Have you seen our Marvelous Outdoor Mud Kitchen???
The importance of messy out door play is drifting away in many households, especially now in a technology savvy world where children seem submerged in television, I pads, mobiles, computers and game consoles rather than sprinklers, dirt, sand, bikes, trees and dandelions.
So why is playing in the mud important? Many parents see their young child heading for a mud puddle and see potential mess, dirt stained clothes and hazardous germs so they stop. When I see a mud patch I see potential sensory fun and giggles, splashing and opportunities to explore and enjoy the outdoors, avenues for imagination and creativity.
Did you know that studies have found good bacteria in soil that has been linked to improved quality of life and happiness? There is an abundance of information on how playing in the mud boosts a child immune system so it is not only healthy for you but makes you happy.
This gives opportunity for creativity and imagination. Mud kitchens and Mud stations are child led activities and allow self soothing that becomes a some what therapeutic relaxing event where the child can connect to the outdoors with the freedom to let their mind wander wherever it wishes to.
Open ended play leaves doors open so a child can develop the independence and confidence to play within their own limits, the way they feel comfortable.
Stimulation of many senses while engaged in play
Sensory stimulation is a necessary part of brain development. Children can listen to nature sounds of the outdoors, mud/water/slopping sounds, birds and so on. Tactile stimulation through touch and the different feelings of dirt, pebbles, sticks, water, mud, and the different textures is a huge benefit. Seeing how materials mix, mash, pour, transform, squish and so on through different methods of play.
Eye - hand coordination
Mud kitchens provide good practice of eye hand coordination and help further develop the neural pathways responsible for these movements. So while scooping, mixing, pouring, carrying pots full or mud, transferring materials and serving up mud children are increasing their eye hand coordination and through moving around the different weighted materials, balancing them and having steady control of them, they are strengthening all those important muscles that are still growing.
Cause and effect
Something that is often overlooked in outdoor free play is how a child learns through experimentation and observation. For example, the mud blocks the sink, the large pebbles don't fit through the funnel, dirt and water makes mud, mud settles at the bottom of the pot, bark chips float to the surface and so forth.
Pretending Real life Play
Mud stations allow children to develop real skills using real life instruments, working in a real kitchen, working with real resources (even though its done in a pretend way they're not plastic right!?) this leads to learning real consequences and learning through exploration. Whether they are role-playing being a chef, making a mud pie or just enjoying splatting mud like an erupting volcano they are utilizing natural materials.
Imagination and Creativity
Open-ended mud play leads to creativity. After all Mud is an art medium. We've all heard of mud pies but have you ever tried mud painting? Through the freedom of open ended play and utilizing rich coloured mud a child's imagination develops as they role play, story tell, chat away in their own fantasy world, create things and make things, pretend real life scenarios and so on.
Gross motor skills
As with all forms of out door play, mud play enhances gross motor skills. As the child handles materials and work around the mud station, carry full shovels of mud or balance full pots of water, lift and pour containers, stir and scoop with utensils, squat, stand, sit and physically move around doing their thing they are being active and using important gross motor actions.
Self care knowledge
This is broad but also very important.
Self-care knowledge can be expanding on as the child plays with mud in many ways. To begin with if it is an outside area like ours, you can first inspect the area for creepy crawlies or spiders, ask them to tell a parent or grown up if they see any and remove sticks from the play area.
If it is a mud kitchen they are playing with it gives a good opportunity to practice cooking skills and self care skills in the kitchen by pretending with them. For example cooking with the handles facing away, holding the handle of the pot as they stir it, pretending to always turn of the stove or oven, hot surfaces, packing away the dishes etc.
This can also extend to after play tidy up by making sure they tidy and pack away, washing the things ready for next time, washing their hands after and putting dirty clothes in the wash when they're done etc.
To get you started here are some objects you can use with Mud.
Kitchen play: Pots, pans, spoons, ladles, containers, muffin trays, bowls.
Dumping: Toy cars, mud, Dump trucks and diggers, small shovels.
Pretend cooking: Cooking utensils, a bowl, dirt, gum nuts, daisies, clovers, dandelions, seeds, water can.
Animal tracks: Mud, flat surface, plastic animals with feet able to do foot prints with.
Mud pies: Cake dish or pan, sand, sift, spoon, mixing bowl, dirt, mud, water, a pretend oven.
Mud, water, brushed and sponges, a large paper or wall.
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