PEEC Earth Day Series: Hungry for Nature? How About a Mud Pie?

A tasty mud pie is on the menu at PEEC’s mud kitchen. Photo by Beth Cortright

Hungry for Nature? How About a Mud Pie?

By KATHERINE WATSON
PEEC Executive Director

“This dirt pile is awesome!” “Oh, no! My pancakes are burning!” “In our country, prettiness is being covered with mud!” -overheard from kids in the PEEC mud kitchen

Children love dirt. Add water, and they love it even more. Kids seem to instinctively know what adults must re-learn—not only is playing outside in the dirt a ton of fun; it’s essential to children’s healthy development in many ways.

“Play is the highest form of research.” -Albert Einstein

Play is children’s work. It’s where they learn social interaction, problem solving, and self-control—the executive functioning that is essential for future success. 

In fact, recent studies have shown that these skills are better indicators of success than academic ability, home-life environment, or any other measure. 

Play is also where children develop their creativity and imagination, where they learn to get big ideas and work them through to reality (ever tried to set up a mud pie bakery with two other 4-year-olds? It requires a lot of negotiation!)

These creative skills are just what American entrepreneurs or creative writers need.

“This is better than any of the playlots in town!” –Parent watching her children play in the mud kitchen

Unstructured outdoor play is one of the very best kinds of play to help kids develop these skills and talents. 

Kids who play outside encounter all kinds of opportunities for decision-making that stimulate problem-solving and creative thinking, because outdoor spaces are more open-ended than indoor spaces.

Kids playing outside encounter unplanned situations and loose parts (e.g., sticks, rocks, pinecones, etc.) with no obvious application or use, and get to use their brains and bodies to decide how to use them. 

Outdoor play engages kids physically as well as cognitively, since they are using their bodies to move themselves and the miscellaneous stuff they discover.

And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.” –Khalil Gibran

Outdoor play also reduces stress, increases attention, and decreases symptoms of ADD and ADHD. 

Though there are lots of research studies that have proven this, the best way to prove it to yourself is to spend some time outside.  We all know that we feel more relaxed, happy, and  alert when we have spent some time in nature.

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” –George Bernard Shaw

Play outside isn’t just for kids, either. When was the last time you got muddy?  You can go outside and play to set a good example for your kids, or just to have fun. 

Try your hand at a mud pie, decorate it with some leaves and flowers, and you’ll find that your hunger for nature has been satisfied, and your connection to the earth has been renewed.

“To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil 
is to forget ourselves.” -Mohandas K. Gandhi

Editor’s note:This is part of a series of stories from the Pajarito Environmental Education Center (PEEC) leading up to its annual Earth Day Festival set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, April 20at PEEC, 3540 Orange St., in Los Alamos.

This year’s Earth Day Festival will feature displays by community groups of their earth-friendly products and practices and their information about our environment on the Pajarito Plateau.

  • Over 20 booths
  • Food vendors
  • Live entertainment by Clan Tynker and the Hill Stompers
  • Kids activities, including “Walk Like a Wolf”, the “Mudpie Kitchen” and making miniature adobes with the Cornerstones Community Partnership.

Important Update: Park at Sullivan Field and ride a free Atomic City Bus to Saturday’s Earth Day event because LAHS parking lot will be full from three events being held at the school.

For more information about Earth Day, e-mail EarthDay@PajaritoEEC.orgor visit EarthDay@PajaritoEEC.org

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