Making the Most of Messy Play

Children learn through their observations and hands on experiences in the world around them.  Like sponges, they take in everything! As you and I know, the world is not a sterile, everything in it’s place environment.  If we limit our children’s play to only well ordered and clean play, we take away a whole world of experiences to discover! Well meaning parents do this every day out of fear of “germs” and dirt but rest assured- mud can be a good thing!

Nature brings peace to many of us…whether it’s walking on the beach, spending time in a garden, hiking, or taking in a mountain view.  Outdoor messy play is the beginning of this kind of appreciation for the Earth and nature and many children today are lacking in it. Studies show that our kids are getting less than half of the outdoor time that we did as children.  Growing up in an age where hundreds of TV channels and wifi is the norm in most households, it’s no wonder. Oddly enough, one of the biggest trends for elementary and preschool age children is watching YouTube videos of OTHER children playing with toys…often the same toys that sit unplayed with at home.  It doesn’t get much more clean or controlled than that. It’s too early to tell what all this extra technology and screen time will do to their lifelong development but I’m willing to bet it won’t be beneficial.

So what to do?  Get messy! And there’s no better time than Summer and International Mud Day, June 29!

Here are a few ideas from us at TLS but feel free to improvise and add your own messy spin:

Gardening: Gardening is awesome because children learn how plants grow and where the food we eat comes from but they also get their hands dirty in the process.  Let them help you pick the harvested fruits and vegetables, water, and pull weeds. These are all things that children as young as 2 or 3 can help with.

Mud Pies: Wouldn’t you hate for your child to miss out on this age old past time?  Making mud pies is creative and sensory play rolled into one. It strengthens cognitive thinking skills as well as fine motor muscles.

Beach Day: If you’re fortunate to live close to the beach like we do you have a whole world of messy play at your fingertips.  Building sand castles, searching for shark’s teeth, shells, and crabs is an excellent way to get messy during play. Our personal favorite?  Making “sand angels”…just like on a snowy day but the beach kid way!

Critter Hunt: Digging up earthworms and searching for frogs extends a child’s natural curiosity.  When given the opportunity to explore the world around them without extreme restrictions they will become curious learners.  Grab a bucket and a shovel and see what you can find by creeks and river beds. There’s so much to see and do!

If you decide to celebrate International Mud Day in a special way, let us know!  Tag us in your pictures!

**Like all things, even messy play requires common sense.  Be mindful of letting your child play in areas where the soil is made of manure or is laden with chemicals. 

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