Tag Archives: nature

Mud Pies and Puddle Boots

We are nearing mud puddle season, that messy and marvelous time when puddle boots are a necessity.

One spring when I was a child, our farmhouse was an island with floodwaters coming within six feet of it on all sides. That was a very good year for puddle boots, but not so good for other things.

The floods did not happen every year, of course, but we could always count on puddles. My sisters and I remembered going to the beach in the summer, sitting on the sand in the shallow water and making waves with our hands. Why couldn’t we do that in the puddles in our yard?

We went to the house to get our swimsuits and told Mom what we were going to do.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” she said, but she did not forbid us to do it.

We dashed back to the puddles and sat down in the water.

It wasn’t much like being at the beach, after all. First, the water was cold. Second, wet mud has a completely different texture than wet sand. And third, the disturbed water was dirty.

We needed baths afterwards and our bathing suits needed to be laundered. We did not ever try it again

But we learned a lot that day, things we would not have learned as quickly or as well without the experiment.

It may be wet and messy, but playing in mud puddles is good for children.

A child’s neurological system is naturally designed to seek out the sensory input it needs in order to develop into a strong and capable individual. If a child is spinning in circles just for fun, it is because he or she needs that sensory input. Movement and physical play facilitate the development of new connections (synapses) among brain cells and the overall organization of the brain. As these connections develop, child’s fine and gross motor skills, socialization, personal awareness, language, creativity, problem solving and learning ability are improved. This is why they need to climb the trees, jump on the bed, run through the woods, splash in mud puddles. These are all natural and necessary experiences that will encourage their cognitive skill development.

You can read more at https://novakdjokovicfoundation.org/splashing-mud-puddles-beneficial-children/

Or go to http://www.letthechildrenplay.net/2011/08/10-reasons-why-we-should-let-children.html Here is a condensed and paraphrased version.

1. Playing in the mud can make you happier.

Scientists have discovered something that playing in the mud can lift your mood.  Recent studies have revealed that dirt contains microscopic bacteria called Mycobacterium vaccae which increases the levels of serotonin in our brains, helping to relax, soothe and calm.

2.  Playing in the mud connects you with nature.

If you never know something, it’s hard to care about it. Many kids these days never know the outdoors beyond the school playground or their own backyards, if they even have one.   

3.  Playing in the mud can make you healthier.

Research has shown that playing in the dirt – including very wet dirt – is good for a child’s immune system.

4.  Playing in the mud can make you smarter.

Studies have found that playing in the dirt can make you smarter.  The same release of serotonin that occurs when playing in M. vaccae dirt has also been shown to improve cognitive function.

5.  Playing in the mud helps children to learn and develop.

Sensory, hands-on play feeds children’s brains.   Playing with mud – a delightfully sensory experience – can help children to learn and develop.

6.  Playing in the mud helps develop positive dispositions.

Having an area outdoors set aside for mud play – a mud patch or a mud pie kitchen for example – provides a space for children to retreat to for some time alone in a soothing sensory experience or to play with peers co-operating, communicating, negotiating and sharing.

7.  Mud is a wonderful art medium.

Mud can be moulded and decorated and it responds differently than sand, clay or play dough.

8.  Mud play welcomes all comers.

Mud is an open-ended material that meets the different needs and interests of different children.  A younger child might be right into the sensory experience while older preschoolers are busy making their own mud bricks.  With mud, there is something for everyone.

9.  Playing in the mud encourages creative thinking.

Playing with open-ended materials like mud stimulate creativity and imagination – things that are hard to jump-start later in life.

10.  Childhood memories.

Which brings me back to my own memories and perhaps yours as well.


The case of the disappearing acorn

Margaret Atwood and other literary giants have spoken out recently against the dropping of various nature words from the Oxford Junior dictionary.

Some of the dropped words  include acorn, blackberries, minnow ,buttercup, catkin, cauliflower, chestnut, clover, hamster, heron, herring, kingfisher, lark, leopard, lobster, magpie, minnow, mussel, newt, otter, ox, oyster ,panther.almond, beaver,blackberry and crocus.

(One word that did surprise me was “beaver’. But then I am a Canadian and the beaver is the symbol of my country. The average Oxford junior dictionary reader may not share my interest in large rodents with flat tails, a good work ethic and high pest potential.)

These nature words have been replaced in the Oxford Junior dictionary by words that illustrate  our current tech savvy.

Instead of “A is for Acorn, B is for Buttercup, C is for Crocus”, we have “A is for Analog, B is for Broadband, C is for Cut and Paste”.

Spokespersons for the publication say that today’s children no longer use these words, no longer see these things and seldom go outside to try to see them. On the other hand, they do understand the Internet and the concept of cutting and pasting, for example, is well known.

Atwood and her colleagues are dismayed because today’s children don’t have the opportunity to get outdoors as much as their parents did and if they don’t see these words in books, the words and their meanings will disappear.

Same issue: different response. Both legitimate.

From the outset, I have to say that I write this as someone who knows what an acorn is and who, as a child, tasted several and found them edible. I have caught minnows in a pail and put a buttercup blossom against my throat to see if I liked butter. I have taken pictures of a beaver in the ditch that runs in front of my house and have chased magpies away from the dog dish.

I can remember gathering acorns under the farmyard oak tree. I grew up on stories of the industrious squirrel who stowed his nuts away for a snowy day and thereby lived to see the next spring. My grandmother said that the more acorns there were and the  thicker the shell on each, the harder the winter was going to be.

And I grew up on axioms such as “big oaks from little acorns grow’ and “the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree.” Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.”

My world has been enriched on several different levels by little acorns and,big oak trees.

But am I worried because the Oxford Junior Dictionary does not contain the word ‘acorn’? I don’t think so.

I’m willing to bet that a seven year old who understands the term ‘cut and paste’ also knows how to google something on the internet.  Google ‘oak tree seed’ and you get more than one and a half million hits. ‘Oak nut’ gets you 12.5 million and ‘acorn’ itself more than 41 million (although not all of them have anything to do with oak trees).

There are other books that contain the word or pictures that illustrate it – other dictionaries, picture books, story books, poems and rhymes.

I’m an acorn, small and round,
Lying on the cold, cold ground.
People pass and step on me,
That’s why I’m all cracked, you see.
I’m a nut, (clap, clap)
I’m a nut (clap, clap)
I’m a nut, (clap, clap)
I’m a nut. (clap, clap)

 We just need to remember to open those books for our children.

Better yet, we just need to spend time outside with our children and talk together about what we see.