Mud, glorious mud!
We’ve had a plumber at our house this week, fixing leaky pipes and digging in the mud. My younger child thinks he has the best job in the world…getting paid to play in the mud!
He’s a happy soul our plumber, he seems to get happier the more muddy he gets. The mud is up to his knees and elbows and his smile is wide. I look at the mud and think about how squelchy the texture might be. I just want to get in and help! It made me think back to my first day of work as a Nature playgroup facilitator, when I was a little reluctant to get my own hands dirty. When the families arrived, the kids mostly got stuck straight in, immediately using their hands and feet to dig in the dirt, pour water, make the mud and then play in it. The adults, on the other hand, mostly sat back and watched. A few brave souls tentatively started using a stick to dig a little, but not once did any of the adults get their own hands dirty or muddy! I wanted to be having as much fun as the kids so pulled my sleeves up and got my own hands dirty. After that I continued to play in the mud and discovered just how fun it can be!
Start with your hands, feel the coolness of the earth, mix in a bit of water and glory in the squelchy feel.
If you are still reluctant to get your hands dirty, try taking your shoes off and walking through the mud, squelching it between your toes.
When you start experimenting with mud in different locations, you will discover just how different the texture of mud can be. When the soil is sandy and dry, even with a lot of water it can be hard to get the earth to combine and make a beautiful soft mud. In other places, with plenty of nutrients in the soil, and a good water supply close-by, the mud can be smooth, soft and just amazing. I have an appreciation for dirt now. My indoor plants and my outdoor fruit trees and vegie garden are benefiting!
When you touch the dirt and mud with your own hands and feet, you get to connect with Nature in a different way than what has become “normal” in our society. You can feel the temperature difference underground…so cold in places. It can be fascinating to see how some dirt actually repels water… “hydrophobic” (hydro=water and phobic=fear of). When you pour water on top, it can take a while to sink in, or sometimes even flow somewhere else, on the surface only. You may need to dig down a bit to be able to get the mud going. Good mud can be mesmerising.
As you feel more confident you may even get to the stage where you enjoy jumping in the muddy puddles yourself! I know this is generally about the last thing parents like to do…and we all think of all the reasons to NOT do it…it’s messy, will be too hard to clean, we don’t want dirt underneath our fingernails, we feel a bit disgusted at the idea of it…etc etc. Just take a look at the babies and kids and wonder why they are having so much fun, and think how you could be joining in the fun! It’s also much more than just fun, it’s a sensory learning experience, it’s about science and numbers and imagination and fine-motor control and big body movements. It’s about laughter and exploration and adventure. It’s about observing your babies and seeing how they learn about their world. It’s about connecting with yourself, your family, your friends and your environment. It’s about being fun and playful and having a memorable family experience.
At the end of the play, probably after you’ve cleaned up the kids, it’s time to clean yourself up too. When you have a warm shower after being muddy and messy, and you emerge clean and refreshed, it just feels amazing. Your kids will love how relaxed you are and will respond to that too. As you become more comfortable with the mud, the play, the mess and the clean-up, it might mean you spend more family time outdoors. You could all go hiking, swimming, canoeing or just running around at the park, the beach or in the forest. You might simply spend more time outside in your own garden. These are such healthy family habits. I chat to many parents who strive to create a healthy balance of manageable, outdoor family experiences, but they are not sure how to do more of the outdoor adventure because it can seem daunting when it’s new...
Perhaps it all starts with a little dirt, a little water and a little dig in the mud with your own hands?…