Whether you think mud is gross or glorious, you may be surprised to learn that playing in mud is actually good for you! And lucky for all of us, opportunities to play in the mud abound!
Get Happy, Get Healthy
Feeling a little sluggish? Researchers in Europe and the US have shown ingesting a friendly bacteria called Mycobacterium vaccae, raises serotonin levels, which boosts mood, learning and immunity. And this friendly bacteria is found primarily in mud! A growing body of research on other probiotics including the garden variety Bacillus subtilis demonstrate benefits for digestion, the immune system and overall health. For example, kids who grow up living on farms with livestock, or with a pet are less likely to develop asthma or allergies. The healthy bacteria we ingest not only ward off harmful bacteria, but actually play a pivotal role in building a healthy immune system.
Building Bodies & Brains
Mud play is also great for our learning and development. Unlike many toys and games today that come programmed with instructions, rules, and realistic details, mud and other natural materials don’t dictate or limit what you can do. Mud might invite a full-on sensory experience for a toddler, while another child explores his artistic side as he quietly dabbles, molds and paints with mud. I’ve watched groups of children enhance their STEAM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Art-Math) skills as they experiment with dam building, brick making and other engineering feats. Whether you’re rolling mud into clay, patting it into a castle or mud pie, or just squeezing to let it ooze through your fingers, mud play also exercises fine motor skills, developing flexibility and strength in ways that texting and video games can’t. If you go all out with mud play, thick, sticky, mud provides resistance for building muscles and slippery muck encourages agility and balance.
Time in Nature
Lastly, playing in mud means playing in nature, which in and of itself has a number of health, social, emotional and cognitive benefits. But that’s another story…
Humble mud provides all of these benefits, and best of all, it’s free!
Opportunities to play in the mud:
- Live near Eugene? Sign up for one of Nearby Nature’s many summer camps! Almost every camp offers opportunities to dig in the dirt or muck about with mud! Visit nearbynature.org/programs/daycamps to sign up, or explore on your own! Visit Nearby Nature’s Learnscape, or the backwaters of the Willamette river bank. Go on a rainy day hike and splash in as many mud puddles as you can. Extract some clay like soil from the roots of an upturned tree with clay-based mud – perfect to combine with sticks, moss, lichen and stones to make your own woodland creatures.
- Join tens of thousands of people around the world to celebrate International Mud Day on June 29th! International Mud Day began as a collaboration between an afterschool program in Australia and an orphanage in Nepal. Bishhnu Bhatta, the director of the orphanage, floods a rice paddy and always brings an elephant to his Mud Day celebration! Whether your celebration is big or small, play in the mud on June 29th and share your photos on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest or Facebook and tag them #wfmudday. Learn more at worldforumfoundation.org/mudday