On Building Self Confidence
Ten children, ages two through twelve, stand around a murky hole with about two feet of standing mud water in it. “It looks like chocolate milk,” says one of the older girls wearing a pink flowered swim suit. The apprehension is apparent on all their faces, but in their eyes you can see the barriers, the rules to ‘stay clean’, being tossed aside. It will only take one and the mess will ensue. Even with the encouragement of the grown-ups standing a safe distance away, they still stare at the dark glossiness before them. The youngest of them creeps toward the slick clay mud hole. He slips and falls. Standing up laughing, a clear diagonal line between the clean half of his body and the mud half, is all it takes for the rest of the children to rush the mud pit. They paint their bodies, slide down the mud slide and make all kinds of mud pies, soups and dips.
The freedom of unstructured play builds self-confidence. It can ease children outside of their comfort zone and let them, on their own terms, face uncertainty or fears and overcome them, a powerful tool to carry into adulthood. Not only that, but research supports that just 30 minutes of outdoor unstructured play time can alleviate symptoms of ADHD, reduce blood pressure, as well as the stress hormone cortisol. So get out there, kick rocks, throw sticks, dig holes and get dirty!
Check out some video of the mud pit!