Apparently there is a national mud day. (There truly is a commemorative day to celebrate everything.) And while mud day is not today or this week or even this month, in our neck of the - ahem - woods, mud season has begun. It's here! The snow has melted and left the ground soft. Rain comes in and leaves puddles and muck in its wake. Mud!

Why so excited, you say? What's the big deal? It's dirty and sticky. It's usually the thing we sidestep and avoid. True. But not in the wild world of outdoor play. Out there, mud is golden. It's endless fun for kids (and kinda, sorta for adults when we dive in too).

So, to celebrate mud wherever you find it and whenever you are, in fact, read to dive in, here are five ways to get down and dirty outdoors.

Note: usually the biggest challenge related to messy outdoor play (at least for me and from what I hear from other parents) is the mess. We're worried about our kids and their clothes and their hair and every last inch of them getting messy. The challenge is real. So, feel free to join me if you need encouragement, in a shared goal to feel more comfortable with the dirt that comes along with the beauty of child-led play. I've been working on two things to this end: 01. finding the right mindset for myself and 02. feeling prepared (i.e. bringing a towel, rain boots and change of clothes with me in rainy weather). Okay, let's do this.

01. Puddle Stomping

Great big splashes of water without a care in the world? Yes, please. Tried and true. Puddle stomping is sure to leave most kids squealing with joy. Get out those rain boots and let them jump away - and if you're especially adventurous join them. Give them the space to get completely soaked and dirty. We often find one activity naturally leads to another. Kids organically use the same medium in many ways until they've explored every angle of it. Watch for what puddle stomping becomes after children are done jumping. Do they watch what floats in the puddle? Do they turn the puddle into soup? What else do they do?

02. Mud Art

Mud art can be any creation using mud as your medium. It's as open-ended and as messy as you can guess, but it is chock full of imaginative play. Often mud art takes on two parts: 01. making mud, unless it's already near you and 02. combining mud with other art materials. Imagine a blank canvass and paint brushes, but instead of using paint, you use mud. Imagine adding paint to the mud and painting with colored mud. Pick the art supplies you'll use and let your children explore what happens next.

03. Mud Kitchen

A crowd favorite. Invite your child to turn a mud pit into a kitchen. Perhaps they'll serve up mud pies and mud shakes. Add other natural materials like leaves, grass, stones, sticks, etc. and you may find your child has created an entire menu. If you haven't already, this is a great activity for introducing kitchen supplies to your outdoor play. Leave bowls, trays, utensils, measuring cups and strainers out for easy integration.

04. Unstructured Play Area

Similar to the mud kitchen, a mud pit can become anything. Often, children will create based on what supplies surround them. Those materials help shape the direction of their creativity. So if you're trying this activity, consider leaving out loose construction parts. Wood, shovels, PVC pipes, bricks (mud makes great mortar or bricks themselves when formed and put out to dry), pulleys, rope, sticks, buckets, etc. Feel like this is a little too risky for you? Check out our pieces on risky play and Adventure Playgrounds to think about and take in the innovative foundation that comes out of play with tools and other unconventional supplies.

05. Mud Archeology

This activity involves digging in a more contained way than the unstructured play area - although as with all of these activities, one can easily lead into another. This prompt involves two steps: 01. burying items and 02. unearthing items. Pick items you have around the home or ones you buy specifically for the occasion (just make sure you're okay if aren't discovered in this session - or ever). Animal figurines, fossils, gems or other specific rocks, pretend bones or human artifacts are all great items to bury as they tie into a larger discussion about archeology. For unearthing, provide tools for children to dig, dust, clean and display their discoveries.

When rain comes around, we can opt for indoor activities or we can explore the wet and muddy world. If you're up for exploring and playing in the mud, hopefully these activities help give you ideas for a new element of fun. And if you have other favorite play ideas for muddy days, we'd love to hear them. You can share in the comments below. Happy adventures, all!