Who says playing in the mud is just for kids?

More photos from the Ithaca Children's Garden. Credit: David Stilwell/USFWS
International Mud Day at the Ithaca Children's Garden! Credit: Rusty Keeler

International Mud Day at the Ithaca Children’s Garden! Credit: Rusty Keeler, Ithaca Children’s Garden

I'm Bethany Holbrook, and I work at our New York Field Office. You'll be hearing from me every week! Stay tuned for tales from the great state of New York. USFWS photo with Bethany holding a bog turtle

I’m Bethany Holbrook, and I work at our New York Field Office. You’ll be hearing from me every week! Stay tuned for tales from the great state of New York.

“Don’t you come home dirty,” my mom said with a stern look as my adolescent self bounced off with my neighborhood friends.

Hours later, I returned scuffed up and in need of a shower.

We all have memories like that, right? Well… I’m here to tell you to play in the mud!

Getting messy in the mud encourages people to get outdoors, play in nature and create happy memories with nature.

Not convinced that the mess is worth it? I wasn’t either, until I spent International Mud Day June 30 at the Ithaca Children’s Garden. More than 600 children, teenagers and adults had come together to climb, slide and splash in 48 cubic yards of dirt hosed down by the Ithaca Fire Department to create mud mountains and a giant mud pool. While the majority of mud seekers were children, teenagers and adults were quick to jump in the action as well.

The event featured mud-themed food, with selections like “mud” cheesecake, and mud (chocolate) or maple sno-cones. Children concocted their own muddy recipes in the fully stocked mud kitchen, created cob sculptures, or listened to stories from storyteller Regi Carpenter. Others could be found at the photo booth, showcasing their messy progress in “before” and “after” pictures

While we were getting dirty in New York, I learned that the idea for Mud Day emerged several years ago on the other side of the globe. Attendees at the 2009 World Forum for Early Childhood Care and Education learned that a group of children in a Nepal orphanage could not play in the mud because they did not have an extra set of clothing — and no money to buy soap to wash the single outfit.

After the forum, the story was presented to school children in Australia who wanted to help the children in Nepal by sending them money to buy clothing and food. The children in Australia were so inspired by the story that they decided to have their own Mud Day as a way of celebrating with the children in Nepal.

In both countries, children were hesitant about jumping in the mud, but after an event organizer jumped in for assurance, and curiosity built up, children were quick to jump, splash and play in the mud as intended. Mud Day has since become an international event, and is celebrated locally as a way of encouraging people to play in nature.

Mud play and outdoor play in general are actually very important to the development of a child, both mentally and physically. Not only do children create happy memories with nature, but exposure to microbes in the soil can help children build immune strength.

Mud Day event planners in Ithaca were hoping to expose these mind and body benefits to children and adults, and help guests overcome the “need to be clean” mentality.

Families dressed in all white came back to the photo booth completely brown; but even more exciting for me was seeing those families play TOGETHER. Children are usually discouraged from getting dirty, so to see a parent not only allow their child to get muddy, but also jump in the mud with them was an amazing sight.

Mud Day participation and acceptance by parents dramatically improved from last year, as parents this year encouraged their children to get dirty. Credit: David Stilwell/USFWS

Mud Day participation and acceptance by parents dramatically improved from last year, as parents this year encouraged their children to get dirty. Credit: David Stilwell/USFWS

As I mentioned, I admit I was slightly hesitant to jump in and completely submerge myself in the mud pit. That was, until I looked over to see my boss completely covered in mud!

The cool mud felt great against the hot sun. I felt comfortable and relaxed in the mud — so much so that I signed up for a 5K mud run a few weeks later (and funny enough, the 5k participants were mostly adults who just wanted to get a little dirty).

A shot of the mud hill at Ithaca Children's Garden. Credit: Rusty Keeler, Ithaca Children’s Garden

A shot of the mud hill at Ithaca Children’s Garden. Credit: Rusty Keeler, Ithaca Children’s Garden

The next time you have the opportunity to get muddy, I highly encourage you to do so. Jump in mud puddles, run a muddy race, or attend Mud Day next year! Whatever you decide to do, I guarantee you will feel great afterward.

Let go of the mud aversion, and embrace the mucky mess waiting for you.

One Comment on “Who says playing in the mud is just for kids?

  1. Pingback: Hands-on-Nature Anarchy Zone | U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: