A little girl about to turn 3 yelled in protest as her father tried to coax her into a pit of muddy water.
She hesitated. Her mother had instilled in her that getting dirty is bad and doing so makes Mom mad. But Dad wanted her to get used to the outdoors.
So when told Mom said it was OK, the toddler first dipped her toes in and then her hands. Swishing her hands in the water changed her cries of complaint to squeals of joy.
Soon she was joining about 2,000 kids and parents running through a muddy obstacle course at Crown Point Park in Mission Bay Regional Park set up to celebrate International Mud Day.
Some of today’s young children have never gotten muddy or dirty before, an official explained. And some are overwhelmed by the experience.
Indeed, some children walked very gingerly and tentatively through the watery, muddy path.
“It looks like chocolate milk,” one child yelled to another.
Others jumped and splashed and left the timid in their wakes. They returned to the course a second or third time.
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A girl scoots under plastic mesh of obstacle course during Mud Day activities at Crown Point Park. Photo by Chris Stone
Two girls make their way through a tunnel toward a water pit on a muddy obstacle course. Photo by Chris Stone
A boy lets go of a slingshot to propel a muddy ball toward a target at the Mud Day activities at Crown Point Park. Photo by Chris Stone
More than 2,000 people took part in the second annual Mud Day hosted by the San Diego Parks and Recreation Department. Photo by Chris Stone
On Mud Day, Park Ranger James Ibelle explains about wildlife in the San Diego area. Photo by Chris Stone
Soapy form rains down on children at Crown Point Park in Mission Bay. Photo by Chris Stone
A toddler splashes mud into a water pit on the obstacle course on International Mud Day. Photo by Chris Stone
Teens get clean in a “Snofoam Snowstorm” of soapy foam after participating in muddy fun. Photo by Chris Stone
A young child crawls through Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap at International Mud Day activities. Photo by Chrsi Stone
Two girls make snow angels in the blanket of foam at Crown Point Park on International Mud Day. Photo by Chris Stone
Kyleigh Ordinario, 9, of Poway shows off a walking stick that she decorated with yarn at the Mud Day events in Mission Bay. Photo by Chris Stone
A member of Dr. Bronner’s Magic All One Soap uses a hose to spray suds on Mud Day celebrants. Photo by Chris Stone
As Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap rains down, a muddy boy gets covered in suds. Photo by Chris Stone
A boy gets blasted with water to remove caked-on mud and the soap foam after Mud Day fun. Photo by Chris Stone
A boy is showered with water that removes the caked-on mud and the soap. Photo by Chris Stone
Jack Dede, 9, of North Park gets the soapy form washed out of his hair after Mud Day activities. Photo by Chris Stone
A beach ball begins to blend in with the mud in a mud pit at International Mud Day in Mission Bay. Photo by Chris Stone
Jasiri Maribei, 6, of Linda Vista shows off for his mother in the mud pit on International Mud Day. Photo by Chris Stone
Curtis B. of San Diego applies mud in a mud pit at Crown Point Park on International Mud Day. Photo by Chris Stone
Isaiah Sybor, 7, of Clairemont enjoys a mud bath in the mud pit at Crown Point Park on International Mud Day. Photo by Chris Stone
A man tosses a mud-soaked child during Mud Day activities at Crown Point Park in Mission Bay. Photo by Chris Stone
Quincy Yarbrough, 6 (left) and Luke Fassler, 6, both of Ocean Beach, share joy of being buried in mud at Mud Day activities in Mission Bay. Photo by Chris Stone
Johanna Asars of Temecula enjoys the mud pit with her two-year-old daughter, Emma. Photo by Chris Stone
Curtis B. of San Diego pretends to pour mud in his mouth in an optical illusion for one of his children at the Mud Day activities in Mission Bay. Photo by Chris Stone
Lilah Astonsmith, 9, of Pacific Beach relaxes in a mud bath at the second annual Mud Day event. Photo by Chris Stone
A boy relaxes while covered in mud in the large mud pit at the International Mud Day activities at Mission Bay. Photo by Chris Stone
A young girl, covered with soapy foam, poses for a cellphone photo at the International Mud Day activities at Crown Point Park. Photo by Chris Stone
Josiah Dunn, 7, of San Diego smiles after he dove into a mud pit at International Mud Day activities. Photo by Chris Stone
A boy settles into a bed of soapy foam at International Mud Day activities at Mission Bay. Photo by Chris Stone
A group of children begin their run through the watery obstacle course on International Mud Day. Photo by Chris Stone
Participants crawled through tires during an obstacle course during San Diego’s second annual celebration of International Mud Day. Photo by Chris Stone
A toddler wades through the mud at International Mud Day activities put on by the San Diego Parks and Recreation Department. Photo by Chris Stone
Girls run through a “Snofoam Snowstorm” made with Dr. Bronner’s soap foam at the International Mud Day activities in Mission Bay. Photo by Chris Stone
“It’s such a great way for children to express themselves and to have a great day in a safe environment, said Colleen Sybor, who brought her 7-year-old son, Isaiah.
As she tried to encourage Isaiah to move on, he requested one more trip into the mud pit and he buried himself up to his chin.
“It turned out awesome,” Sybor said of the free event.
Silvia Maribei of Linda Vista watched as her son lay in the mud.
“When I was a kid, we lived in an area where it used to rain a lot, and it would be muddy. So we even had mud clothes that we were allowed to get muddy in, and we would spend time rolling around in mud just like he is,” she said.
“I was so excited to have an opportunity to do this. It’s very rare for our kids to go out and get dirty and enjoy nature and just be silly in the dirt. We live in an apartment complex, so he doesn’t get as much outside time as I would like him to or as I do.”
The San Diego Parks and Recreation Department partnered with San Diego Children and Nature, along with the county, to offer the second annual Mud Day at a larger venue this year.
International Mud Day was created in Australia in 2009 as part of an effort to inspire children to spend more time exploring nature and playing outdoors.
Since that time, Mud Day has grown into a worldwide event and is celebrated with a variety of events that focus on familiarizing children with their natural surroundings.
Because of the crowd last year at Golden Hall Recreation Center, the city sought a bigger place for the muddy fun. A dirt lot at the end of Crown Point Park fit the bill.
Children and parents ran the obstacle course with water pits, small hills, tires, a balance beam and hill made of straw.
Other activities were decorating eucalyptus walking sticks, setting up forts, creating pine cone bird feeders, painting nature scenes with vegetables as paintbrushes and creating pictures out of shells, leaves and twigs.
Said Kathy Castello, area manager of San Diego Parks and Recreation, said science has shown that kids have better brain development if they are outside, playing in nature.
“They have better physical and mental development as well,” she said. “So it’s healthy and Parks and Recreation Department is all about kids being healthy, so we partner with San Diego Children in Nature and the county to provide this opportunity for kids to just get out and be healthy, get away from their screen time and enjoy nature.”
Castello said it’s hoped that the nature experience children had Saturday will be a bridge to more such outdoor outings.
“It’s super awesome,” said young Johanna Asaro of Temecula. “We’re going to do this every year!”