In public schools and early years programs across Ontario we, the educators, are striving more and more to provide children with learning opportunities outdoors through play. We recognize the benefits that reach the whole child through outdoor play, like the Mud Kitchen. Through providing our early learners with open-ended kitchen materials they are able to deepen their understanding of mathematical principles such as collecting, sorting, ordering, measuring, and counting. This purposeful practice and authentic learning affords them opportunities to investigate, test theories, and problem-solve. It also provides a stage where children can connect with their peers through collaboration, cooperation, negotiation, active listening, oral language and literacy skills. Their motor skills are also exercised with movements like, mixing, sifting, stirring, lifting, pouring and dumping.
Mud Kitchen Materials (Include but not limited to): Wooden spoons, metal spoons, utensils, whisks, measuring cups, measuring spoons, ladles, turkey basters, strainers, pots, pans, bowls, buckets, bottles, plastic containers, lids, etc. We have collected ALL these materials from our local ReStore (Habitat for Humanity), Salvation Army Store, and garage sales for a very affordable price.
The mud kitchen above was made by my father-in-law. I fully appreciate his support, time, generosity, and skills. This mud kitchen is chained to the fence.
One of the benefits of Mud Kitchens is that they are not limited to a season. Even in the middle of winter our early learners can be seen engaged in play with snow. Snow is an amazing material as it moulds to cake pans, pots, bowls, spoons etc. It adds a whole new dimension to our mud kitchen play. Above we have reused jugs that have different colours of water in them. I read about these from someone’s blog in the UK a while ago where they were using them as loose parts in their outdoor play. Some children pretend they are sauces, juice, etc. while others cradle them around as babies.
Our Kinderland gnomes are often invited to tea parties with items made from our mud kitchen. The children added tree blocks as plates and cake stands for the party. Our gnomes have it pretty good.
We incorporated a water jug as an addition to our mud kitchen. Children measure, pour and stir soups and potions as they add various local plant-life to their concoctions.
The above photo is of a portable mud kitchen made out of decking that cost $15. We added tree stumps for seating, clipboards and pencils for recording their learning, and scissors to cut plants. I took this portable mud kitchen to Trillium Lakeland District School Board’s outdoor learning conference called, “Take Me Outside to Learn” in May 2015. Educators and families came to play and were inspired to try something in their schools and backyards.
Making soups and potions seasoned with pine cones. We found some leaks that were growing locally and added them to the table too.
Children don’t need everything new and fresh like many adults. Before they are conditioned to want everything new children are happy to create from reused materials. Their creativity often thrives while building off the creation of someone else. Individuals are always welcome to come and go as they please with a mud kitchen. Their creation is left to the next person who has the opportunity to learn from the individual before them and extend their thinking.
I have recently moved schools and my father-in-law was busy again to provide Irwin Memorial Public School in Dwight, ON with a brand new mud kitchen. He added a stove top with wood discs, wood knobs as dials, and an oven rack. On the back he put some decking and left it open as another space to learn. We will chat with our new kinders and discuss some ideas like ball runs, water walls, locks, hanging loose parts, etc.