We spent the entire morning at the Edwin Warner Nature Center. Again. They love that place! I spend lots of time at the what we call, “the dirt playground” watching my kids playing in the dirt and mud. The hanging sign says, Nature Play so I guess that is the actual, official name. It is sort of like a playground with nature as the main attraction. They love making mud pies, dirt gardens, and dirt volcanoes there. I love seeing them pretend and have fun with “mother earth”!
Nature Play Provides Kids With The Opportunity To Imagine, Create, And Explore
I think that more than ever, nature play is being left out of childhood for many kids. They are spending less and less time outside and our yards are so manicured that they may not have as much space to truly engage in nature when they do go out.
That reminds me of a funny story from my own childhood. It was just me and my mom growing up so she brought me everywhere with her since there was no one to watch me. So one time, she brought me over to her voice lesson and I played in the yard while I was waiting for her. You wouldn’t think one nine year could get into so much mischief in such a short time, but don’t underestimate me! I lived in California at the time and our tiny rented yard was full of lava rocks. So when I discovered a grass filled yard, I decided to create some lovely dirt tunnels and fill them with water. The voice teacher’s husband was not happy. But I loved it!
Kids need an opportunity to play in nature. They need the freedom to explore nature and manipulate it. To imagine becoming self-sufficient, to build forts, and to role play. To plant imaginary gardens, and protect their mud hills from invaders! Nature play is good for creativity, independence, and self-confidence.
Playing in the Dirt and Making Mud Pies Allows Kids To Role Play and Express Themselves
My kids love Nature Play, both as the natural play ground by Warner Park Nature Center, and as the chance for free play in a natural unrestricted setting. They plant imaginary gardens in the dirt bed. They make mud pies and serve them to me and I “eat” them with great relish! They make clay pots and “sell” them to each other.
They get dirty! My daughter was into that right away but my son didn’t want to actually get dirt on himself for quite some time. He chose to use sticks or shovels or other tools and was upset if he got dirt on himself. That in itself was a learning experience for him and for me. Though I dreaded doing the laundry with so much dirt on it, I was also really proud of my daughter for digging right in and proud of my son for getting past his fear of getting dirty. I just bring an extra change of clothes with us so they can change before getting back in the car!
…parents are hurting their children by treating dirt as a four-letter word. Our extreme culture of cleanliness and fear of contact with everyday germs is interrupting children’s impulses to explore and experiment, and thwarting the human body’s natural means of protection” –Chicago Tribune
I am thankful that we have that great muddy resource for our kids nearby. It is so nice to have a spot where nature play is allowed and encouraged. Where there aren’t as many restrictions. If they want to make an amazing series of interconnecting dirt tunnels and sail imaginary boats, they don’t have to worry about getting into trouble for digging up the yard. So again, what a great resource to have!
Do you kids have a place where nature play is allowed and encouraged? Do your kids love playing in the dirt and mud? Are you down with mud pies?