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Wednesday, 19 June 2019

With beautiful bushland, parks and sparkling beaches on our doorstep, it’s not too much of a stretch for us to embrace the outdoors. But with winter upon us, what happens when it’s cold and wet?

Director of Belrose Children’s Centre, Stephanie Wallace praises outdoor play for children, even in the winter months. “Educators from our children’s centres plan fun activities year-round, even if the children have to don their waterproofs to enjoy the fresh air.”

Think back to your own childhood and perhaps some of your happiest memories are those experienced in the great outdoors. You only have to see a child’s joy when they jump in puddles or watch a snail leave its silvery trail to see their sense of wonder.

Research shows that coming into contact with a certain amount of bacteria is good for us. Gerry Hamilton in Let Them Eat Dirt suggests a link between the increasing incidence of allergies and autoimmune diseases with the trend towards a more cocooned environment for our children.

The question is how can we expose our children to dirt in a controlled and healthy way? “The answer is mud pies!” says Stephanie Wallace.

International Mud Day is Saturday 29 June - not that we need an excuse to play in mud! Our Council childcare centres will be getting involved in all the action with children able to enjoy the beauty of mud in a safe environment

So how did this rather surprising celebration of mud begin? Back in 2009, Gillian McAuliffe from the Nature Action Collaborative for Children discussed with fellow member Bishnu Bhatta from Nepal the challenges children faced when playing in mud in their respective home environments. Gillian reflected on the reluctance of her culture to ‘get dirty’, while Bishnu said many of the children did not have enough clothes to be able to get them dirty, or even the soap to wash them! On her return to Australia, Gillian’s school started fundraising to help the children of Panchkhal orphanage, Nepal to get their chance to play outdoors, with Bishnu arranging a special ‘mud-play’ day for them.

Since then the two groups have formed a special bond that has since inspired educators, children and families across the world to celebrate International Mud Day on 29 June.

There has never been a more important time for parents and educators to make outdoor play a priority for their children. Simple pleasures such as jumping in puddles and making mud pies help children connect with nature and are vital for their health, education and well-being.

Council continues to invest in quality resources and play equipment including wet weather gear at its children’s centres, with the Australian Children’s Education & Care Quality Authority giving them a rating that ‘Exceeds the National Quality Standard’.

For more information on Council’s Children’s Centres.

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