Mud Makes Sense
By Jools Logan at Evergreen Outdoor Education
28th July 2016
Playing with mud is a bit like winning the jackpot in Early Years learning!
I LOVE this style of play and here’s why…
Playing with a mud kitchen encourages creativity and imagination therefore can be quite therapeutic and relaxing. When children are relaxed they have a little more confidence to become independent.
Best memories of childhood are bound to include making mud pies, building huge sand castles and trying to make rose petal perfume! (never really went well did it?)
There is good reason for this, your senses were more alive taking part in such pastimes, as opposed to writing your name or learning your sums. There is a sense of achievement not to be undermined in writing your name and learning your sums, but we are talking about Early Years development, a unique window of opportunity that every other experience will build upon! WOW.
Playing with things (there’s that all-encompassing word again, 'things') such as mud, herbs, sand, water, petals, stones, fir cones etc. heighten the senses especially the sense of touch. We know from extensive responsible research that touch encourages neurological development more than any other sense. Ever wondered why little ones seem to see with their hands and pick up EVERYTHING! How often did you get told, you look with your eyes not your hands?
Moving on, the immense pleasure brought about when making a fairy soup or a mud pie is not as simple as we first realize. Mixing, stirring and pouring demands successful hand eye coordination which happens to stimulate the neural pathways also leading to the development of fine and gross motor skills. Hand eye coordination is what will enable the pincer grip, this will be greatly relied upon in Primary School.
In a mud kitchen or cooking station as we sometimes call them, children get to grips with cause and effect, this in turn accelerates their critical thinking. Without critical thinking skills children are more passive and are less likely to be problem solvers. The world needs problem solvers or should we say the education system needs problem solvers.
Onto my favourite topic: Science or Knowledge and Understanding of the World as we now know it. Science forms the bedrock of awe and wonder. Playing with mud generates natural experimentation and discovery opportunities, ‘the leaf is floating, the stone is sinking, my mud has gone thicker, it’s cold etc.’.
Real life contexts as well as imaginary play happen around the kitchen, let’s hope it is an outdoor kitchen with no holes barred!
In a kitchen we find recipes, ingredients, utensils, interaction, parent ,child and sibling role-play, other children, occasions, preparations for celebrations, all of which encourage Social and Emotional Development. Communication and Language is covered with the dialogue and conversations between budding or rival cooks!
We totally agree Physical Development is essential in Early Years development and understand it being up there in the 3 Prime Areas of Development. All of that bending, carrying, holding, kneeling, lifting, mixing, pinching, pouring, scooping, squeezing, standing, squatting, washing automatically develop essential motor skills, large and small.
The simple mud kitchen really is a winner when developing skills for life and covering the Prime Areas of learning. You must build one into your setting, whether it’s one of our fancy schmancy mud kitchens or a bowl and wooden spoon - doesn’t really matter, what matters is you have one and the kids get stuck in.
The next time you wonder about letting children get dirty in a mud kitchen don’t wonder just let them do it. Clothes and children all wash but the development and experience linger long into childhood.
I read a quote recently which said, I’ve never seen a child so covered in dirt that they couldn’t come up clean again! LOVE it.
This is so so true, so many of my happiest memories were from playing in the mud. Had no idea quite what I was learning though, magic ;-)
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