It’s funny how quickly you forget what it’s like to be a child. Although, watching an entire team of children dressed in white, playing a passionate game of soccer in the mud brought back some vivid memories.
I remember getting in trouble – a lot – for getting dirty. In my mum’s defence, she had JUST finished dressing me for a special outing and me, typically bored and looking for something to do, decided to finish the mud pies I had been working on earlier.
Still, the experience left a lasting impression.
Fast-forward to me as a parent and I’m surrounded by parents and children who look like they’ve just stepped out of a catalogue and I feel as though I’m the only mum with a child who has stains on their t-shirt.
Don’t any of these kids play? Of course they do. Their parents are just clearly better at laundry than I am.
So my reasonably dressed children and I turned up to watch the filming of OMO’s Dirt is Good campaign which was being held at the gorgeous Centennial Park in Sydney.
We found the filming location and saw something quite ominous – a very, very muddy soccer field. I started to understand what was going to happen and I was desperate to watch it all unfold.
The filming of a campaign can get a bit boring because it takes ages to set everything up, which was fine by me because I love any opportunity to sit on the grass with my beautiful son.
My oldest child Philip was in heaven, skateboarding up and down the vacant road that ran next to the site but my youngest two were restless.
They started entertaining themselves by using sticks to dig in the dirt. Absentmindedly, I brushed the dirt from their clothes every few minutes. Then my oldest joined us and spotted a cicada shell which kept them busy for the next 30 minutes as the searched for more and more and more. We spotted quite a few up high in the trees and the search began for a very long stick with which to reach them. They stopped from time to time to peel some bark off the tree trunks.
I stopped them every several minutes to wipe their hands down with the wet wipes I carry in my handbag.
Filming began with the kids – dressed mostly in white soccer uniforms – playing a competitive game as their supportive parents cheered them on.
But there was a clear, and strange, difference between this soccer game and an ordinary one – they were told by the organisers to avoid the sections of mud. They were told to not get dirty.
“The mud is hot lava, kids. Make sure you don’t let any of it get on you.”
The poor kids were so restrained. They’d be running as fast as they could after the soccer ball and then stop dead in their tracks because the ball had rolled into the mud – their little faces were visibly pained with annoyance.
Their parents and I watched on, confused, as the kids tip toed through it to retrieve the ball, frustratingly holding it away from themselves so as not to get any thing on them. They were even missing goals, just to abide by the rules of cleanliness.
It wasn’t what a kids’ soccer game should be. They clearly weren’t enjoying themselves and I felt a little heavy-hearted watching.
But then, the moment we had all been waiting for was on. I gathered my cicada-hunting-children who were in on the secret that the parents of the very clean soccer players didn’t yet know – that these kids were about to get very, incredibly, hopelessly dirty.
They were told to play with abandon, get muddy, have fun, play their little hearts out and not worry about getting dirty. After a few reluctant minutes of clean play and some nervous looks at their parents, it finally happened. They were covered. Mud, mud splattered, mud smears and mud, mud, mud.
It was awesome.
See for yourself and watch the experiment below. (Post continues after the video).
By this stage my kids were laughing their heads off. And I knew what they were thinking. They wanted to get out there with the now muddy kids and part of me wanted to let them. Except it would ruin filming. And their clothes.
But I realised that getting dirty was fun for kids and every time parents like me stepped in to stop them to clean and sanitise them, we were ruining their fun. And what was so bad about getting dirty? It wasn’t the end of the world.
That’s what OMO’s philosophy Dirt Is Good is all about.
Real play is messy; and messy play has a time and a place. A few minutes before leaving for school when dressed in their nice, clean, ironed uniforms – not the time and certainly not the place. On the weekend when there is nowhere to go and nothing to do – the perfect time.
Digging in mud, flinging mud, playing with dirt, sand, water, climbing trees, getting dusty, having their hair sticking out from all ends from sweat and grime, that’s their heaven. Instead of looking at every little speck and mark on their clothes, look at their faces. Look at the joy. Focus on that.
And worry about the mess and the stains later.
How do your kids get good and messy?
What even is ‘real play’? How much do our kids really need? OMO’s expert clinical psychologist Dr Suzy Green will be doing a live Q&A on The Motherish Facebook this Thursday night 7th April at 8pm, answering all of your questions. Can’t wait to see you there!
OMO tackles tough stains from your clothes, so that you can give your children the freedom to get dirty and experience life through real, unstructured play. We believe that dirt shouldn’t be a dirty word as it helps our kids prepare better for tomorrow.
Discover exclusive real play ideas at www.omo.com.au/realplay