud can make you happier
Recent studies have revealed that dirt contains microscopic bacteria, called ‘Mycobacterium vaccae’, which increases the levels of serotonin in our brains, helping to relax, soothe and calm.

Playing in the mud connects you with nature
Getting kids outside to play (as a place to act out make believe worlds and explore) creates happy memories with the one most primal element in our world: nature.

Playing in the mud can make you healthier
Step away from the antibacterial hand wipes. Research has shown that playing in the dirt, including very wet dirt, is good for a child’s immune system. According to Mary Ruebush, the author of Why Dirt Is Good: 5 Ways to Make Germs Your Friends, ‘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. They’re not building their immunological army. So it’s terribly important.’

Playing in the mud helps children to learn and develop
The same release of serotonin that occurs when playing in dirt has also been shown to improve cognitive function. Sensory, hands-on play feeds children’s brains. Listing all the ways playing with mud can help children to learn and develop would be a whole post in itself.

Playing in the mud helps develop positive dispositions
Having an area outdoors set aside for mud play – e.g. a mud patch or a mud pie kitchen – provides a space for children to retreat to for some time alone in a soothing sensory experience, or to play with peers co-operating, communicating, negotiating and sharing.

Mud play welcomes all comers
Mud is an open-ended material that meets the different needs and interests of different children. A younger child might be right into the sensory experience, while older children are busy making their own mud bricks. With mud, there is something for everyone.

Playing in the mud encourages creative thinking
Playing with open-ended materials like mud stimulates creativity and imagination – things that are hard to jump start later in life.

Childhood memories
Think back to your own childhood. Do you have happy memories of playing outside in the mud and the dirt? After all, making mud pies is one of the iconic images of childhood. We are creating the experiences, the memories, and the childhoods of today’s children.

Aren’t we lucky that children at Carey Donvale have the chance to experience this type of healthy outdoor play?

Steve Wilson
Head of Junior School Donvale
steve.wilson@carey.com.au