International Mud Day is on June 29 (really!) and we at Boston Children’s Museum will be celebrating on Saturday June 27 from 11:00-3:00. We’ll be looking at different types of dirt under microscopes, playing with “clean mud,” and exploring objects made from clay. But the highlight of the day will be the giant bowl of mud in our front yard, under the tent. And I hear you asking, “Why on earth would I want to let my kids play in a giant bowl of mud??” To which I say, there are lots of reasons!
Kids, especially young kids, need to activate all their senses to help their brains develop. Mud-play is a highly tactile, sensory experience that actually helps to build the brain! This kind of tactile play is a great opportunity to develop science skills too; kids will notice cause-and-effect, advance their “what if” experimenting skills, explore the properties of matter, and lots more. Mud is also a great equalizer; anyone can play with it, at any age and any ability.
Mud is good for you! The “hygiene hypothesis” suggests that if kids are limited to a hyper-clean environment when they are young, they are more likely to develop asthma, allergies and other autoimmune disorders. As published in the Washington Post, “A growing body of evidence suggests that all the antibacterial-wiping, germ-killing cleanliness of the developed world may actually be making us more prone to getting sick — and that a little more dirt might help us stay healthier in the long run.” A study at Northwestern University specifically found that kids who played in the dirt have a lower level of a certain protein that is linked to heart disease.
Other studies have shown that being “in nature” is really good for us, emotionally. Running in the grass, climbing trees, and, yes, playing in the mud—all these things actually make you happy. Think about some of your favorite childhood memories—do they involve playing outside? For me, the earthy smell of wetlands brings me back to summer camp, searching for tadpoles and dragonflies.
Now maybe you’re thinking “That all sounds great, but I don’t want to put a filthy dirty kid back in my car.” No worries. We will have a hose, buckets and towels to rinse off with. Just bring a change of clothes with you, and everyone will be cleaned up in no time! And don’t just bring clothes for your kids….bring them for you too!
See you there!
https://en.wikipedia.org/?title=Hygiene_hypothesis#cite_note-strachan2000-2 (links to many studies can be found here)