The breadth and depth of what these experiences offer young children is truly remarkable. As a child, I experimented and played with mud, painted with it, dug in it and made mud pies. This week there was much excitement as the mud kitchen was ready for the children to explore. The EY2 children have been a part of the designing and planning process and the EY1 children have seen how the kitchen has been built from scratch by Mr. Roy. This is a wonderful example of the teachers using their knowledge of what children need exposure to for fabulous and joyful learning, their observations of the children at play and scaffolding discussions so that the children have been able to have a voice in this amazing outdoor opportunity.
“You could use the pans to make a mud cake.” (Juilliette)
“Or cupcakes.” (Ethan)
“You can splash and mash in it.” (Luke)
“You can play in the kitchen and make a cake.” (Valeria)
“I like to play and play in the mud kitchen and make the recipe for the cakes.” (Naila)
As I observed the children at play, many good things were being made and many friendships developed. How about a chocolate mud pie, decorated with pebbles? Or a luscious cupcake sprinkled with sand? Finish it off with some gloopy soup or a bowl of chocolate water. Creativity, happiness, and generosity were abundant as the children were eager to share a “taste” of their fresh creations. Dirt, sand, water, bits of plants, and cooking utensils comprise a timeless play kit.
“It will be awesome! Would you like to see our chocolate cake? It’s going to be delicious! I’m making a chocolate cake for Freya.” (Olivia)
“Chocolate cupcakes! I’m going to make it for all the grown ups. It’s chocolate cupcakes with sprinkles.” (Talia)
“I was playing with Olivia in the mud and we talked turns to stir the cake.” (Freya)
“It was a chocolate cake, it was so delicious.” (Olivia)
“We nearly ate it all up but we saved some for Mrs. P. and Ms. Gibbons.” (Freya)
“It’s so good!” (Henry)
“Chocolate brownies….Chocolate brownies…Chocolate brownies…Chocolate brownies…” (Edie)
When I contemplate children’s fascination for mud play, I have come to the understanding that everything is there – elemental materials, inquiry, fascination, transformation, alchemy, fantasy, agency and self discovery. Mud is amazing, how it can conjure up such polarizing feelings, how this simple substance can make us feel disgusted and revolted at the same time so joyous, inspired and alive. Playing in the mud inspires children to feel a connection to nature and develop an appreciation for the environment. It is difficult to care about the environment if you have not had the chance to spend time in nature. By providing time outdoors and the chance for muddy, messy play, we hope to facilitate a love of the earth.
Some of the benefits of a mud kitchen
• For good mental health, freedom to be children, exploring outdoors and PLAYING freely!
• For good physical health- recent studies have shown we absolutely NEED to have dirt in our systems in order to develop a healthy immune system. Indeed the lack of interaction with mud is causing deficiencies and weaker immune systems in children worldwide.
• Allowing curiosity, exploration and experimentation in an open-ended way.
• Mathematical opportunities for measuring, filling and emptying and exploring capacity.
• Endless imaginative and role play possibilities starting with a blank play space structure which isn’t too prescribed in it’s usage and allows children to create in any way that suits their play.
• Language development through descriptive words, scientific questioning and exploration, and storytelling through imaginative role play.
• Rich and genuine messy, sensory experiences through combination of natural materials.
• Scientific investigation as materials are combined, mixed, transferred and changed.
• Fine motor skills development through use of real tools in play situations.
Director of Early Years