Mud Station, Mud Lab or Mud Kitchen?
How do these slightly different titles open up our thinking to so many more possibilities than a fixed notion that the Mud Kitchen is for only cooking and playing with recipes and potions?
Mud play in a mud station/lab affords children of all ages the opportunity to mix and change materials, to explore concepts such as consistency, absorbency, evaporation and so much more. With a few little baskets available, children are drawn towards the wonderful act of foraging – searching and gathering flora from the garden and hedges (nothing fancy – just whatever is there!)
So much creative and critical thinking goes on in a mud lab. Very high levels of involvement and deep concentration are often observed – indicating that children are experiencing deep level learning. And, working with mud can be a very therapeutic and calming experience for many. At lunch and break times, many Year 7 children can often be found in deep thought as they experiment and create theories in the mud station.
How can traditional Mud Kitchens, as we know them, be enhanced to become Mud stations/Labs and therefore, more powerful learning spaces?
1. Open up your exiting space to become more of a mud station/lab – place less emphasis on the commercial kitchen. Add some benches and little work stations where children can get on with their explorations of mud. (No cost involved here!!). You just need a few planks, tyres, crates or blocks for legs and now you have a new station.
See free to download book – Making a Mud Kitchen, Jan White & Liz Edwards https://muddyfaces.co.uk/content/files/Making_a_mud_kitchen_LowResAW.pdf
2. Furnish your lab with interesting items such as bowls, unusual containers and vessels, ice cube trays, pestle and mortar, pipettes, syringes, spoons of all types and sizes … (always think about the potential for mathematical language when sourcing equipment)
3. Add little baskets for foraging – some children may need help with this as early childhood experiences such as foraging are becoming less of the norm. Model how to delicately pinch off little petals and leaves to bring to their stations – for adding to or embellishing mixtures.
4. Adults. Stand back, observe and listen – watch how the children interact with materials and engage in their new space. Sometimes it may be useful to play quietly alongside the children – for some children, you may need to model how to use equipment such as pipettes and syringes. Avoid asking too many questions such as “what are you making?”, “are you making a potion?” … These questions will often interrupt a child’s thinking and their own silent conversation with the materials. They are often trying to find answers to their own questions and theories; Why is the water sitting on top of the mud? Why has the water disappeared? Where did the water go? Can I make this very watery? What would happen if I add some sand?
Children are being the natural scientists that are born to be!
Children possibly do all of these things in a Mud Kitchen, but adults just might change how they observe, think about and enter into children’s play when they think of the space as a laboratory rather than a kitchen!
“Children are born passionately eager to make as much sense as they can of things around them. If we attempt to control, manipulate, or divert this process...the independent scientist in the child disappears”. John Holt