My oldest wipes the sweat from his brow as he digs into our flowerbed. (Don’t worry, he has permission, for now!) He then drags the hose over as his brother turns it on, and fills the ditch to the top with cold hose water until it creates the perfect mud water consistency. They hop in the mud hole, soaking their feet, then grab handfuls of mud, smearing it up their arms, and bellies (which reminds me of traveling with my family and floating in the Dead Sea, covering myself with the Dead Sea mud!) Their eyes gleam and their smiles have never been wider as they shriek with laughter, tickled to be covered in mud from head to toe. I remind them we’ll have to hose them off before they come in, but they end up taking care of that for me with a good old water gunfight!
As the oldest of three sisters, nothing quite prepared me for the level of chaos, messiness, stinkiness, the never-ending piles of stinky, wet clothes, and the joy that being a mom of (now) 3 boys would bring.
As a child, I myself enjoyed the occasional mud pie, but any time I ended up covered in mud was usually incidental to my explorations and an accident I found myself horrified to be in, for fear of being punished, rather than the goal in and of itself.
I never would have dreamed then, that I’d be raising three “wild animals” as I like to call them, and allowing them to intentionally slather themselves in slimy cold mud. Better out than in when it comes to gas, most bodily fluids, and children!
As soon as the weather breaks and hits a balmy 54 degrees, my children are outside, turning on the hose, breaking out their swimsuits, or perhaps donning nothing but underwear or a pull-up and playing with one of nature’s greatest gifts – mud!
I’ve had to learn to let go. A LOT!
Boys are chaos and mess incarnate! The OCD (actual diagnosis!) in me likes to rear its ugly head sometimes when it sees my children dripping in mud, but it’s been a great lesson in letting go of control and letting my kids be kids. It gives me much more joy to see them outside, squishing their toes between the mud and bathing in it, dangling worms, laughing and sculpting together instead of the all too frequent hitting, screaming, and arguing they resort to when cooped up too long inside.
I’ve noticed with my boys, there is a negative correlation between time spent outside and aggression or noncompliance, and I thought to myself there must be some science to back up what I’ve discovered. A quick Google search and I came up with several benefits to letting your children loose to play in the mud!
1. It encourages an active life – encourages children to be outside, away from screens, and incidental increase in Vitamin D (natural supplement)!
2. It helps them be healthier – exposure to bacteria in the mud strengthens their immune systems and helps prevent allergies, obesity, and other noninfectious conditions!
3. Encourages creativity – it’s a naturally open-ended activity!
4. Natural sensory play – it’s very stimulating to their brains because it involves all five senses!
5. It helps mental health – studies have shown that exposure to bacteria in mud helps the brain release serotonin, which can help kids (and adults, too) regulate emotions and moods. This can help reduce the risk of depression and anxiety in children as they grow up!
While sitting on the rocking chair watching my animals wallow in the mud, I have a momentary thought, “I hope I’m not being judged for this.” And wonder what any neighbors who see my kids tearing up our flower bed, completely filthy are thinking of my parenting. But then like the gentle spring breeze, the thought floats away. I decide I don’t care. My kids are happy. I’m happy, and right now, that’s all that matters. A little dirt don’t hurt.