Willimantic, Conn. – “I try.” That was the message to the preschool children during the Fun Mud Day obstacle course at Eastern Connecticut State University on May 4. Based on the military-style obstacle course “Tough Mudder,” Fun Mud Day challenged the children of Eastern’s Child and Family Development Resources Center (CFDRC) to get out of their comfort zones and try a variety of muddy obstacles they typically do not come across.
Like the Tough Mudder, the goal of the children’s event is not to win, but simply to try. According to Darren Robert, chief organizer of Fun Mud Day and health and physical education professor, “The purpose is to push the children beyond their limits of comfort. With technology and sedentary living so prevalent, chances to get dirty aren’t as common.”
“By experiencing different feelings and textures, and relying on gross and physical motor skills, the event also builds confidence and competence,” said Niloufar Rezai, director of the CFDRC. Regarding their willingness to take on certain obstacles, such as crawling through wet leaves under a bridge or walking across an elevated platform, Rezai added, “Some children are more timid than others, but this is likely due to lack of exposure.”
The children were not the only ones getting dirty in the course. To supervise and encourage them, Eastern students from the education and kinesiology and physical education departments, as well as parents and staff members participated. Provost Rhona Free led the way on several of the obstacles. “It’s nice to see the kids responding to encouragement, trying things they normally wouldn’t,” she said. “It’s good to be uncomfortable every once in a while, considering all our time behind computer screens. It tests their agility and balance, and they’re so proud of themselves afterward.”
While some of the event’s obstacles were initially met with skepticism by the children, “in the end almost every child tries every obstacle,” said Robert.