Back in October last year, we wrote a post about 101 things to do with leaves, because the Wicken Toys demonstration area was buried in them.
We now the leaves are long gone, having dried into dust, been raked up, or blown away over the winter, and now we have lots, and lots, and lots of mud.
While you may shudder at the idea of letting your children covered in mud, there are lots of good reasons to do it. Mud play offers a therapeutic sensory experience, which for many children has a calming effect. During the winter months children spend a lot of time indoors surrounded by man-made materials and away from natural light. Getting outside in the slimy mud gives children to reconnect with nature, and break away from the rigidity of indoor rules. Playing with mud will help develop creativity as they come up with their own games to play, and helps with the development of both fine and gross motor skills.
If you have concerns over the safety or hygiene of the mud in your garden, you can make your own mud pit using an old splash pool, some soil from the garden centre and water.
Once your children have discovered the joys of mud, they most likely will prefer to play freestyle, but here are a few activity ideas to help get them started.
1. Mud Sliding The best thing about mud is how slippery it is. Create a mud track for skating across, or performing knee slides. If you don't mind your children getting completely covered in mud, let them pile it over the slide for a messy mud slip and slide ride.
2. Mud Castles Buckets and spades aren't just for the seaside. Create mud kingdoms, with moats and decorate with grass, sticks and stones found in the garden.
3. Mud Bricks These will only work if the mud isn't too wet. You can make mud bricks using old margarine tubs, ice cream tubs, or the boxes that laundry capsules come in. Use the bricks to build bridges, tunnels, forts, whatever you can think of.
4. Mud Kitchen Some old plastic pots and wooden spoons are all that's required to set up your very own mud kitchen. Challenge your children to recreate your favourite dishes using whatever they can find in the garden. But be very clear that this food is strictly for playing with only, no eating allowed.
5. Mud Painting Add some water to make the mud runny, then use artist brushes, or decorating paintbrushes to create beautiful artwork on the fence or patio or even brickwork. 6. Mud Treasure Hunt Use decorative glass nuggets as diamonds, and bury the treasure in the mud patch (when your children are busy doing something else), then send them on a treasure hunt.
7. Insect Hunt Very gently sift through the mud and keep a log of the number and type of creepy-crawlies discovered.
8. Free Play Simply take a step back and see where their imagination takes them. Playing with mud in this way feels liberating as it is against many conventional rules.
For more outdoor play inspiration, see the rest of the Wicken Toys blog.