I live in a state that usually has two kinds of weather; blistering hot, and mildly chilly fog. So this past week when we got every kind of weather there is, all at once, most of California freaked out a bit. I include myself in that freak out, and am still worried about the damage done in the Sierra Nevada’s. I mean, when you live in a climate that suddenly gets its entire years allotment of rain in one week, the landscape is going to be effected. Closer to home, though, Squishy and I could not have been more excited for the stormy skies. I do wish that I was a bit more mobile so that I could have danced in the rain along side him, but his laughter made my heart dance. My surgery just so happened to coincide with this epic storm.
The torrential rain kept a lot of people indoors. My Facebook feed was full of my fellow moms begging for the best places to take their kids. A place they could possibly run off the bottled up energy. Everyone was pulling out the wine by noon because their darlings were literally climbing the walls. I mentioned sending the kids out into the mud on a couple posts. It was then I realized not everyone is as enthusiastic as we are about mud.
I get it, mud is the messiest of messy play. Five minutes of play could result in hours of clean up. There are plenty of indoor, more contained options. So why fuss with the head ache? I could cite all the scientific data on why outdoor play is so important, or the immune building properties in mud, then there is the sensory and brain building stuff. Chances are, though, you have already seen all the science-y evidence scrolling through your own Facebook feed, and something is still holding you back. (I will just link a couple of my favorite sources and you can decide to check it out if you want. Richard Louv and About Kids Health are great resources)
For me it is not about the science, it is about meeting a fundamental need in Squishy. If you have ever visited my About Page, I talk about Squishy sneaking out the doggie door to play in the mud before he could even walk. Three and a half years later he is still at his happiest completely covered head to toe in squishy slimy mud. It is not a fascination that is going to go away anytime soon. I needed to embrace the mud culture, or slowly go insane. I chose not to go insane…At least from mud, my mental state is still up for debate.
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I am not here to convince you how awesome mud play is, (it is really awesome) but I want you to know it doesn’t have to be stressful. If it’s something that you have been wanting to embrace I hope these tips can help, or just remind you what it feels like to have that slippery sludge squish between your toes.
In line with the sentiment made famous by one of the worlds most adventurous men, there is no bad weather. I’m somewhat thankful that we don’t live in a more extreme climate. Getting Squishy into pants is hard enough, I can’t imagine getting snow gear on him everyday. Rain gear is not nearly as cumbersome, though. And can be relatively simple.
“There is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.”
Mud clothes do not have to be complicated. If you live in warmer climates they can simply be tattered and warn play clothes. Our Winter rain/mud clothes are much different from what we wear in the spring. In the Spring I usually don’t fight him as much to put pants on, Haha. Rain Pants made from a water proof nylon are easy to slip on over under-layers or just plain sweat pants.We prefer rain pants, as opposed to the bibs and coveralls. It’s really a personal preference, but I’ve found it is easier for kids to go potty with the pants. If you have a child, like mine, who often forgets to go pee until it’s an emergency-go with the pants. Otherwise the Coveralls are perfect. They keep all the muck and wet off of your child and hose down beautifully. I actually wish we could use this option. Then you really don’t have to worry about the laundry equation as much.
Now, these are just suggestions to keep your sanity, of course. If you follow us on Instagram, you will no doubt notice that Squishy is, more often than not, in his PJ’s. That is just one of the perks of homeschooling. It also cuts down on laundry.
Rain boots are an essential at my house. Squishy wears them all year round (if I can get him into shoes…are you seeing a pattern?), and we actually have a couple of pairs. One pair is currently buried in the pit so it is not doing us much good, but that is another story. Before you go out and buy those cute designer rain boots, stop and think what you will be using the boots for.
If they will be used for any kind of hiking, make sure they have laces , are snug, and have plenty of tread (Like These). If you live out on a ranch and are getting up early to do chores make sure they have an insulated liner (Like These). If you are using them to play in the mud puddles out back, go for the cheapies (Like These). Make sure to get ones with the little pull handles on the side. If he leaves them out in the mud after kicking them off, I don’t care. If He mysteriously looses only the left one, I am not going to freak out. I got Squishy’s last pair on clearance for about ten bucks. Their purpose is to keep the feet somewhat dry and be easy to clean… I like to use my hose or his water table to rinse them off.
Handy tip: If the child will let you, duct tape their boots to their rain pants. Their feet will remain dry much longer.
I add a warm waterproof jacket and a hat, then we are all set for a day of wet, filthy exploration. Don’t get picky here. Remember that these clothes will be completely covered in goop and grime. They do not need to match or cost a ton of money.
Now that we are dressed, let’s go play…
A Designated Destruction Construction Zone
The best place to dig up worms is the flower bed, but that does not mean that I let Squishy dig up all our plants. Having a Designated spot allows for hours of stress free play. Your spot does not have to be as big as The Pit, just a corner of the yard that can be completely theirs.
What does “completely theirs” mean? It means I do not worry if there are holes dug up everywhere, or toys stung about. I don’t micro manage where his toys get placed or if they get put away. I provide him with loose parts and his imagination takes over. I have provided a couple big beverage buckets for Squishy to dump his stuff in, and sometimes I will ask him to rain in the chaos.
This little muddy oasis is the perfect invitation to play, and is where the sensory play magic happens. Having designated outside mud equipment also helps keep your good stuff clean and inside. I dream of one day having one of those cute mud kitchens. All that is really needed,though, to make fabulous mud pies and delicious muddy water coffee is your child’s imagination. I have picked up several pots, pans and other cooking supplies from garage sales, thrift store, and the dollar store. (For more information on The Pit and loose parts click HERE)
Clean Up Time
Since all the mud toys are meant to be muddy, a quick hose down is all I ever bother with. Then we just dump them in the big tubs. I know it doesn’t look pretty, but it is their space to create and explore. There is really no getting around that part. You can contain it to one corner of the yard, though, if you want. The benefits of having one section dedicated to mess, to me anyway, out weighs having a Pinterest Perfect yard.
For cleaning up Squishy I pretty much use the same technique. First I strip him down next to the door, I have a 5 gallon bucket to dump his soggy clothes into. I will take those to wash later. I then left him by the arm pits and usher him to the tub. This is kind of where it gets tricky. Squishy does not like to get clean when he has worked so hard all day getting nice and dirty. So I have had to be a bit tricky and sneaky.
Bath time has never been just about cleaning bodies for us. It is an eternal struggle of wills. Baths must be exciting and more enticing than a giant patch of mud. I have developed a couple of go to strategies that have helped coerce my own personal Pig Pin, and I hope they can help you.
Get Them in the Bath
Sometime the normal bathtub activities and toys just aren’t enough to get Squishy to come to the bath willingly. Here are a couple of my tricks.
- Colorful bath bombs: What is more fun than messy science in the bath? Plus these are really fun to make together.
- Foamy bath paints: the best part about these is they double as body wash, and the recipe couldn’t be easier. Shaving Cream+body wash+one or two drops of food dye in some disposable solo shot cups= Fun!
- A huge bubble bath with a squirt bottle with colored water. We also use this activity for color theory. Simply go a bit over the top with bubbles, and hand your slimy loved one the squirt bottle. The bubbles will kind of take on a tie dye quality, and it’s fun to use the squirt bottle.
- Bribes…lol, seriously. Popsicle baths are fun, and the sticky mess is contained in the tub.
- Bathtub crayons: These can be an easy and quick way to make bath time fun without much forethought. After trying out several different brands and types, the Crayola Window Crayons are our favorite. They write smooth and wash away much easier than regular bath crayons.
- Making magic potions: Think deconstructed bath bombs in test toobs.
There is no doubt that mud play causes more laundry, but I have a trick for that, too. A deep soak and bucket dump about once a week or so. This is a pretty simple process that gets rid of every stain I’ve thrown at it.
In the bath tub, or large Rubbermaid beverage tub:
- Dump all soiled and stained clothes into your tub
- Add boiling water, or as hot as you can stand, just covering clothes
- Add a mounding scoop (about 1/2 cup) of Oxi-Clean, 1/2 cup Borax and your favorite laundry detergent
- Agitate with a stick or paddle till thoroughly mixed, then a couple more times when you think about it.
- Leave overnight (or about 6 hours)
- Drain in the morning and dump them in your washer with an extra rinse cycle.
It sounds like a lot when I write it all out, but this process has saved me hundreds of dollars in clothing. I hope that this article helps you to get past the dirt, and enjoying those blissful free hours you will have while your child is completely immersed in the magic of mud.