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Mud offers educational opportunity
Water-Mud-Sand Play Day PM 052
Helping Hands Preschooler Natalia Chavez proudly shows off her mud pie made during an activity focusing on sensory development. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

Just like steel is drawn to a magnet, kids are drawn to mud. Just ask any parent who is trying to keep a child clean anywhere near a mud puddle.
At Helping Hands Preschool, teachers see things differently – they actually put children and mud together on purpose. It’s all good, clean fun and play with an educational purpose.
“Through mud play, children have a sensory experience that many have never had,” said Shelly Post, teacher.
Some of the children at Helping Hands have special needs, which make their play time even more important in their development.
Post noted that one of her students, Gentry Ramsey, was allowed to sit on the edge of the pool since she has difficulty standing. 
“She had such a great time playing in the mud and the sprinkler,” Post said. “It was so great for her to experience all that sensory input that she normally wouldn’t get due to her lack of mobility.  Sensory experiences are crucial to future learning for all children.
“Much vocabulary can be learned with questions like, ‘how does it feel’ or ‘what are you making’,” Post also noted.
 “Science is involved by discovering what happens when you add water to dirt and how much water is added to make the right consistency,” she said. “Great pretend play and creativity happens when the kids are cooking with the mud, measuring ingredients, making pies, cookies or whatever they decide to make.”
There is also lots of practice with taking turns, showing cooperation and having conversations with peers about what they are making. 
“We practice cleanliness life skills when we clean ourselves up and clean the toys after we are done playing,” Post said.
Before going out to play, each child dressed himself or herself in a swimming suit as independently as possible. That made clean up after playing in the mud easier. Then they practiced dressing back into their clothes after they returned to class. 
“They are having so much fun that they don’t even know how much they are learning,” she said. “All they know is it is just plain fun.”