Let Kids Play in the Mud; God Made Them Washable

little boy walking through a mud puddle

Dear Mama,

Let your children be children.

I’m 50 years old now, and one of my favorite memories as a child was playing in a huge mud hole with my sister. Please don’t take that joy away from your child.

Picture this: We lived in southeast Texas. Tornados were common, and just before summer break, one hit our town. Electricity was out for a week, roads were closed or washed out completely due to the rain, and school was cancelled. I am sure parents everywhere were not only exacerbated by the devastation of the storm, but add the sheer boredom of all the kids home from school and those parents were about to lose their patience.

The Fun of Mud Play

My horseshoe playing dad had dug a pit in our backyard for his game. So when the rain filled it, my sister and I quickly used it as a swimming pool. A very muddy swimming pool.

At first my parents were not happy about our new swimming hole, but they soon relented, pulled out the stakes and letting us have at it.

We splashed and slung mud at each other for what felt like a long time. We made a slide out of an old piece of plastic held in place by globs of mud. Our invention didn’t last long but we had fun while it did. We built a mud man and even made mud angels.

My sister and I relived that moment over and over again. Now that my sister is gone, it is just a sweet memory of a magical day with her.

I must have passed on my love of dirt to my two boys, because they loved being outside. In fact, our friends, from Arizona, and their daughters came for dinner on one of their visits home. It was a dreary, rainy evening and we were busy being jealous of their sunshine when their girls reminded us that they didn’t get much rain. Our kids decided to go outside and play in the heavenly liquid. They were so wet and muddy that we had to use the garden hose to get some of the muck off before they came in to shower, but they had so much fun playing that they gladly let us hose them off.

Health Benefits of Letting Kids Play in the Mud

Besides the sheer joy of it, there are many health benefits to playing in the dirt.

According to this Healthline article about mud play, some of the health benefits can include:

  • Healthier immune system
  • Healthier gut
  • Emotional health
  • Increased creativity

Another article, “The Magic of Dirt,” says that mud play encourages the development of your child in these areas:

  • Emotional
  • Social
  • Physical
  • Cognitive

There have also been many studies done on the “Farm Effect,” and how being exposed to the many microorganisms found in dirt can significantly decrease the risk of asthma and allergies.

Dr. Christiane Northrup writes: The Farm Effect is the corollary — or positive proof — of the “Hygiene Hypothesis,” which states that a lack of early childhood exposure to infectious agents, microorganisms and parasites increases our susceptibility to allergic diseases by suppressing the natural development of our immune systems. (The Hygiene Hypothesis has also been called the “Biome Depletion Theory” and the “Lost Friends Theory.”)

During a church picnic an older lady commented that she was happy that I was OK with my boys playing in the dirt. She said that as a child, she and her siblings were always sick and she thought this was because her mom never let them be dirty therefore building an immune system.

Honestly, I hadn’t thought of that point before. I just knew that as a child I loved playing in the dirt and my children loved playing in the dirt so I made sure to pack extra clothes, a washcloth (already wet in a ziplock bag), and a towel when we were going to an outdoor activity.

I’m sharing these stories to remind you of the simple joys of playing in the mud, digging for worms, and dancing in the rain. We live in a crazy, broken world right now and we should preserve the innocence of play as much as we can.

As we know, time is a thief and the next time you blink your babies will no longer be interested in playing. They will move on to being teenagers and then adults.

Let your kids play in the mud. Let them be dirty Mama. God did make them washable, after all.

Photo by Caleb Oquendo

For more on raising kids, check out this podcast episode: How to Be the Mother Yours Wasn’t – 196

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