Ever wonder why kids delight in playing in the mud? More than one exasperated parent has hosed down their child, murmuring “why, why, why oh why?” There is a good reason why kids like mud and kids seem to know this instinctively. It makes us happier.
It turns out that soil contains a bacteria called Mycobacterium vaccae which serves to boost the level of seratonin in our brains. Seratonin is a chemical that helps us feel positive, relaxed and happy. At the same time, playing in mud strengthens our immune system. So delight in the gifts of the earth and make mud pies, mud bricks and a mud pit with your children. Here’s how:
Take an aluminum pie plate and fill this with gooey mud. Decorate the top with flowers, twigs, leaves and stones. Make imprints by pressing something with texture into the soft mixture and then carefully remove it. Try using shells and leaves.
Make a simple brick mold by hammering a form together out of 2 x 6’s. Make the form about 6 inches wide and one foot long. Mix water soil and grasses together until you have a solid goop that keeps its shape. Grasses act like a binding agent. Press your goop into the mold and gently ease it out. Make a series of bricks and allow these to dry completely in the sun. Use your bricks to make a simple fire pit or an adobe fort.
Take an old wading pool and fill this with a mixture of soil and water until you have a fine goop.
Watch the kids wallow. Have a hose handy and give them a good wash before allowing them back in the house! You can also use a wheel barrow for a more controlled experience. At Camp Kawartha, we call an experience in the mud – “muddleicious.” So have a muddleicious time connecting your children to the very ground that nurtures and sustains us all – the earth.
Jacob Rodenburg is currently the Executive Director of Camp Kawartha, a summer camp and outdoor education centre. He teaches part time at Trent University in environmental education. Jacob co-authored an award winning book called “The Big Book of Nature Activities” with naturalist Drew Monkman.