Parents urged to play in the mud with their children
PARENTS are being urged to "get dirty" and play in the mud with their children to improve their maths and science knowledge.
A new advice sheet issued by the Department of Education highlights the benefits of outdoor activities.
Children are having less contact with the natural world, the department said, and this risks impacting on their healthy development.
The advice forms part of the department's Play Matters campaign.
Most children have an innate desire to get dirty "and this should be nurtured as much as possible", the guidance reads.
Playing with mud, it says, is beneficial for children and offers "something for everyone regardless of a child's age, stage or ability".
The department said the physical properties of mud "mean that it provides a rich tactile and sensory experience".
"Through playing with mud children can develop their fine motor skills, mathematical and scientific knowledge, and mud play is a great fun way to develop imagination and creativity too," it states.
"Muddy play is great fun; children can mould it, squish it, squelch and shape it. It can be made wetter or left to dry out. Digging in mud or splashing in muddy puddles can also be a great form of physical exercise.
"The open-ended nature of mud play is perfect for the developing brain. There is no end to the creations, ideas and games that children will invent with mud."
The guidance includes tips for parents such as playing "a game of making mud sculptures or mud pies" and drawing pictures in mud with fingers or twigs.
"Experts believe that our desire to keep everything sterile and clean is part to blame for recent increases in allergies amongst children as their immune systems are not being given the opportunity to develop naturally," the advice adds.
"Just as a baby's brain needs stimulation and interaction to develop normally; the young immune system needs to be strengthened by some exposure to everyday germs - helping children to become less susceptible to illnesses later in life.
"So consider letting your child's immune system harden, with the help of some dirt and germs and remember that evidence is showing that ultra clean lifestyles are actually bad for our health."