Playing in the mud
Wriggling your toes in squelchy mud oozing between your toes. Powdery sand that you can pack into as many shapes as you can imagine - laddus, a birthday cake, house, castle, a tigers cave. Mixing the rich damp earth under the hedge in the park with more water to make it a shiny chocolaty consistency. Splashing into the puddle left over after the car has been washed. Kicking a ball on grass that has just been watered. Smelling the lush smell of freshly watered plants.
If you have ever played in mud as a child, chances are you never will forget the feeling.
To an adult, a good park will have the standard manufactured equipment. The swings, slides and jungle gym in bright primary colours.
To a child, the park has interesting bits that an adult will overlook: the pit under the swings caused by innumerable pushes of little feet, the hole flattened out under the slide by countless bottoms rushing down the slide, the loose pile of sand in the corner left over when the sand pit was refilled, the damp grass and weeds growing in the fence enclosing the area...
A playground has a lot more to offer than fresh air, space and sunshine. Restriction denies children their birthright to experience an outdoor that includes vegetation, germs, insects, water.
Children's play is pleasurable, self motivated, imaginative, active, and free of adult imposed structure and rules. Quality play involves more than the gross motor skills. It involves fine motor skills, senses, emotion, satisfaction, imagination, a sense of wonder and social interaction.
Watch a gaggle of little children playing in the sand pit. They make mud pies. They rake holes to gather the mud for the mud pies. They fill their sand buckets with the mud and carry it to the site of the birthday cake being made. They mix the sand with water to pack it properly. They gather flowers, leaves and twigs to decorate the cake.
The children are experimenting with the medium, they are learning to manipulate the materials. They learn leadership (often the older children direct the younger, who willingly do the leg work of digging, carrying, mixing). The variety of imaginary games makes it more complex, more engrossing. The children are learning to take the initiative. They are learning to share, to take turns. They are learning to gain confidence in themselves, learning a little step towards self reliance. They are gradually experimenting with an increased distance from the caretaker. Safe outdoor environment in the company of other like minded messy souls increases independence and separation.
The watcher in the midst Would you really want to deprive your child from the social interaction in the sand pit? If he or she is the only one who is kept away for fear of allergies, cold, sneezes, asthma, will you really be able to replace all that you are depriving the child of?
Do you really want your child to be a mere onlooker while everyone else is having fun?
Nobody would say that you should purposely expose your child to infections. However, diseases such as asthma and allergies are increasing in prevalence because the immune system is not being effectively constructed in the early years. Children are not as often subjected to the bacteria that help those immune systems build. So don't worry needlessly about germs. Let her play free!
The Dirt on Dirt - II