The first few weeks of school have been really HOT! I decided to switch our schedule around a bit these first few weeks, to better accommodate our outside time and the heat wave. We have been playing outside for the first portion of the morning before heading inside for morning meeting and the start of our day. The weather has been cooler from the 8:30-9:45 time frame and the preschool is shaded in the early morning which provides even more relief from the sticky heat!
I have been working hard to re-vamp our outside play area. I have added a number of new features to our outdoor preschool space. One of my favorite new areas is the mud kitchen. I spent some time collecting old pots and pans from my house and thrift stores. Then I was able to get two pallets from Home Depot for free! Chris spent one afternoon putting the kitchen together. He cut the two pallets in half and drilled them together in a 90 degree angle. Then he drilled hooks across the back of the pallets to hang up the smaller parts of the mud kitchen. The results were fantastic!
Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of actual “mud” in our backyard. To solve this problem I put a large tub of potting soil next to the kitchen. The children can add water to the tub to make it nice and muddy for scooping.
I am sure you are wondering, Why MUD? Which is the exact same question my husband asked me while he spend the afternoon putting this together. Here are some of the many reasons that playing with mud is great for preschoolers (and kids of all ages for that matter!)
1. Mud is the perfect sensory experience. It can be dry, wet, soggy, clumpy, drippy, rough and smooth. It provides endless options for experimentation and discovery. Children use information that they gain from sensory experiences, like playing with mud, to make sense of the world and understand how it all works. Mud is a great medium for this sort of sensory play because it provides so many different options.
2. Creative expression and invention. Mud can be anything, mud itself, mud pies, soup, pasta, balls, and anything that a preschooler’s imagination can come up with. It is the perfect place to let their imagination run free.
3. Cooperative Play Possibilities: The mud kitchen is the ultimate place to play and role play. You can hear the children saying, “let’s cook dinner.” “let’s have a restaurant.” “what are you making?” “I am making muffins.” The children even made the little space in the front of the pallet the oven. They were pretending to bake and push buttons on the oven door.
4. Growing affection for our Earth and connectedness to nature. There is no doubt that many of our children spend more time indoors or playing indoors than they do just playing in nature or with simple materials. It doesn’t’ get more simple that a pot of mud, old pans, and some sticks. In the picture above M is stirring some soup with a long stick. Playing with mud gives our children a chance to connect to our Earth and their surroundings. Children are naturally less stressed when they spend time outdoors too!
5. Finally, there is also research that playing in the dirt is helpful for the building of children’s immune systems!
Thank you Chris for building us such a great mud kitchen, and I hope it gets lots and lots of use this year!