The fantastic benefits of mud kitchens for early child development through sensory play, role play, imaginative play, maths and hands on exploration!
We are huge lovers of outside play and learning and have spent many a happy hour watching the kids splosh about with water, build with wet sand, dig in the dirt, plant flowers, hunt for minibeasts and get creative with natural materials. It’s the best place for messy and sensory play because the clear up is minimal and the key resources are right on hand!
We recently received an absolutely beautiful, hand-crafted mud kitchen from MudKitchens.Co.Uk, a local, family run company who also believe in the primary importance of outdoor play and sensory enrichment for young children. I have been so excited to share about this gorgeous mud kitchen and also keen to write about the benefits of mud kitchen play for all ages, as I’ve been reminded again that older kids as well as preschoolers truly need regular sensory input for their all-round good health and development.
First, a little information about our gorgeous Mud Kitchen!
The mud kitchens are lovingly hand made by Joel and Natalie and can be customised to your own specifications including the overall paint colour, the personalised wording on the front and the style and size of the overall piece. This is the classic 2 bowl Pebble Kitchen and I chose slate grey with bright pink writing. The kitchen is fully sealed and is built to withstand all weathers and messy play substances. The build and finish quality is immaculate (and the first thing I noticed!)
Each mud kitchen comes with a row of hooks and some funky coloured accessories including a ladle, scoop, whisk. spoons and colander. I love how easy they are to reach for little hands and how they encourage hand:eye co-ordination and motor skills too.
Inset into the solid, grained and oiled work bench are two circular holes with stainless steel bowls nestled inside. I love how easy it is for the kids to lift these in and out and use them for pouring between the two.
There is also a shelf for storage on top and a solid base shelf at the bottom.
We decided to add some of our existing outdoor play equipment to the kitchen too, including a real coffee pot (this is MUCH loved in role play!), some Ikea plant pots for more utensils, an old muffin tin and a set of nesting saucepans (approx £6 in Ikea.)
Along the top shelf we added some freshly cut herbs and flowers from the garden to the pots- rosemary and lavender on this occasion- and finally some plastic cups and a large jug of water to start the play!
Of course the kids then dived straight in and added handfuls of pebbles, a few spoonfuls of mud and piles of chopped grass to the mix!
They created wonderful herb soups, nature milkshakes, flower cakes and magic potions!
Our children’s current ages range from 2 to nearly 9 and, as always with meaningful sensory play experiences, the oldest kids benefit from this kind of immersive messy play as much as the younger, and in some ways even more. So often older children are seen to have “outgrown” the need for kinaesthetic learning and discovering their world using all of their senses. But I’d argue that we all have an innate need to learn and experience the world more with our hands and through engaging all of the senses.
We all know that screen time is a real danger to cutting this generation (and our own?) from the natural world and whole-body, real life experiences. And yet our own BEST memories of our own childhoods happened in outdoor environments. Jumping in rivers, building dens, making mud pies, sleeping under the stars, playing epic games of hide and seek, running races, tree climbing, bonfires and marshmallows- all of these treasures of childhood happen in nature! We need to let our kids have this same freedom to enjoy and engage with nature in as many ways as we possibly can, even though this life is fast-paced and jam packed with busy-ness.
The benefits of mud kitchens for kids!
So what are the benefits of this type of play space in your own home, garden or outdoor classroom?
- for good mental health, freedom to be children, exploring outdoors and PLAYING freely!
- for good physical health- recent studies have shown we absolutely NEED to have dirt in our systems in order to develop a healthy immune system. Indeed the lack of interaction with mud is causing deficiencies and weaker immune systems in kids worldwide.
- allowing curiosity, exploration and experimentation in an open-ended way
- mathematical opportunities for measuring, filling and emptying and exploring capacity
- endless imaginative and role play possibilities starting with a blank play space structure which isn’t too prescribed in its usage and allows kids to create in any way that suits their play
- language development through descriptive words, scientific questioning and exploration, and storytelling through imaginative role play
- rich and genuine messy, sensory experiences through combination of natural materials
- scientific investigation as materials are combined, mixed, transferred and changed
- fine motor skills development through use of real tools in play situations
For those of living in the city or with less outdoor space to call our own, carving a little bit of this magic back for our children through special spaces such as a Mud Kitchen for free exploration, imaginative play and creativity is a real gift!
These make a wonderful addition to a garden space or an outdoor classroom and are wonderful as a gift (maybe the whole family could chip in to give a joint present to the kids at Christmas?)
I have an exclusive 10% discount code for readers of my blog for THIS WEEK ONLY (expires Tuesday 29th August 2017) Simply add muddy10 at checkout when buying from MudKitchens.Co.Uk to claim your money off!
We can’t wait to keep playing with our Mud Kitchen and introduce some new natural materials as the seasons change throughout the year. We will continue to share our play experiences over on Instagram as well as our Invitation to Play themes, which may be added to this new play space too.
You can find plenty of ideas for OUTDOOR PLAY and LEARNING here too!
And get some more inspiration for INSPIRING OUTDOOR PLAY SPACES here!