Spring time in the country is the best…baby animals, greening grass, and muddy puddles. I grew up in a small town where our yard was bordered by a cow pasture. My fondest memories involve crossing that barbed wire fence, ready and eager for adventure in nature. We would collect sticks, rocks and bits of nature to construct forts, hop in drainage ditch puddles, and marvel at the birds and even the found remains of creatures.
I follow the Pinterest boards titled “Sensory Play” full of bins with beans, rice, water beads, etc. Nature is the ultimate sensory bin- full of smells, sights, and sounds. Mud may well be the ultimate sensory media. The boys investigated the goopy mud first. Their little boots suctioned into the goop and I watched the look on their face change to determination as they muscled their legs free. This was sticky mud, as Caleb soon found out when he fell and had to be plucked free.
They then explored the puddles and watched as the mud swirled in the water, as it let free leaving their boots clean. There was a lot of splashing and running, exploring water depths and the sensation of water rising above their boot lines. Rocks were thrown and sticks used to stir.
The vet mom in me thinks of the millions of antigens they are being exposed to, all while hoping there aren’t any big bad bugs like E. coli or Salmonella floating around in that farm slurry they are enjoying. Plenty of studies have shown outdoor play and exposure to pets, farm animals, and just plain dirt builds stronger, healthier immune systems. If their little immune systems are too busy dealing with these antigens my hope is it will leave them alone and we can avoid issues like asthma.
With no concrete to blanket the ground and expanses of open areas to explore, farm and ranch kids have a wide world to discover and learn from. While research explains the benefits of outdoor play for kids, here are some of the benefits I see in my own kids:
- Observational skills and awareness. My kiddos see and hear things I have looked away from or simply tuned out in the hurry of life. The other day, Caleb’s little face turned to the sky and his finger pointed searching for the object to match the sound he heard…the Canadian geese were making their return.
- Engineering and building. Jacob’s imagination comes alive as he collects bits and pieces of nature and loose pieces from the ranch…building a sleigh, chute, alley, corrals, among others.
- They develop their strength, balance, and risk assessment. Climb higher, run faster, giggle louder all while navigating obstacles. Fresh air and sunshine are good for the soul and sometimes I need to remind myself that after a rough week.
- They get biology. They know where food comes from and how the animals lived. They know that potatoes get dug out of the ground, and the sun-ripened strawberries get plucked from the plant, and that the animals born this spring will provide us protein and nourishment when the time comes. They recognize animal tracks, the different grasses, and trees.
- Compassion and reverence for those that live amongst us in nature. In nature there is life… and death. Brad had to assist a ewe this spring and Caleb’s anticipation was evident. When the wet lamb met the straw and started shaking his head, Caleb’s eyes were wide with excitement. But they have also known death and the missing of a pet or animal.
/no actual children or goats were driving a 4 wheeler!/
Do any of your favorite childhood memories include mud? I can recall more than a few times being hosed off before being let inside! I really want my kiddos to enjoy that same outdoor fun and adventure!
Check out these blogs for more info on kids outdoors