My kids love dirt.
Anything messy, muddy, sticky, wet, wild chaos, they love it.
And I let them. I very rarely say no to making messes. Which is probably why they like it so much – because I’ve always been pretty open and accepting of it. As a kid, I also enjoyed these things; playing in the mud and dirt was a big part of my childhood.
When we moved into our home about 5 years ago, we had luscious grass and I had plans for a garden in a few areas in our backyard. Over the years, we have since turned a significant part into a “digging area” and my flower beds have also become areas for collecting dirt for mud pies, tiny construction vehicles loading and digging, and monster truck ramps. My mother always tells me to “pick my battles” and this is a battle that I am not willing to fight. There are always rules, but for the most part the designated areas are meant for as much mess as possible. There are times when I am not in the mood to deal with the mud and dirt, so I try to divert their attention to something else. But for the most part, it’s a green light for dirt.
I know there are many adults who cringe at mud, and I can understand this. It’s an absolute mess and gets on everything; it’s hard to get out of clothing, hair, shoes, etc., but many kids find a lot of joy when they are allowed to make a mess and play in the dirt. And while the kids are consumed with playing (and do not need me for anything), I can take a moment to tend to things I want to, or just soak up some sun and read a book.
There are definitely parts of this messy play that make more work for us as parents, but as much as I despise laundry and sweeping multiple times a day, these are things I have chosen to accept as part of it.
Things that I notice with my kids:
- Pure joy
- Physical work (digging, lifting, carrying)
- Sparks of creativity
- Playing and bonding with each other
- Exploring and building a connection with and in nature
If you are hesitant to let your kids go wild in the dirt and mud, I get it. Here are a few tips to help you ease into it, if this is something you’d like to explore.
- Designate a small area to start (a container, sandbox). Set a boundary.
- Setup an outdoor kitchen, either with an actual child’s play kitchen (preferably used), and/or use what you have that you don’t mind giving up for mud play – plastic cups, bowls, pitchers, strainers, etc.
- Outdoor shoes that wash off easily with water (rain boots, water shoes, sandals). You may need options depending on the season.
- Outdoor-only toys. We like to search consignment sales for outdoor toys (cars, trucks, little people, buckets, water table, child-sized tools, wheel barrow, shovels, etc.).
- Old towels designated for mud/dirt play.
- On warmer weather days, go clothing optional and hose off outside.
- If you’re worried about clothes getting dirty, have a few clothing items on hand that are for messy play.
- Make it a play date so you are not alone in the chaos!
- Play with your kids.
- Have fun, they will likely love it – even if it makes you cringe.
Let the kids get messy; the memories will be worth it.