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Children love to have the opportunity to experience messy play; many children love to experience getting really, really messy - even playing in the dirt. In our clean environments we now sadly worry about this. However, there is a school of thought that indicates that getting dirty is actually quite important for children and something that children are actually programmed to do for reasons of survival.
The publication “The Dirt on Dirt” by the US based National Wildlife Federation summarises the benefits of playing in the mud for developing the immune system and preventing allergies. The Forest School movement advocates that playing outdoors also decreases children’s stress levels and improves their concentration abilities.
Many nurseries have developed “Mud Kitchens” where children can play in a hands on way, get stuck in and as messy as they like. As they get absorbed in squishing, moulding and mixing, their imaginations roam free. They spontaneously make potions, mud pies and develop their own little worlds.
If you have the opportunity to have a space in your garden to make a digging area where your child can also do this they will develop their own way of playing that will help them problem solve and encourage their own creativity. If you have no garden, go for walks in green spaces and gather natural materials to bring back and make potions on the kitchen table. Blossom trees and wild flowers are starting to spring up and these can be used for “magic”!
Different ways of learning emerge as we mature but learning through our senses is not something that we entirely lose throughout our lives; who hasn’t been reminded to use oven gloves by touching a hot pan? We don’t want children to learn everything this way but experiential learning does have an important place as it helps to develop understanding and skills and gives the brain important feedback.
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