Fun in the mud helps Northampton kids learn through play

  • Max Schneider, left, and Annalia Palladino, both 5, coat themselves in wet mud June 29, 2018 during a celebration of International Mud Day at Nonotuck Community School in Florence. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Lily Maciborski, 2, squeals as teacher Hannah Levine pours a watery mix of mud down the slide June 29, 2018 during a celebration of International Mud Day at Nonotuck Community School in Florence. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Max Schneider, 5, coats himself in wet mud June 29, 2018 during a celebration of International Mud Day at Nonotuck Community School in Florence. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Max Schneider, 5, is hosed off after coating himself in wet mud June 29, 2018 during a celebration of International Mud Day at Nonotuck Community School in Florence. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

Staff Writer
Published: 6/29/2018 3:47:53 PM

NORTHAMPTON – Dressed in brightly colored swimsuits the young students of Nonotuck Community School jumped in puddles of mud and celebrated getting dirty as part of International Mud Day. 

On Friday children at the early childhood daycare were given the freedom to play in mud pits, throw globs of sludge, and cover their faces in streaks of brown as part of a holiday dedicated to helping children feel closer to the Earth and each other. International Mud Day began in 2009 and is celebrated on June 29. 

About 20 Periwinkles, Chameleons, Pollywogs, Frogs, and Toads (all names of the classrooms) spent about an hour-and-a-half splashing in little pools of wet dirt, laughing as they jumped, and ran around the playground at the backend of the school. 

“We played in mud piles!” yelled Max Schneider, 5, amid a playground full of excited preschoolers. “I’m trying to get muddy!”

Art teacher Hannah Levine recently learned about the holiday and helped organize the event. The Nonotuck school is for children between the ages of fifteen months and five years as they help students make the transition from being primarily dependent on adults to meet their needs to being independent children. 

“What caught a lot of kids fancy was to throw mud, they were really excited about that,” Levine said. “Once I put up the cardboard to do that, it made it seem OK, because part of it for them was like ‘is it really OK to do this?’” 

Children flung fist fulls of mud at the side of a shed, played with dinosaurs in muddy pits and raced down the playground slide in their muddy suits. 

“It’s sort of the opposite of what they are used to and luckily the parents here at Nonotuck embrace experiences where kids get to try out all sort of things,” Levine said. “I think it is good for the kids to get sensory experiences where they get to feel good.” 

Periwinkle teacher Melissa Graziano said this group in particular has parents that are very open to these types of activities. 

“It's sort of a coming back to how important it is to play outside and get dirty,” Graziano said. “The kids were actually a little timid at first about jumping in until we started throwing mud at the wall, that was fun.” 

She mentioned that there is a link between a rise in sensory disorders and a lessening of outdoor activities, especially at a time when everything is so anesthetized, so this type of play is good for children. 

“They are learning through play – physics, math, science, everything,” Graziano said. “Any current, top-notch child development research will tell you that early childhood is a time for play; that is how they learn.”  

Walter Stevenson, 4, and Willie Staub, 4, ran around splashing in kiddie pools filled with topsoil water. 

To dry off, Col Brody, 3, and Annalia Palladino, 5, hung upside down on little metal bars on the playground by curling their legs around the bars with the backs of their knees. 

Eleanor Maynard, 5, and Julia Lilienthal, 5, walked around in their towels after they were done with their muddy adventure and said they had fun playing with their friends. 

“We jumped in it, painted with it,” said Eleanor as she pointed to a large cardboard cutout the children used paint brushes to dab mud on.  

At the end of their celebration of International Mud Day teachers hosed the students down to clear off the mud and students ate crackers as they made their way back in for the rest of the day. 

Luis Fieldman can be reached at lfieldman@gazettenet.com




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