MUD – Friend or Foe?


Sticky, gooey, oozy, slimy, glorious mud! It is a quintessential childhood ingredient and one that parents either avoid or tolerate! At Wildlings we love mud. Well, I should be specific, the children love the mud! During rainy times our once dry dirt paths become mud pits and bogs, slides, kitchens, baths, small worlds. You cannot accurately describe the sheer joy on the face of children who play in mud but maybe we can convince you with a few fun facts about the benefits of mud…

Here are 10 ways in which Mud Play is essential for childhood development:

1. The complete sensory experience

Playing in mud ignites all our senses. Texture and consistency; A delight for the ears as it plops, and squelches and drips. Mud has a variety of colours and smells. Then there are some of the lesser known senses like proprioception. Proprioception is the awareness of the position and movement of the body. Playing in the mud not only activates the vestibular (or balance) system, it is stimulated when children are required to navigate slippery and uneven terrain, and mud can help provide challenge in helping to condition this system.

2. Improved immune system

When our bodies receive small doses of microbes, specifically in outdoor environments, our immune systems can learn what viruses or bacteria it needs protection against. Our bodies store this information and can use it to quickly fight off illness later in life. If we come into contact with parasites, viruses and bacteria on a regular basis our bodies will have a better chance of keeping infections at bay!

3. Grounding

There is a lot of evidence now in the importance of grounding ourselves in the Earth. A good one to start with is this:

4. Creativity and imagination

When children have a blank canvas and a range of open-ended resources and loose parts, creativity cannot be contained. Inspiration is all around when there is no limit on time, space and materials. Mud can be so many things to a child. It can be the ingredients in a mud cake, it can be a home for a mythical creature, a face for a mud sculpture, or simply a mud slide.

5. Fine and gross motor skills

Traversing a mud patch, sliding down a mudslide and climbing a muddy bank are all ways in which children are practising their gross motor skills. Gross motor skills are used when making marks (pre-reading skills) with mud, making dorodango (shiny mud) balls and crushing ochre to tint mud.

6. Lift your mood

A friendly little soil microbe (Mycobacterium vaccae) is actually responsible for improving your mood by boosting the immune system in a similar way to antidepressant drugs. You can’t argue with that!


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7. Connection to the natural world

One of the foundations at Wildlings is that children cannot love to learn nature if they have had no childhood in it. Playing in mud is one of the ways in which children can connect with nature and find joy in our wild playground. This is the stuff that childhood memories are made of!

8. Build Resilience

Resilience... you hear this word being thrown around a lot lately. Our capacity to overcome difficulties quickly can have no better platform for practice than getting muddy! There are so many ways in which mud provides physical and mental challenges, all while having the time of our lives!

9. Practice risk assessment

When we control every aspect of a child's safety we deny them the opportunity to engage in real risk assessment strategies. A slippery and uneven surface will force children to evaluate their course of action, devise a plan to minimise injury and to maximise their success. Mud can be a very tricky surface to navigate from climbing a muddy bank to sliding down a mud slide!

10. Social skills

On days where the rain has come to pay us a visit we tend to notice that the mud plays a really important role in developing pro-social skills in children. Turn-taking, negotiations and communication are observed while children navigate the steep mud bank. They work together in teams and provide assistance and help to the younger children, a true sight to behold! Mud also invites children to play fight and during these moments they learn how to recognise, understand and respect personal boundaries.



Now that’s all good and well for our children – but what about we parents who need to clean up the mess afterwards?! Here are some hot tips:

1. Dress appropriately. Encourage your children to always be ready and able to play by ensuring their clothes (especially girls) are able to be played in. We can’t tell you how often children tell us they aren’t allowed to get their clothes dirty/wet/muddy because ‘Mum will be cross if I get my clothes dirty.’ We’re going to be frank here. Kids are meant to play. Therefore, clothes should be able to get dirty. Please don’t buy your children white clothes and then tell them not to get dirty… This goes for parents too. If you know you are going somewhere where your children are likely to get muddy, please don’t wear your white cashmere jumper!  This leads us to our next hot tip.

2. Be prepared. If you’re out, keep a spare change of clothes, a towel and a plastic/wet bag (these can be purchased from K-Mart or the likes for $10) in the car so that children can change before getting in. During the warmer months, they can be hosed off outside before coming inside or getting in the car. At home, have children strip off after muddy play outside and throw their gear in a tub/wet bag that goes straight into the wash. This is what washing machines are built for! Then straight into the bath. As soon as they are able, have children help you with the washing to ease your load.

These simple tips have honestly enabled us to allow our children to play whenever, wherever and in whatever they like when the need (remembering that play is a need and a child’s right) without the inevitable, “Please don’t get wet/jump in the puddle/get muddy,” fight we’ve all been in because we weren’t prepared for childhood.



Mud slide, mud kitchen, mud pies, mud everything!!

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