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.
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

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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“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.

Also delighting kids and adults alike was the “Snofoam Snowstorm” created by Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap.

Then they were hosed off before the trip home.

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!”