Joyful leap into middle of a muddy puddle | Daily News

Joyful leap into middle of a muddy puddle

What child can resist jumping into a muddy rain puddle? Puddles are a sort of magnet for kids. They call out to them in a voice adults can’t hear, begging kids to come and play. Resistance is futile.

Playing in the mud and climbing trees are simple pleasures that have defined childhood for generations. But such youthful pursuits appear to be dying out as an increasing number of children play computer games instead. We are all aware that dozens of outdoor activities that were almost universally enjoyed a generation ago are falling out of favour.

Nowadays, children have much more to keep them amused – computers, a host of TV channels and smart-phones – something we older generations didn’t have. As a result, youngsters are missing the mud and puddles or simply spending time in the fresh air.

A child’s play in puddles sometimes needs a follow-up bath but it’s certainly fun. The learning can be splashy. Still it’s a good thing that kids are wash and towel dry. Besides we barefoot Sri Lankans hardly wear galoshes or Wellingtons when wallowing in the mud. That is because even as time marches on humans don’t change. One obvious example that reinforces this fact is that when little boys confronted with a puddle would not go round it but wade through it.

True, as kids we stomped forcefully in puddles while the more timid ones among us would slowly work their way in. Deep or shallow, there is an irresistible element of mystery about puddles. What lurks at the bottom of the puddle? Is it deep enough for the water to go over the top of boots or shoes or not?

While feet respond to puddles first, hands also like to explore and splash. Paper boats, sticks and leaves can be added to puddles to see if they will float. If the puddle is fairly deep, kids may like to throw in rocks to see and hear the splash.

Puddles also come in a variety of shapes. Although one end might be narrow it’s more challenging to try and jump into or over the wide part.

When two or more kids are playing in puddles, they also need to learn some social skills. Child’s play in puddles is also a way to connect to nature. For kids, there’s no muddle about puddles.

What colours do you see in the puddles? Are there any reflections? Some days, it’s hard to enjoy the rain, but puddles can make a grey day bright and interesting. Some wag aptly described a puddle as a small body of water that attracts other small bodies to come in.

I remember my tiny neighbour Riyad who happened to be the epitome of a little gentleman. Yet from a shy, quiet boy he was transformed into a bundle of energy and enthusiasm when confronted by a puddle. The moment he saw a puddle he would take three or four steps back, look longingly at the water and then charge. He would run full speed then jump high in the air and finally land bang in the middle of the puddle, splashing water all around, clapping his hands and shouting in glee.

Almost a decade or so ago I observed a whole gang of neighborhood boys stomping through fresh puddles. They were clearly having so much fun that I joined them. We marched around, stomping through puddles and laughing like drains. The father of one of the kids walked up, looked at me, shook his head and went inside his home.

The kids looked at me with worshipful eyes as I pointed at the retreating man’s figure and said: “The only exercise he must excel at is jumping to conclusions.” The kids howled with mirth. Yet, I felt sorry for the poor old sod.

As I sifted through scores of pictures of toddlers and adventurous brats stomping and splashing in puddles, I was reminded that play is a child's work. The foundations of everything a child needs to learn across the domains — cognitive, emotional, and social—are learned through play. This is so beautifully illustrated in a moment of curiosity, discovery, and joy of a child, evoked by a small or large pool of water left after the rain. Generally when most adults see mud puddles, they tend to avoid them. When kids see mud puddles, they jump in and splash in them.

There are some things in life that just go together. Like fish and chips. Rukmani Devi and Eddie Jayamanne, Toddlers and puddles. And the moment, your toddler spies that tantalizing pool of water, there’s something in his psyche that urges him to make a dash towards it followed by a splash. And guess what? It’s really good for him/her, even if it may mean soggy clothes for you.

Lively outdoor play activities are important for your child’s development of independence and autonomy. According to the Children and Nature Network Research Studies, when children play in natural environments, their play is more diverse, imaginative and creative – all very positive skills. So the message is, let them jump.

As a child, I was drawn to mud. Some of my fondest childhood memories saw me covered in the stuff, head to toe. Let me explain that dirt and water are two very simple and basic ingredients that continue to be the source of so much activity, creativity, joy, and sensory fun for both children and adults.

Do you remember what it felt like to squelch mud through your toes? Mud is astounding, how it can conjure up such polarizing feelings, how this simple substance can make us feel disgusted and revolted at the same time so joyous, inspired and alive.

This grubby, sticky substance always seemed to have magical powers on me as a child. In its presence, so much is possible. Simply standing in it fires my imagination! I become inspired. Even when I am holding mud in my hands today, I still feel as though I can create anything. I am transported very quickly into a playful child-like state of mind. And there is no greater pleasure than giving yourself permission to get dirty!

Now that I am a grown up, and a grandparent, I realised that I no longer play in the mud. But I am changing that. After all, grandfathers are just antique little boys.

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