Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud
Mud, mud, glorious mud! The feel of it, the squidgy sound it makes, the smell (and the taste!) all make for a wonderful sensory experience for children.
Many early years provisions are creating ‘mud kitchens’ in their outdoor areas because of the wealth of learning opportunities and health benefits accessible to the children through it.
The opportunities to support all the areas of learning within the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) through muddy play are abundant.
Personal, Social and Emotional Development
Babies can explore the feel and texture of the mud and will express themselves through gurgles, giggles or repeated actions as they realise they have caused the mud to move or ‘splat!’
Older children will grow in confidence as they add resources to their muddy play such as pots, pans and sticks and realise they can create different effects. This is a great opportunity to encourage sharing, turn taking and respecting the feelings of others.
Communication and Language
Babies can show a strong, exploratory impulse as new stimuli take their attention. They may observe, mimic and respond to others actions and simple words whilst playing in the mud. Babies will shuffle, use sounds or single words, point with hands or use eye gaze to make requests.
Playing in a mud kitchen will encourage the most amazing conversations between children. They may recall a real life muddy event, they will use imaginative words to describe the muddy textures and sounds and it’s the perfect opportunity to make up stories, songs and rhymes before, during or after their muddy experience!
Babies will use their hands or other objects to make marks in the mud or throw objects to ‘plop’ into the mud. You can change the consistency of the mud by adding sand or water thus creating different fine motor opportunities for them.
Older children will experiment with different ways of manipulating the mud such as mark making, pouring, scooping, carrying, rolling tyres over it and splashing etc. They can begin to demonstrate good control and co-ordination in large and small movements.
Muddy play provides opportunities for children to risk assess and problem solve - adults should ask the children ‘what do you think?’ ‘What is the best way to do that?’ This allows the children opportunities to express their ideas and consider self-care alongside an adult (especially when getting cleaned up afterwards!) Exposure to mud and dirt can support children’s immune system in the long term, not to mention the benefits to the mind and body that just being out in the fresh air brings.
Older children will love to draw pictures or write letters in the mud. Allow them a range of tools to do this with such as sticks, spades, stones, shells and fir cones etc. Take a photograph of the children’s marks and they can repeat the scribing’s indoors with other media if they like.
Books can be made with the photos taken and children can retell ‘the story’ of their muddy time!
Babies may enjoy a game of hide and seek, finding objects hidden in the mud. This supports babies to know that objects exist even when out of sight.
Opportunities to create mathematical experiences
for children are many in a mud kitchen. Children can weigh, measure, compare, count, sort and share with the use of containers, jugs, scales, stones, leaves, sticks and pipettes.
Understanding the World
Babies will scan around the environment for things that interest them. Placing or hiding objects in and around the mud will encourage them to find them and experiment with them in the mud.
Older children will begin to understand that other children don’t always enjoy the same things they do and in doing so will begin to learn about their own likes and dislikes.
Through muddy play, children can learn about their immediate environment and ask questions about mud, weather, growth, decay and how things change over time.
Expressive Art and Design
Babies will explore and experiment with the mud using their whole bodies as sensory exploration.
Older children may engage in imaginative or symbolic play with or without peers. This may include baking a mud pie, sailing the muddy ocean on a pirate ship, going on a bear hunt, being a great explorer or having friends round for tea!
Changing the consistency of the mud to make it thicker will allow the children to create amazing, imaginative models that they can add other natural objects to such as leaves, twigs, stones, shells and bark.
So next time your child wants to jump in that muddy puddle, don’t think of it as dirt to be avoided but a well-rounded learning opportunity with wonderful health benefits for all!