The Mud Magic: All-Weather Play For Children

Bond with mud, the source of oodles of activity, creativity, joy and sensory fun.

Engage with mud in its various avatars – powder, gooey, sticky, liquidy.

Let mud stimulate your creativity by making and your sense of adventure by playing.

So said Dirty Feet‘s mail announcing the ‘Magic of Mud’ activity under its NATURE SCHOOL programme.

My wife and I swear by the immense power of mud. A material with many textures and forms, it offers tremendous scope for all rounded play.  It is rather unfortunate that it is one of the most under-rated play-mate for children. And in the increasing concrete jungles of India, opportunities for kids to revel in it are on the wane.

So, when we saw the opportunity to be a part of the above activity, we enrolled immediately. The morning of Friday was meaningfully spent making MASTI with MUD:)

Bonding

Kids accompanied by parents and in some cases, even grandparents came from different parts of the city to revel in this activity. After a round of quick introductions, Dirty Feet’s team welcomed all the kids by handing them cookies… yummy… just that the cookies were all made with mud. The kids’ disappointment at being handed over such cookies gave way when they realised that the cookies were packed with surprises for the kids – Dirty Feet badges – the kids yipped with glee and the day began.

Dirty Feet’s first activity was all about overcoming fears and inhibitions. It was pretty much effective in fuelling the wild curious side of the kids by giving them a free hand to dig in and to explore nature’s treasures from mud mounds, slush-filled tubs and muddy waters.  Some eager to get messy, some reticent and reluctant to even touch – but nonetheless, the mudhunt was well planned to get all the kids going.

From muddy waters to sticky to powdered mud and back again to where they began, the kids moved among different stations and enjoyed each of these textures.  They were all totally involved in picking up natural treasures – stones, pebbles, seeds, seed pods, shells, flowers, sticks, feathers and of course comparing their stuff with that of the others. Those who were initially unsure about taking part in the entire exercise were now unmindful of the mud dripping from their elbows and fingers!

Creating

In the next session, kids got to do a whole lot of stuff with mud – pounding, sieving, mixing with water and making doh. They drew shapes in mud powder, wrote their names and used it as a filler in designs. They filled bottles with it and made rattles. What followed were balls, towers, puppets and sculptures too. It was interesting to watch mud take the shape of each their imaginations.

It was then time for painting. Large white papers were kept ready with mud paint in plates. Children started painting on white paper with their fingers as paint brushes. What next? The children dipped their palms and started creating their hand imprints. What next? The Dirty Feet team showed that hand imprints can be created on clothes worn by them as well. Immediately, the children went gung ho giving each other memories of the day. What next? Footprints, of course.

In the end, children were dripping with mud and making/drawing/painting, whatever and where ever they wanted to.

Playing

Pithoo, marble shots – the children focused on getting their targets right with mud. In the tub game, kids were required to throw stones in a tub filled with gooey muddy water. It was a sight to see it splashing out of the tub as children threw stones into it. They loved it and just wouldn’t have enough of it. They went on and on.

This was followed by a game of mud musical plates. Children went around them and when the music stopped, they had to put their hands into it. For the last round of the game, the tub filled with gooey muddy water was brought forth and then the kids jumped into it for a mud bath.

Magic of mud

The morning spent in the company of mud was a reaffirmation of our belief that children enjoy the simple pleasures of life the most, if only they are given an opportunity and exposure to.

Children are a happy lot when they are left to being their own selves sans the paraphernalia of adult life. It is the right of every child to get messy with mud and make mudful memories:)

What’s your take?

PS: The girls did not fall ill after all that exposure to mud. I agree that it would have virus/bacteria/disease inducing germs. However, I also believe that it is sterile and sanitised environments that lead to reduced levels of immunity in children and not just the other way round.

My prescription for a well-rounded childhood – loads of outdoor play with mud and water!

How A Child Learns Fear From Parents And Society

I believe that a child is inherently unaware of fear. Why / what should a child fear? The child has caring and comforting parents. As the child grows up, innately, s/he knows how to take care of one’s own self and seek refuge with parents, when necessary.

So, how is it that the child learns to fear? When is it that the child loses the intrinsic capability to take a risk? Where is it that the child learns to be afraid? How a child ceases to be fearless?

I, as a parent, do not trust the child’s instincts

I have seen often enough that my daughters know what they are capable of. They have their own sense of what they can climb, how far they can jump, what speed they can run and so forth.

It is not necessary that they will be 100% right in their predictions about themselves. At times, they need prodding and pushing. If they err at all, they err on the defensive side and not at a level where they end up hurting themselves needlessly.

At an overall level, they will do what they are comfortable doing. And, if they really want to do something even though they are not comfortable, they will actually get comfortable with it, simply because they want to do it.

Just that, as a parent, I am uncomfortable with the whole idea that a child can actually take care of one’s own self. So, what do I do? I instil fear.

I am learning to trust my daughters to take care of themselves for what they are capable of.

The focus is on falling down and not on getting up

One of my twin daughters has fallen down and is crying. What is my reaction? I rush, pick up the child and tell her to be careful.

What I do not do is tell my daughter that it was fun to fall down. I do not tell her that it was great to try out the jump/climb/run/whatever she was up to and falling down is a part of it. More importantly, I do not tell her that what is most significant is getting up after falling down. When my priorities are misplaced, what is my daughter going to learn? Fear.

I am consciously telling myself not to rush when I see my daughter falling down. She is learning to get up on her own.

When imaginary fear is a primary tool to discipline a child

The child is not going to imagine a monster below the bed on his / her own. It is just not possible. Someone, for whatever reason, has put it in the child’s mind that there is a monster.

Let’s face it. Why has the child been told about the monster or the police uncle who will punish/take away the child? Invariably, it is an easy ploy to bring order with a child who wants to have his / her way. What does it teach the child? Fear.

We have not done this with our daughters ourselves, but have seen numerous instances wherein they get spoken to about this by someone in the family, and at times, even by strangers.

Fear from Nature

I have seen it from the experience with my own daughters that they are not afraid of darkness. Why should they be? They walk into a room with no lights and are perfectly fine with it.

They were afraid of lightning and thunder. We explained to them that it is fun to watch the lightning and hear thunder, and they invariably bring rain, their favourite, they more than welcome it.

We have a huge peepal tree next to our house. The leaves make rustling sound in the night, bats fly around and our daughters are fine with all these. Rather, they stretch their eyes in the night to find a non-existent owl in the tree.

The girls have touched snake skin (they would have touched a live snake but for my own fear). They have pet cockroaches and earth-worms. They run behind lizards and chameleons calling them cute.

All these are natural and nature herself. If this is not properly explained, what will children learn? Fear.

Medicines and injections are of course not natural, but they are a necessary part of a child’s growing up. Both the girls actually look forward to both these, as they get explained in advance, that too without rewards and bribes. Surely, no fear.

The society does not trust the parent’s instincts

O +ve and B +ve are our daughters. As a parent, we know what they are capable of and even if they are not capable of, it is fine with us. So what, if they fall? So what, if they cry? Even if they bleed? We are learning to trust their instincts.

Not just in the park / any external environment, even in our own home; we are fine with what our daughters are doing; but they will be told by family members, friends and even strangers not to indulge in what they are doing. I tell them that it is fine what the girls are doing, but to no avail.

What is the resultant output with children? Fear.

Summing Up

As I write this, both the girls are climbing on to the sofa. They are going to jump together. What should I do?

I tell myself, I want my children to be fearless the way they have always been, I will not tell them the two words – “BE CAREFUL”.