Marvellous Mud Kitchens

DSC00573.JPG29th June marks International Mud Day!  There are many ways to celebrate the wonder of mud but one of the most popular and beneficial ways of engaging with mud is through a mud kitchen!  A mud kitchen is an imaginative space where children of a wide age range can use utensils to make mud food using mud (of course) and a host of other natural objects.  These are growing in popularity in schools and children’s play spaces across Britain so what are the benefits?

-Letting the imagination run wild!  Mud kitchens facilitate imaginative play- mud? dandelions? grass?  or a delicious stew?  The sky is the limit because mud kitchens encourage creative thinking,

-Developing real cooking skills- in the mud kitchen children can explore texture and colour by manipulating the mud into anything from a mud ball to a splodge!  They can use a variety of utensils to help them do this.

DSC00588-Encouraging co-operative play “I’ll make the dinner, you make the dessert”- mud kitchens are much more fun when there’s more than one child playing.

-Engaging with the natural world- who needs play dough or plastic bananas when you’ve got a wonderful resource available which isn’t constrained by adult imaginations!

-Building up the immune system- studies show that exposing children to some dirt and getting them outside can actually enhance their immune system- take a look at  this for more information on the health benefits of mud.

Ingredients for a Successful Mud Kitchen

A Good Selection of Real, Recycled Utensils– When we’re working outside we need our tools to be robust as plastic can break if it gets trodden on or if any sort of rigour is applied!  Go to your local charity shop and look at what they have to offer.  Obviously, bear in mind how well supervised the mud kitchen will be when deciding on which utensils will be appropriate.  Metal bowls and wooden spoons work well but make sure you get a variety of utensils that allow the children to get really creative with the texture like sieves, rolling pins and so on.

IMG_8466.JPGSatisfy the Senses – You’re obviously going to need a source of dirt to get your mud kitchen up and running but what else do you have available?  Strong smelling herbs, colourful calendulas or textured pine cones make a great accompaniment to a mud kitchen and allow more opportunity for creativity to kick in.

A Source of Water – Water can really help to create all kinds of muddy texture and having a space where the children can wash their utensils after is handy and usually makes for part of the fun!

I hope you found this helpful and that you have some inspiration to celebrate mud day!  Happy digging 🙂DSC00569


Why We’re Crowdfunding: Inequality and the Outdoors

What’s going on here then?  A still from our crowdfunding video…..

When it comes to the outdoors; inequality does not tend to enter the conversation.  Yet studies show that children from poorer areas have less access to the outdoors than those with more economic advantages (see here).  This can occur for a whole host of reasons; because often poverty is more concentrated in inner city areas, because schools in these areas have less access to funds to provide these facilities, because of the stress of working life…..

But for those with eyes to see it- nature doesn’t just exist in vast, green landscapes criss-crossed by babbling brooks.  Nature can peep through the cracks of even the most urban sites; the weeds at the end of your yard, the magpies cawing on the rooftop.  Trouble is- the ardour and stress of modern life doesn’t give us the eyes to see it, which is why sometimes we need to take time away from what we know and encounter a new perspective by embarking on a new experience.

At Mud Pie Academy, our aim is to make these experiences available to all families, for both children and parents.  We want to imbue familiar environments with a sense of wonder and bring together communities to appreciate these wonders.  This means that we have to set some of our roots a little closer to home in the minute corners of wildness that exist in our parks.

This is all very well, but another obstacle to getting families outdoors is cost.  We are two young people and lets face it; we need to make a living if we are going to make this project sustainable.  In addition to this, being able to provide high quality, safe outdoor equipment is tough if we want to keep costs for our sessions as low as we can.  That’s why we’re dabbling in crowdfunding as this provides a forum for people with money to invest to support projects like this which can be made affordable for families which are struggling.

It’s a brave pursuit because we are small and local and our resources are minimal but with a dash of inventiveness and a little help from our communities, our vision could become a reality.

The Vision

IMG_8403[1].JPGDistilling creative minds into something tangible, achievable and communicable can sometimes feel like herding cats.  But we are passionate and determined people and last week we got creative with glue, cardboard and buttons to put together the mood board which we hope will reflect a vision of who we are and where we want to be.

Anna and I (Hayley) come from different backgrounds.  Over a year ago I trained as a Forest School Leader after some time beating around the bush, so to speak, trying to define the way I really wanted to work with children.  Although I’m good at engaging a group and establishing a playful space, when it comes to working with real-life material substance and making it beautiful I tend to fall short (though I am awakening my curiosity to this side of myself).  That’s where Anna comes in- as an experienced artist with a love of nature, she has worked with a whole range of materials and she makes up for my shortcomings.

When it comes to working with glue and scissors at least- we are both in our comfort zone and that’s how we came up with our mood board- a pictorial representation of who we are (with a collection of pictures from the internet)- which we are taking to the council and the spaces we hope to work with to get them excited and anchor our creative minds in something real and possible.

Our vision is for clubs aimed at a variety of age ranges which conjure up the magic of the outdoors using storytelling, creative and forest school activities.  We want local parks and pockets of woodland to be a space for imaginative, creative engagement with nature based on a foundation of child-led learning.  We want to work in largely urban, inner city settings where exposure to nature is most limited.  Not only this, but we want to make it affordable for all families in the areas that we work in.

Ambitious, you might say, but call it folly or passion, we will do everything we can to see this through and make a far-fetched dream a reality.  Watch this space as the vision unfurls itself….