Hi everyone, it’s been a few weeks since my first tip in my winter survival series so thought I should hurry up and publish the next one! This one is one that will help your children’s natural development as well as your mindset as a Mama… so here it is:
Embrace the MUD (as much as you can handle)!
Honestly! Once I got my head around the fact that kids just.get.dirty., it made winter life a heck of a lot less stressful and a whole lot more FUN. My boys loooove to get muddy. And rather than be the Mum that stresses out over it, I have learned to embrace it and see it as a natural part of their winter experience. I wasn’t always that way though… check out this text that I sent to a friend after a particularly muddy playground visit with my boys last year:
Did you read that? SUCH a messy, muddy crazy park adventure they had! Bribing them home with a WORM?! That’s their love language alright! I was pregnant with our third child at the time of that experience, and I distinctly remember carrying the kids to our car covered in mud. Oh, the joy. Hard work, that was!
BUT. They had had an absolute ball. And that day, it was like a flick switched in my head. I consciously decided to embrace the fact that they like to get muddy in the giant puddles. I have no longer gotten frustrated with them when they get all wet and dirty. And since then, I have actively encouraged it.
Well, playing in the dirty, muddy, wet puddles is has been proven by research to develop healthy immune systems. In fact, children who grow up on farms have fewer allergies, less chance of developing asthma, and are less likely to develop autoimmune disorders than children who grow up in cities (Brody, 2009. As cited in Hanscom, Angela J. 2016 Balanced and Barefoot: How unrestricted outdoor play makes for strong, confident, and capable children).
I know that this isn’t exactly news to most parents in New Zealand. But did you know that less than HALF of New Zealand’s children regularly get the opportunity to engage in this kind of messy play? A study that was undertaken in 2015 found that 51% of children in New Zealand do not often engage in messy play (eg, mud, dirt, sand, water, paint). (AUT, 2015. As cited in Ministry of Health. 2017. Sit Less, Move More, Sleep Well: Active play guidelines for under- fives).
WHAAATTT?! I was so surprised by this statistic, given my ones are the first to get messy! But what does this mean for our kids overall, as a generation? That there’s a bunch of kids who are missing out on the sensory experience of messy play, of feeling the mud squish between their toes, of enjoying getting messy, of developing healthy immune systems. Of course I do know that there’s a lot more to asthma, allergies, and autoimmune disorders than just playing in the mud. I’m not saying it’s the cure for these things, by far. I’m not a Paediatrician. I’m just a Mum, who happens to be an Occupational Therapist, who knows first hand the challenges of getting kids outside in Winter and letting them do these things. But playing in the MUD (and other messy play)gives kids the best sensory experience they can get.
So, don’t let winter stop you, if you can help it. Rug up in your wet weather gear and get on out there. Believe me, I know first hand how hard it can be. I have had times when I’ve attempted to get outside and it all turns to custard – crying kids all round! But I find that thinking about the developmental benefits for my kids really helps me to overcome my inclination to stay inside.
Let them be little. Let them play in the mud. Let them get dirty. Encourage jumping in the puddles. Do it with them, even, it’ll be good for your mental health too!
There are many ways that you can get involved in muddy, messy play with your kids during winter:
- join a Playcentre near you. The joy of playcentre is that there’s always a messy play experience happening, with a community of like-minded parents who can help clean up.
- TimberNook is an nature based programme that provides opportunities for kids to get outdoors.
- Here in Christchurch there’s a Nature Playgroup that runs on Friday mornings each week. Search for the group on Facebook if you’re interested.
- Make a mud pit in your backyard (seriously thinking about doing this at my place 😉 haha)
- Or just head down to the beach, a forest, a stream, or your local park. Don’t forget your wet weather gear!
So embrace a mindset of MUD and get on out there. Have fun!
Here are a couple of resources that have helped to inform my views on this topic:
Hanscom, Angela J. (2016) Balanced and Barefoot: How unrestricted outdoor play makes for strong, confident, and capable children. Oakland: New Harbinger Publications Inc.
Ministry of Health. (2017). Sit Less, Move More, Sleep Well: Active play guidelines for under- fives.Wellington: Ministry of Health.