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A Pediatric Perspective

Rain, Rain ... go out and play ..

Published October 16, 2009 6:33 PM by Wendy Hof

It's been raining here for the past couple of days.  Yesterday was a cold rain but today it was warmer and more of a drizzle.  I have been off on vacation in the Lancaster, PA area with my sister and mom.  We've been exploring, shopping and just having a fun time enjoying each other's company.  It's been a pleasant change but has also opened my eyes to how much the world has changed since my sister and I were kids.

We were on our way back from shopping and heading back to our hotel room when right in front of us was this large puddle.  My sister and I looked at one another, huge grins spreading on our faces, and we ran and jumped right... smack ... in the middle of .. the puddle!  *splash!!*  *splash!!*   Water every where and my sister and I in tears from laughing.  Here we are, adults, splashing in puddles.  Our mom behind us, joining us in the laughter.  As we started walking back to our room we continued to splash and kick at the water, trying to get each other wet.  There was no scolding, no one was upset that we were wet from our knees to our toes. 

This was nothing new to us.  As long as I can remember I've jumped in puddles - with my sisters, my brothers, and with my sons.  I can remember the first time my youngest son was old enough to remember jumping in puddles we were returning from a school event.  I was walking with my two boys slightly ahead of us and the youngest did a half jump into a puddle.  I looked at my oldest son, a smile spreading on my face.  I said something like "Nick!  That is not right" and then both me and my eldest son jumped high and landed with a big splash into the puddle.  My youngest stopped in his tracks, water dripping from his clothing, looking at us with at first a startled look and then a smile.  I started to laugh and then both boys started laughing.  "That is how it should be done.  If you're going to do it, Nick, you have to do it right!"  We continue to jump into the puddles as we walked to the car.

I was brought up with the knowledge that rain is water and water is okay to play in as long as it is a warm enough day.  I can remember playing outside making mud pies and jumping in puddles while it is raining and right after it has stopped raining.  I was never scolded for having wet clothes or wet shoes.  I was never scolded for coming in muddy.  When I was growing up it was encouraged.  I have continued to encourage this freedom in my kids.  We have been known to go outside in a drizzle and play on the swings or in the puddles or even in the mud.  I believe this is one reason my kids have not had the sensory issues or the picky eating issues that so many of our kids have these days.  They have been allowed to get dirty, they've been encouraged to get dirty but that is not the way with so many of our little ones these days.  I have gone into many a home where the child has been scolded for spilling food on their tray or on their clothes.  They have been told "no" and "dirty" when they've brought toys to their mouths.  So why is it not surprising that so many kids are sensory defensive and have become picky eaters?

If our kids are not encouraged to get their hands dirty and not allowed to get messy, why would they feel comfortable to allow that to happen when it is time for them to eat or to play?  A child who is allowed to play with mud and to play with their food is more likely to be the child who will try new foods and can be encouaged to get messy during play time.  A child who is scolded and told "no, dirty" is a child who will not want to touch messy food, not want to put things that are different into his mouth and will become the picky eater because of this. 

I try to encourage my families to have a messy play time set aside at least once or twice a day.  Many families are not able to do this either because of other time commitments or because of their own sensory defensive behaviors.  There are families though that will try and are amazed when they see their child suddenly becoming more willing to try new things after a couple weeks of consistent scheduled messy play.  I also encourage these families to bring out some pudding or apple sauce and use that to finger paint with.  Often a child will unknowingly bring their hands to their mouth with these food items on their hands and even though at first they may cringe or dislike what they are tasting, in time we'll see that they begin to be less defensive when it happens again.  Eventually this child will be the one who will do it on purpose because they have decided they actually like the taste of the pudding or the apple sauce.  The most important thing to do is make this messy play time consistant each day and fun!!  Be silly, be messy with them and encourage them to try and allow the food to remain on their hands for 1, 2, 3, 5 minutes ...  The more often they are exposed to it, the more often they are encouraged to have fun, the more often they will feel comfortable enough to explore and to taste.

So I say to everyone ...  don't wish the rain away - go out and play in it!  Encourage your families to go out and play in it!  Get messy!  Remember what it is like to be a kid and jumping in puddles and making mud pies and encourage your families to try it too!

Thanks for stopping by.  Do you have any fun, messy activities you use to do as a child?  I would love to hear about them! 
I hope to see you back here on Tuesday for Tuesday Tidbits.  We'll be talking about the "spitting cup".




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