DENVER — Pre-schoolers at Clayton Early Learning recently helped celebrate International Mud Day by squishing and squeezing their way into learning more about nature.
“It's an opportunity for children to get out here and get their hands and feet and bodies in the mud,” said Jenny Smith, Clayton’s director of Comprehensive Services. “(They) get their hands, feet and bodies in here to squish and to play and create and just use their imaginations and explore it.”
The goal of International Mud Day, celebrated on June 29, is to connect children worldwide by playing in the mud to celebrate nature and the outdoors.
The celebration was started in 2009 at the World Forum Foundation for Early Childhood Care & Education in Belfast by Gillian McAuliffe from Western Australia and Bishnu Bhatta from Nepal, two members of the Nature Action Collaborative for Children. They wanted to bring students together worldwide through the study of nature.
According to Clayton Early Learning, playing in the mud has many health and developmental benefits for young children, including healthier immune systems, emotional health and creativity, along with the development of cognitive skills through their senses.
“When children have the opportunity to get outside and touch the dirt, … play, they’re exposing their immune system to bacteria that helps decrease their responses to allergies potentially or having asthma,” Smith said. “What we know is that the more senses children can engage, the more that it just gets their little brains going, and that just leads to more learning opportunities.”
The chance to play in the mud appealed to students like 5-year-old Mirror Barney, who said she learned why mud was so special.
“It’s fun and playful and worms love mud,” Mirror said. “It’s OK if you get mud on your face. It's OK because you can wash off in the bathtub, but there will be dirt everywhere.”
Both Mirror and Smith agree that the day was a chance for students to connect with nature without getting into trouble with their parents.
“It’s OK to get dirty,” Smith said. “We can rinse you off, and you’re going to get to keep on playing, and now you’ll have this fun experience that you can talk about.”
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