Why Playing in the Mud Outdoors Could Build a Better Child

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Ever notice that kids attract like magnets to the nearest mud puddle? It turns out they may be on to-or in this case, into-something good. Research from the National Wildlife Federation shows that getting dirty outdoors has big benefits for kids.

According to the study: The Dirt on Dirt: How getting dirty outdoors benefits kids playing outside in the dirt benefits the heart, skin and immune system, increases happiness,  reduces anxiety and aids learning.  On the other hand, overprotecting kids from dirt and germs may actually give them a greater chance of having allergies, according to some research

With rain in our forecast, local kids will soon have a chance to frolic in the mud. Here are some fun ideas for mud play outdoors from the National Wildlife Federation, and if if your kids do head out, feel free to share those muddy photos with us so they can be included in our new Faces and Places section of Carolina Parent Magazine:

  • Be an Artist. Give your child a stick and a muddy surface to draw on. Mistakes are no problem. Just smooth them over and start again.Mud balls can become out-of-season snowmen or abstract sculptures. If your child’s creation isn’t sticking together, just add more water.
  • Be a Builder. Children can make buildings of all shapes and sizes if they use sticks to create a frame and pack mud on to it. Houses or forts perhaps, a castle with a moat, or a stable to put toy horses in.  If they also like the idea of large-scale public works, have them make a river by digging a trench in the mud or dirt. Then, add water as needed and a dam.
  • Be a Biologist. When it rains, take a walk through your neighborhood to see which animals go under over and which come out in wet weather. Kids may also see birds swooping down to take a bath in nearby puddles. This is also a fine time to study worms that surface to breathe when their burrows fill with water. Then, enlist the kids in a Worm Rescue Squad and move any worms they find on the sidewalk back to the dirt so they don’t dry out.
  • Be a Chef. If you’re going to play in the mud, why not make some mud pies? If you have some old cake or pie tins, great. Otherwise, shallow plastic containers work just fine. Once the pies are “baked,” it’s time to make them beautiful. Encourage your children to scour the yard for pebbles, petals, and leaves that will make perfect decorations on top.Collect dirt, grass, leaves, twigs and acorns in a large container for a bountiful nature salad. Add some water, and it’s mud stew.

Also see our Daily Calendar for lots of hands-on programs that get kids outdoors exploring nature at local parks.

By the way, if you’re feeling a little stressed, you might want to join in making a mud pie. According to research by Bristol University, a friendly bacteria found in soil helps produce serotonin, which may lift your mood, much the same way that antidepressant drugs and exercise do.

No wonder digging in the dirt feels so good.

Want to get dirty for a good cause?
MuckRuckus MS Carolinas offers teams a chance to race through an obstacle laden challenge course through miles of water, mud and muck on June 16 in Knightdale. The race raises awareness of multiple sclerosis, an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system, and benefits the National MS Society For more information, to register or to donate, visit www.muckruckusMScarolinas.org or call (800) 344-4867.

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