We asked Jools Logan, founder of the wonderful Evergreen Outdoor to tell us why mud play is important...
Playing with mud is a bit like winning the jackpot especially in relation to Early Years development!
Here at Evergreen Outdoor Education we just LOVE this style of play and this is why…
Messy play encourages creativity and imagination like no other form of play, it is freedom,
it is exploratory, it is a sensory riot, it puts children in charge and in touch with their precious inner being, they know they were built for adventure and fun. Messy play can be quite therapeutic as well as relaxing. When children are relaxed, they tend to have a bit more confidence both emotionally and socially, we are winning already.
Best memories of childhood have to include making mud pies or stone soup, hedgehog homes or birds’ nests, building huge squidgy sand castles and trying to make rose petal perfume, that one never went too, well did it? And what’s more, we were allowed, even encouraged to play like this. We didn’t have the plethora of electronic insular play items available today. Our worst critic would be our poor old parents who had to wash or repair our ruined clothes. Again, back in the day our clothes were few and had to last, how much would our parents have given for Kidunk clothing?
Back to childhood memories, there’s a reason we remember those kinds of activities over watching television and this is simply that our senses were more alive when taking part in such tactile pastimes.
We understand enough about neural science now to know greater cognitive development takes place when we stimulate the sense of touch. You can see where this is going…
Playing with earthy, gritty, smelly and gooey substances which vary in temperature and texture is an absolute must to get children's sense of touch switched on. Not only that but their imagination can run free, something no board game can offer! Moving on though, the immense pleasure brought about when making fairy tea or a gingerbread mud muffin is not as straight forward as we first surmise. Mixing, stirring and pouring demands successful hand eye coordination which also happens to stimulate the neural pathways in turn provoking a heightened development of fine and gross motor
skills. Hand eye coordination develops the pincer grip; this we know will be greatly relied upon in Primary School.
In a muddy kitchen children get to grips with cause and effect too, this accelerates their critical thinking development. Without critical thinking skills children are more passive and are less likely to be problem solvers. Our world needs problem solvers.
On to my very favourite topic: Science (Knowledge & Understanding of the World as they currently call it). Science forms the bedrock of awe and wonder. Playing with soil, herbs, water and other natural ingredients generates natural experimentation and discovery opportunities, ‘the leaf is floating, the stone is sinking, my mud has gone thicker, it’s colder, where did my sand go, yew it smells different now etc.’.
Physical Development which is absolutely essential for overall wellbeing comes next. Physical Development in a mud kitchen, really? Oh, yes really. All of that bending, carrying, holding, kneeling, lifting, mixing, pinching, pouring, scooping, squeezing, standing and squatting adds to the essential development of motor skills both large and small. I feel quite exhausted reading the list!
Rounding up then, the simple messy mud kitchen is a winner when developing many skills for life and covering the Prime Areas of learning in Early Years education and to be honest, the messier the better, that’s why we like them outdoors.
Providing children have adequate clothing there is no reason why they shouldn’t be outdoors experiencing all the riches which only the changing seasons can readily offer. When Margaret McMillan coined the phrase, ‘the best classroom and richest closet is roofed only by the sky’, she really did encapsulate something very wonderful which we hope will continue to echo down through the ages.
So be encouraged grown-ups, the next time you wonder about letting little ones get dirty in a mud kitchen, don’t wonder just get them the right clothing let them do it. Clothes and children all wash but the development and experience linger long into childhood. I read a quote recently which said, I’ve never seen a child so covered in dirt that they couldn’t come up clean again! LOVE it.
Evergreen Outdoor is a cottage industry, rooted in education, early years, carpentry and building. Jools was a Primary Headteacher (now retired) and an Early Years Specialist as well as an Outdoor Education consultant for Home Schools, Nursery and Primary settings. Throughout her career Jools has designed and built many outstanding early years outdoor environments and worked alongside many people to enable the smallest of outdoor spaces to reach their highest educational potential. Her passion and mantra is to see every child outdoors for longer.