Mud and Water = Mess
Mess = Happy Children
As part of our Development Plan we have undertaken the arduous but rewarding task of transforming our grass area into another world – where mini explorers, gardeners, chefs etc have been given opportunities to explore, investigate and discover!
The mud kitchen has been an invaluable addition to our outside play area. Children at our setting have always played in mud, but their imaginations have been limited by the confines of the space available to them – limited to poking holes in the ground with sticks, looking for bugs or making mud pies. Whilst these experiences in themselves have been a source of learning through play, development in this area would only progress and extend this further.
Richard (our newly appointed Handy Person!), armed only with an idea in his
head, some pallets and his tools, set to work. Scouting skills paid off, as he slowly created a fabulous mud kitchen (along with help from some willing children and some more cumbersom
e staff!). After a trip to Ikea to get some authentic props – our kitchen was installed – total cost = £50!
When the kitchen was ‘officially opened’, it was brilliant to see all the age groups working together. The provision of our mud kitchen has expanded their imagination/creativity/language/physical skills/mathematical concepts/learning about their world/early science/using senses to experiment and personal, social and emotional skills – but surely, they are only “making a mess” and “mucking about” ??
Not according to the children – listening and observing their play has provided evidence of the rich and deeply engaged play, they are participating in.
The older children have played ‘The Hotel Inspector’, ‘Yucky School Dinners’ and most recently, ‘Great British Bake Off!’ – they decide the rules themselves, take roles on, use their imaginations to create scenarios, co-operate with each other (“you pour the water in and I’ll mix – add the parsley now!” (freshly mown grass). It’s wonderful to see their imaginations spark into life – daisies become marshmallows in the hot chocolate, bits of bark become croutons on a Caesar Salad!
The younger children prefer ‘Mummy Making the Dinner’ (apparently “Daddy doesn’t cook, because he burns the lasagne!!”). Everything is utilised – they fill buckets with sand from the sand pit, jugs of water from the water wall and any natural resource they can lay their hands on!
Our next project was our Garden. Richard did some research and found some free willow, that needed a new home – and spurred on by the fabulous willow tunnel we saw at Windmill Nursery, with Kierna Corr – he enlisted the help of the ‘cumbersome’ staff, to help bring this idea to life!! I say life, but for quite a while we were despondent at the lack of growth – particularly as a lot of time and effort had gone into weaving a fence, creating archways and a den! However, with diligent watering, a wee shot of
sunshine and more typically a downpour – suddenly the willow sprung into life!!
Planters were built and the children (Playgroup and After School children) all helped to plant a selection of vegetables, which I am delighted to say, are almost ready to harvest – self sufficient? – Maybe we could get a cow? Some chickens? – That’s for another Development Plan!
A newly formed Mini Beast area, (simply a pile of soil, framed with 4 logs) has also been an area of intense imagination – the addition of dinosaurs fired this up further! – three boys huddled together around the mud pile – one boy set all the dinosaurs up in a line, whilst another child filled a bowl with grass and stones – the third boy scooped this mixture into the dinosaurs’ open mouths – “This is corbean, the dinosaurs have to eat it but they don’t like it because it makes them sneeze!’ – “Quick, more corbean, it’s nearly finished – is that a Diplodocus or a T Rex?” The children remained at this activity for 20 minutes,taking it in turns to stir the mixture and feed the dinosaurs, totally absorbed in their own wee world, until suddenly one of the other children yelled “Worm, worm, it’s a worm, look” and they ran over to start another story!
Once they had left, another child came over to the area – where there were some lentils lying on the ground from the previous day’s play – “Are these magic beans?” – staff nodded – the child quickly found a pot and began to gather all the ‘magic beans’ from the ground – “I’m going to plant them right here and then tomorrow, there will be a big, big beanstalk”.
Beside our Fairy tree, a small wooden ladder was lying on the ground – suddenly a boy ran over and picked up the ladder – he carried it over to the Fairy tree (“nee naw, nee naw”) and propped the ladder up against the tree. It wasn’t quite as straight as an adult might have put it, but he began to climb up, then realised the ladder would be safer if he propped it up more. He pulled the ladder back, then propped it further up the trunk, to make it more secure. He climbed up the ladder – “If you listen very carefully, you can hear the fairies sleeping” he whispered, (pointing to the window on the tree).
Once again, Richard made a long term idea come true – after successfully securing funding, we took possession of a Water Wall. This has proved to be very popular outside addition – children love water, throwing it, pouring it, splashing in it and have been fascinated by how the structure works. It has been a great collaborative piece of equipment, as the water is poured, pumped, prompted questions (“why will the wheel not go round?” “because you have pour the water along that bit, then it will tip down and make the wheel go round!” and finally, provided hours of pleasure!
The children, staff and parents have witnessed the organic change to our outside area and we have received very positive feedback. The joy and laughter of the children emphasise how much fun they are having and how changing the area, has extended their play and enriched their experiences.
Our next step is to see how we can combine this messy fun with school uniforms????