As I sat there looking out of the window during another dreary day of rain and grey clouds, I pondered over how myself and my toddler could get through another day of the holidays with limited ‘days out’ options. Then I realised that this weather was a blessing in disguise and provided so many opportunities for my little one and I to get more involved with nature and the beautiful environment in our local area.
After getting our wet weather gear on, we headed out to do a bit of puddle jumping (after all, being a MASSIVE Peppa fan, it was our number one option!) We found puddles in all shapes and sizes and had great fun getting soaked, but then it got me thinking…
Maybe the little pink pig that we all know and love (well, some of us) had the right idea all along!
Yes, a puddle was great fun but a MUDDY puddle had so much more to offer. Not only did it turn all of ‘the splash’ (as she puts it) into a lovely shade of brown but as it moved, it swirled and created patterns and shapes that were mesmerising to watch if you were tiny (or entertained by arty stuff like me!)
So, I encouraged my little one to choose a suitable stick for the job in hand and we set about swirling and swishing the mud into the puddles to see what other shapes we could make. We then came across a large patch of ‘thick, oozy’ mud (yes, another reference to that story we all know and love reading 25 times per night!) which we used as paint. With our new painting skills, we dragged mud over the pavement and large rocks to make our ‘muddy mark making masterpieces’ (try saying that fast!)
Going back into the Garden, my little one was keen to play in a puddle with one of her water toys. She spent ages, tipping, pouring, spreading the mud which created another light bulb moment.
I quickly went into the kitchen and grabbed some old bowls, pots, pans, spoons and baking trays (yes, I am a bit of a hoarder, part of the teacher specification I’m afraid!) I then dragged out an old pallet, a small camping table and an old aerobics step (that had seen the light of day a total of 2 times) and Hey Presto – I had created a DIY mud kitchen!
For those of you who are not familiar with Mud Kitchens, they are basically a miniature set up of a role play kitchen, usually outside, but the children use mud, compost, sand, water (and anything else they believe should be added!) to dig, stir, mix up and make cakes, pies and other ‘delicious’ treats for YOU to eat ..YUM!
Not only is it fun, but playing with and exploring mud as a resource is so beneficial to children’s development. Don’t believe me? Here’s why…
IT DEVELOPS AND STRENGTHENS THEIR HAND AND FINGER MUSCLES
Playing with mud means that children are using and strengthening their hand and finger muscles to do such things like squeeze the mud, hold the utensils correctly and effectively and lift heavy buckets.
THEY LEARN ABOUT MATHEMATICAL CONCEPTS SUCH AS CAPACITY AND WEIGHT
As an Early Years teacher, I have seen so many children gain an understanding of capacity when tipping, pouring and moving their mud around different containers.
IT HELPS THEM TO APPRECIATE THE DIFFERENT QUALITIES OF THE OUTSIDE ENVIRONMENT
Getting outside away from the screens, tablets and devices to get some fresh air is so under-rated! Outside can provide new textures, sounds, smells and sights that a computer app or game just can’t do.
TOP TIP FOR MUD KITCHEN ATTIRE!
Worried about the mess? Don’t panic – if you don’t have an ‘all in one’ overall or apron – just let them wear an outfit made up of old, worn out clothes and keep it as their ‘mud kitchen clothes’. After they have finished playing, pop a bucket of warm soapy water outside and encourage them to wash their hands, arms, faces, legs, feet (well, it CAN travel quite far based on my experience!) before they come back in the house- not only do you then get to save your gorgeous cream carpets but also it teaches them another skill in health and hygiene – WIN WIN!
If you would like to create a mud kitchen space for your little one or yourself – if that’s the way you roll, you could try one or some of the following things…
- Make your own kitchen
There are many sites online which provide videos and pictures of how to make your own mud kitchen in a simple way. Many involve cutting up an old pallet or low level piece of furniture. All you would then need to add is old kitchen equipment or cheaper bits and pieces from pound shops or charity shops. Things you could include; bowls, cups, jugs, plates, spoons, utensils, cutlery – the world is your oyster! Just make sure none of the equipment you give your little one has any hidden sharp edges.
2. Don’t have time? Buy online!
Many auction sites and toyshops have ready made mud kitchens which have been beautifully hand crafted or can be made to your requirements.
Of course, you don’t NEED a kitchen set up to have fun with mud – you can find it anywhere and everywhere!
…just wait for the rain, grab your wellies and have fun!
If you would like to see the benefits of using tactile, natural resources such as mud with your little one, you could always book a class, event or party with me at ‘Little Learners Fareham and Eastleigh’. sian@LittleLearnersuk.com