Mud kitchens are a very popular playground resource for nursery schools. They provide great outdoor learning spaces for young children where they can play and experiment with mud and water, and other natural resources.
Here are some of the benefits of mud kitchens:
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.
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.
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.
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 relates to early involvement with linking sounds and letters, and beginning to read and write. The children can read and write recipes on the chalk board and write letters in the mud
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.
To allow the children the freedom to play, explore and learn to their full extent in the mud kitchen it is really important that children are encouraged to feel the textures of the materials with their fingers, transfer liquids from one container to another to, splash, slop, stir and whizz to create sticky mud and explore its adaptations. This means the children will often become dirty. We will try to minimise this as much as possible by providing suits for the children to wear and we will help them to wash their hands carefully.