Mud kitchens are a very popular playground resource for nursery schools because they are very cross-curricular, meaning that they can be used to reach many learning objectives from the EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage) curriculum. Mud kitchens provide great outdoor learning spaces for young children. Learners enjoy getting hands on playing with mud and water, while also developing important physical, social and emotional skills. Let’s explore some of the benefits of mud kitchens for nursery aged learners:
- Personal, Social and Emotional Development (PSED)
Mud kitchens work incredibly well as part of PSED for learners because they encourage role play, sharing and turn taking. The kitchen style environment promotes role play amongst children and it’s not uncommon to see learners taking on the role of a chef in a restaurant kitchen or mum or dad cooking at home. By taking on these roles, children are developing their social skills and heightening emotional understanding
Mud kitchens also help children learn how to look after themselves. At the end of messy play with mud, it’s important that children clean up the utensils and bowls which they’ve used, just as you would after cooking a meal at home, and to thoroughly wash their hands.
- Communication and Language Development
Mud kitchens encourage children to talk about what they’re doing, and often the excitement of being outside and involved in messy play gets young learners feeling even more confident about speaking and sharing their thoughts. The kitchen set-up creates a rich language environment that provides opportunities for children to use specific vocabulary related to kitchen utensils and cooking. Lots of settings will set up laminated high use words to embed the children's learning and development.
- Physical Development
Physically, learners need to be able to grip hold of utensils such as spoons and spatulas, as well as lift heavy bowls. This helps to develop the muscles in the hands, which is mainly cartilage at this age, and in turn supports fine motor skill development. Mixing and stirring also boosts hand-eye coordination.
In terms of the mathematical aspects, teachers can encourage activities which involve measuring water and mixing water in set quantities to see the different outcomes. Children can weigh and count their natural ‘ingredients’ too.
- Understanding the World
Children are able to explore the outdoor environment as they dig in the mud and encounter plants and maybe even creepy crawlies. Mud kitchens also involve some science based learning as children can get hands dirty and experience the different textures and consistency of mud, seeing how this changes as they add more water. Teachers can prompt learners to explore by asking questions like: ‘How does this feel?’ and ‘What happens when you…?’
- Literacy Development
Literacy development relates to early involvement with linking sounds and letters, and beginning to read and write. Mud kitchens can have a large chalk board added, so that children can learn to read the names of foods from the board. They can also start to write out letters with the support of their teacher.
Cute child playing with colorful plasticine in a table
- Expressive Arts and Design
Mud kitchens are amazing spaces for sparking children’s imagination. It takes a good deal of creative thinking to transform muddy creations into culinary delights. With a bit of creativity, sloppy mud can become a smooth cake batter.
Nursery schools can prepare their classes for using mud kitchens by providing overalls and welly boots to minimise mess. Before taking a class into a mud kitchen, teachers should outline the dos and don’ts of playing with mud to make sure that it is a positive learning experience.
About: Sam Flatman is an Educational Consultant for Pentagon Sport. Pentagon have worked with over 6000 nursery and primary schools to create innovative playgrounds and learning environments for EYFS students.
Pentagon’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PentagonSportUK
Pentagon’s Twitter: @PentagonSportUK