Mind over mud

Getting kids to play outside should be easy. But sometimes — in this age of nature-deficit disorder/screen-time and a strictly enforced culture of helicopter parenting — it seems like it’s never been more difficult.

However, I’m here to tell you: Our kids really, really want it — water, dirt, air and mud, lots of mud — yes, even the seemingly sterilized indoor children (yeah, even the ones who love My Singing Monsters and King of Thieves). 

I have proof: I have a mud pit in my backyard (pictured above). 

It all began in March when my 9-year-old son started poking at the squishy ground with help from a 10-year-old neighbor friend, using, of course, my sharpest, most grown-up tools.

I was delighted they were so engaged (and occupied in the outdoors) until I noticed they seemed to be destroying little bits of lawn all over the yard. 

I told them they should at least let the non-weedy parts of the grass live. Why not choose a more out-of-sight, overgrown spot to dig?

And so they dedicated themselves to digging a giant pit in a far-off corner of the yard. 

Three days later, they were still at it. 

During every free moment they had, they were out there, digging and dragging more tools into the mix, reportedly creating some kind of imaginary refuge from zombies (their favorite enemies). 

Within a week, they had created a hole nearly 4 feet wide and 2 feet deep — their very own mud world.

When the 80-degree days came two months later, they made a bucket of muddy water and began shooting it all over the yard. 

Why? “Zombie repellent!” (Regular water can’t do that, only mud water.)

With all this in mind, imagine my delight and affirmation when I edited a story for this month’s magazine — our annual Outdoors Issue — about the joys of getting kids to play in the rain and mud. (International Mud Day is June 29, in case you didn’t know.)

Mud curious? I say give in and go for it. Your kids will love it. And you’ll learn to deal with the mess, even if you’re type A, like me.

Honestly, I don’t know what will come of our mega hole in the backyard: A sandbox? A new spot for an apple tree? A perpetual mud pit? 

I’m not worrying much about it right now. 

I may even add a mud kitchen. 

Sarah Jackson, Editor 

Sarah Jackson is the Editor of Minnesota Parent magazine. She lives in Minnetonka with her 8-year-old son. Write her at editor@mnparent.com.