One big truth I’ve learned in the last 10 years is that parenting is an ever changing role. What works for one child isn’t necessarily the answer for the other child. And even, what flows for one child now, isn’t necessarily the thing that’s going to flow for him in a week, a month, a year. We have to adapt and change and be flexible enough to try new things. As our children get older and enter into new phases of development, we must meet them where they are and think up creative ways to let them express their new-found sense of self.
Recently, I’ve noticed my 6 year-old Teddy being drawn to water and mud play. He would turn on the hose and make everything exasperatingly muddy. He would make the driveway muddy, the walk down the side of the house muddy, the rose garden muddy.
At first I fought this mud… it got into my house, on my furniture… ALL OVER his shoes, onto our neighbors car! “PLEASE!” I would plead… “water the flowers, Teddy, fill a bucket… just DON’T make MUD!”
But of course, while I was saying this, the better mom in me was thinking… “Oh Donni, 6 year-old boys LOVE mud! Mud is good! Mud is fun! Mud can teach him things!”
So, I took a deep breath, let go of all the anxiety I had been feeling about MUD and embraced it instead.
Teddy and I made a mud kitchen in the back yard.
We went to The Goodwill to find cheap pots and pans and cooking utensils. We set aside a place in the flower garden to be the dirt pile. We found an old stainless steel silk that could be filled up with water. We made a counter for working on, collected nature bits to play with and set up the hose near the mud kitchen.
I can’t tell you how happy my boy is in his mud kitchen. He digs in the dirt, fills the sink, mixes mud. He makes mud cakes, mud pies, mud cookies. I have tasted them all and they are delicious!
We have baskets of acorns, pine cones, straw and even snakes to use in his recipes. When his friends come over, it’s straight to the mud kitchen they run. They go home filthy.
I keep a big bucket of water and a couple of towels near the outside steps. It’s a rule that mud must be washed off before a muddy boy can come back inside.
Often, it’s when we embrace the very things we are struggling with that we find that they were opportunities after all.
Blessings and magic,
Blessing to you Mom for nurturing the creative spirit in your son. Looks like you have a future chef or sculptor there! My Mom did the same with me but she provided clay instead….much cleaner! Now I am a sculptor thanks to her encouragement and flexibility! Go Mom!!
Very wise. I really love the idea of the whole set up.
We had a corner of the garden for Sam’s digging. Then he left our bits alone because he had his. When we moved here, there was an area badly covered with concrete. He got a small sledge hammer for his birthday or Christmas and a big chisel. Even older boys we knew loved to come around because they could break up concrete to their heart’s content! and now years later we have a lovely wee orchard planted there!
Sandy in the UK
Oh this brings back memories. My sister and weren’t so into mud but loved to make nature ‘food’ creations. We’d drag out our play kitchen toys and make nature stew with leaves, grass, rocks and all kinds of stuff mixing it, plating it. My daughter has this love too. Luckily our sand and water table fills the bill. She’ll make all kinds of ‘yummy’ sand treats to sell at her outdoor café. They all come with a little sand toy to when you order, usually a toob animal from their sand toy collection!
What a beautiful story, thanks for sharing. A lot of time, I got caught up in wanting the children to follow our rules without finding out their real needs and be with them.
Hi Wendy, but most of the time I bet you met their needs naturally :-)