INTRODUCING THE MUD KITCHEN!

 Our impromptu Mud Kitchen at Fieldview Festival 2017

Our impromptu Mud Kitchen at Fieldview Festival 2017

 “The right to play is a child’s first claim on the community. Play is nature’s training for life. No community can infringe that right without doing deep and enduring harm to the minds and bodies of its citizens.” 

Play Wales 2015 (David Lloyd George, 1925)

“So children who learn outdoors know more, understand more, feel better, behave better, work more cooperatively and are physically healthier”.

National Trust 2012

Mud, Marvellous Mud!

Oh the joys of mud! Since the dawn of time children have been drawn to mud puddles and dirt as a part of their play. Mixing soil, water, and other natural materials like pebbles, leaves, or grass provides children with endless possibilities for learning and fun. Many of us have fond memories of creating mud pies, digging for worms, or making streams and valleys in the mud. But it is not just about fun, children can learn from playing in mud too.

Operation Mud Kitchen! 

·      Have an ample supply of soil (loam free) and water - access to different kinds of soil and sand allows children to create different kinds of mud, providing different opportunities for play. 

·      Pebbles, stones, and other natural materials allow children endless possibilities to use their imagination as they play.

·      Vertical surfaces as they provide the opportunity to hang pots or utensils. 

·      Horizontal surfaces should be large enough to accommodate more than one child at a time. 

·      Shelving for easy storage of equipment like, pans, bowls, and utensils and also makes the area feel more kitchen-like. 

·      Stock with old pots, baking pans, bowls, utensils some food scales for children to use. Include shakers for children to fill with dried flowers or leaves to use as “spices”.

·      Fill other containers with pebbles, twigs, pine needles, or other natural materials to be added to children’s creations. 

·      Add chef hats and aprons to enhance the play! 

Embrace the mess – it’s okay for children to get dirty. In fact, when you look at the benefits children gain from mud play, it’s not just okay, it’s important, and the joy on the children’s faces will reinforce your efforts and make the mess worthwhile. 

Benefits of Mud Play

Scientists have now confirmed something that children have always instinctively known; playing in mud is a joyful experience. Recent research has shown that dirt contains microscopic bacteria called Mycobacterium Vaccae which stimulates the immune system and increases the levels of serotonin in our brains, an endorphin that soothes, calms, and helps us to relax. Scientists say regular exposure to the bacteria may help reduce a child’s vulnerability to depression. In short, playing in mud makes you happier!

Playing in mud can make you healthier too. Science shows that today’s sanitized world is actually contributing to increased levels of childhood allergies and asthma. Exposure to dirt and germs works to prime a child’s immune system to prevent allergies. Yes, it’s actually healthy for children to get muddy!

Mud is also an excellent medium for learning. The same release of serotonin that occurs when playing in Mycobacterium Vaccae dirt has also been shown to improve cognitive function. The rich, engaging sensory play children partake in while playing with mud allows them to express their creativity while enhancing their fine motor skills. Children practice social skills such as cooperation, negotiation, communication, and sharing as they work together. Increased development in cognitive skills such as, maths and science are practiced as children make before and after comparisons, solve problems, test theories, and measure and count ingredients for their mud pies. This is the scientific process in action! Mud is a wonderful art medium, it is in ample supply, can be easily molded to create endless sculptures, and responds differently than clay or play dough. The open-ended nature of mud encourages creative thinking and allows children to freely create without fear of making mistakes. This also contributes to a child’s sense of self, helping to build a strong inner sense of competency. 

Mud play is inclusive of all children. It allows children to play at their own developmental level. Mud is an open ended material that meets the diverse needs and interests of different children. Younger or less skilled children might focus on the sensory experience whereas older children may have more specific goals in mind for their mud play. Some children may thoroughly enjoy the sensation of mud between their toes while others are only comfortable poking a finger into the mud. Allow children to explore the mud at their own comfort level. With mud, there is something for everyone and there are no wrong answers. 

A useful approach for mud kitchens is to supply soil from purchased loam topsoil rather than from gardens or uncovered plant borders (all garden centres sell this; don’t try compost as it does not behave sufficiently like soil for satisfactory mud play). Sand in sandpits is also best covered with a light mesh out of hours.

Playing in the mud inspires children to feel a connection to nature and develop an appreciation for the environment. Many children today have limited opportunities to play outdoors and it is difficult to care about the environment if you have not had the chance to spend time in nature. By providing time outdoors and the chance for muddy, messy play, you facilitate a love of the earth.

But maybe the greatest benefit of mud play is the memories being created by the children. Mud play and the wonder and joy associated with it are the stuff that fabulous childhood memories are made of!

The Adult’s Role

Not all adults will embrace mud play, and some may actually have objections to children getting dirty. It’s true that mud play creates a mess, but the mess is worth it when you consider all the benefits children gain through this type of play. In order to advocate for mud play, carefully observe what children are doing and interpret this for other adults who may not understand why this type of play is valuable or what children are gaining from it. Take on the role of facilitator by allowing mud play and supporting the play that emerges from the children. Supply language for children to describe their creations. Think about ways to extend their learning by adding new materials, posing challenges, and pointing out interesting results of their efforts.

Clean-up

Of course mud play is messy and clean-up afterwards can be a large job. Just as children are expected to clean-up after playing with materials in the classroom, they can assist with clean-up in the mud kitchen. Routines and expectations must be communicated clearly to the children before, during, and after mud play. You can provide large pans of warm, soapy water and establish the routine of children washing the muddy pans and utensils as the first part of cleaning up the mud kitchen.

Pots and utensils need to be kept in good condition and will need to be washed and dried reasonably often to avoid them rusting and becoming unpleasant to use. Keeping them drained and aerated is a very good idea, and occasionally wiping a light coat of cooking oil (with paper towels or cloths) prevents rust and mold. Storing resources in open-net sacks or wire baskets is also a solution.

What to Wear?

There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing! Children need to stay warm and comfortable – and mud kitchen work is likely to be wet and messy. Waterproof dungarees with wellies offer the best protection for most of the year in the UK – the best hot weather attire would be old shorts and T-shirt!

Somewhere to wash muddy suits down and hang to dry should be part of any well-operating outdoor provision.

Health and Safety

First and foremost, children must be kept safe enough whilst they have access to the important experiences that they need for full and healthy development. Our job is to manage an opportunity to make it safely available – not to remove it in the name of ‘health and safety’. The requirement is to be ‘as safe as necessary’ rather than ‘as safe as possible’ (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents).

The current official approach is one of risk-benefit assessment – better thought of as benefit-risk assessment: that is, consider why the experience matters and then manage to make it available. Much more can be found in the government endorsed document Managing Risk in Play Provision, available to download from the Play England website.

References

Play Wales

Michelle Rupiper – Community Play Things

Play England

National Trust

Muddy Faces

Hurray!!

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Good news alert!

We are glad to share with you our good news. We are the happy recipients of a grant from Awards for All - Big Lottery.

Over the next twelve months this will enable us too (with the help of some hardy dedicated volunteers) transform all areas of the Glue Garden.

 - the wooded area will be made interesting to mini nature explorers

- the growing space will get a long awaited make over

- the creation of a new welcome area - a perfect meeting space for groups and visitors to work, rest and play

We are really looking forward to see the development of the garden this funding will enable us to do. A big thank you to Big Lottery!

Stay tuned for updates on our progress over the year!

Selling the Sizzle!

Here at our first community market of the year (MAC)- best comment of the day so far "love your branding " what great feedback.

Talking to people -explaining to people what the 'allotment in a box' is you see people get it, there is a realisation and agreement; moving people from that point to a person committing to installing a box is our challenge.

I need to practice my ‘selling the sizzle, not the sausage’ advice I was given at one of the workshops I attended as an SSE student.

A busy half term week!

It's been an interesting week…Let's see…

Monday - A good day. It was a great feeling to finish student assessments for this academic year.  A sense of ending not to be delivering this particular module (sociological theory into practice) again; it’s been a real learning curve for me, having to get my head around different perspectives and ideas about who we are as a human community. I’m hoping the experience will stand me in good stead for whatever there is to face on the next horizon.

Tuesday - Office day. Pressing staffing and play scheme planning needing some energy and organisation…

Wednesday - a mixed bag of meeting new and old faces. I was invited by a youth group to sit in on their meeting with CIN (Children In Need) it was useful as I need to do another funding application to them soon.  I was late for a networking lunch at Unltd, but still got to give a batch of Glue flyers to my award manager to take to the impact hub. Thanks Dan!

Later that day met up with Jules from Climate Action Network West Midlands, (CANWM) to prepare our first very funding application for the group - thankful that Jules has offered to go away and put the meat on the bones as it were - feels a bit strange typing that as a veggie!

Thursday – All about the Green Project at the Glue Garden thanks to Devenish Girl @greggsfoundation#socialenterprise #collaboration #communitydevelopment #urbangrowers We had a workshop day of ‘How to make an allotment in a box’, new skills, new people, new opportunities and a surprise visit from my nephew who came back to the garden later in the day to strim the grassed areas – Thanks Berhane! It was nice meeting your colleague Jack who shared his extensive knowledge about forna and flora. Please, both come back again!

Later that afternoon feeling hot and irritated at the prospect of being late again this week I got myself along to the Women's Enterprise Hub (walking distance from my house) I was the last person to arrive 😐 but I am glad I went. I sat through a workshop about using LinkedIn, who new (certainly not me!)? It has a purpose that I was not aware of so have been unable to exploit it…That will need to change now we are Glue Collective Ltd.

Friday - another morning in the office with an eye on the time, as it was BVSC work day challenge at the Crick Garden. It was a great day spent in glorious sunshine with everyone busy trying to make a difference – every little helps. I headed home with some African kale, some to plant and some to eat. Yum!

Saturday - my plans to go to the market in town flopped, after waiting too long for a bus I decided to head back home and start writing a blog and spend time sorting out stuff around home for Sunday – cleaning day! 

Bank Holiday Monday - I was looking forward to spending a full day at the Glue Garden (after finalising prep for the play scheme) so much needs doing!!! Well, it was a very, very wet day, but it was quite nice being in the space by myself, especially after resisting the urge to feel sorry for myself because no one else had turned up.

Thinking we definitely need a gardener…

On that note ‘tis the season to be busy’, so I will keep on keeping on and be thankful for the wet rainy days over the summer that create space for solitude and quiet reflection.

 

Simbi

Allotment Boxes 2017

Got the new flyers a few days ago, a big thanks to Jemima for persevering with all the changes and amendments and of course to @Unltd for their support and contribution. 

Will see what this season brings, we are much better prepared with plenty of reclaimed wood at our disposal (thanks to Vicky @ ShenleyLane and a very windy day). With a full stock of seeds and seedlings we are ready to gooooo!