Infinite Playgrounds Guest Blog and Giveaway
We’re delighted to be back on ABC Does again, four years since we first appeared on Alistair’s amazing blog with our playground development at Embleton First School. Since then, we’ve grown to be a national design and build playground company, whilst still keeping our roots in promoting natural play. It’s been an exciting year for Infinite Playgrounds with the opening of our South East branch as well as the launch of our brand new website! To mark the occasion, we’re delighted to team up with Alistair again to give away our Mud Kitchen set, which is hugely popular with schools and nurseries.
This set, worth over £1000, includes a mud kitchen hand built from natural larch timber with a ceramic sink and shelves, perfect for muddy play. We’ve also added in a set of balance scales on an oak stump, digging trough, oak stump seats, oak slice plates and a carved oak log mixing bowl.
Here at Infinite Playgrounds, we have visited schools and nurseries around the country we have seen some wonderfully creative mud kitchens. To give you some ideas for how to develop your own mud kitchen, read on below. Or head over to our website www.infiniteplaygrounds.co.uk where you can find the full article and other publications.
Mud, Glorious, Mud!
Over the past few years mud kitchens have been a revolution in schools around the country so now many Early Years settings have a mud kitchen as an essential learning space. A mud kitchen can be made from the simplest muddy corner or old bench without having to spend a fortune. Through this we have put together this simple guide how to develop a mud kitchen in your playground and why mud is really essential for children’s play.
Creating Your Own Mud Kitchen
Choose the Space
Thinking carefully about your space will help your mud kitchen be a success. A mud kitchen works best in a cosy corner rather than in the middle of a busy playground. When a mud kitchen is in a large open space it will encourage more boisterous play, which may be a barrier to more cooperative and imaginative play and language development. If you do not have an obvious corner then you can create a quieter ‘kitchen like’ space using trellis, planting, tarpaulin or netting to seclude the area. However care should be taken not to separate the area off completely from the rest of the playground as it should be part of the children’s play, developing their storylines and allowing them to interact creatively between the kitchen and other areas such as dens, sand and water play. Allowing children’s play to develop across their areas of learning can help children develop cross-curricular links and skills such as imaginative play and problem solving. Placing a mud kitchen near a den can develop children’s imaginative role plays, for instance, teddy bear’s picnics or camping in the woods.
What Do you Need?
You need very little to start a mud kitchen however it is essential that there is some structure; a mud kitchen is different to a digging area or mud trough. This could be as simple as a kitchen bench or planks of wood across two crates or tyres. Parents can be very helpful in donating unwanted offcuts of wood or even old kitchen cupboards to make a simple mud kitchen structure.
Mud kitchens that have walls, fences or other vertical surfaces on one or two sides then have potential for hanging pots and utensils on them or for installing shelving, making it feel more kitchen-like and better to use. Pallets can be a cheap solution that can also double up at shelves. Having the utensils hung up on hooks enables to children to select what they are going to use and makes them more inclined to put items away at the end of their play session. Workbenches are also helpful; built at child height, with plenty of space for pie making. A recycled cupboard/dresser can be a good choice. Indoor furniture will quickly warp if left outside in the wet – a thick coat of yacht varnish can help stop this as can raising wooden items off the ground slightly.
Sinks and Appliances
There are plenty of options for kitting out the kitchen too. Old sinks can be added with butler sinks being a favourite. Or use plastic washing up bowls that can easily be lifted out for emptying and cleaning. Children love sinks and they will be in constant demand so the more sinks you can include in your mud kitchen, the better.
Old microwaves, toasters and kettles are excellent for pretend play. Children will love opening and closing the doors and pushing the buttons of microwaves or making the ‘leaf toast’ pop.
Old balance scales can be fascinating for children as they explore the comparative weights of ingredients such as flowers and pebbles and try to make the two sides balance; developing fundamental maths skills.
It may sound obvious, but your kitchen should be in easy access of mud or soil. This could be from a muddy corner or digging trough. We find the best soil to use is top soil (readily available from garden centres) to top up an existing muddy corner or trough. Compost can be a good ingredient but doesn’t have the right consistency for the mud in a mud kitchen as it can be too granular rather than sticky.
The mud kitchen should have access to a water source such as a rainwater butt or water play stream however it doesn’t need to be too close; children love to transport water. By limiting the size of the containers they use, such as small buckets or jugs, this will reduce the amount of water (and therefore mud!) in and around your mud kitchen. You could even set up a pulley system between the water and the kitchen and encourage children to problem solve how to transport the water.
Offering mud and sand also provides a contrast in colour, texture and mixing consistency and many more possibilities for developing imaginations.
You may not want to place a mud kitchen in or next to your sand pit as the children will mix these with glee, however a large container or trough of sand nearby will become an essential part of your mud kitchen.
Introduce different ingredients to the area, such as sand, shells, leaves, dried flower petals, pebbles, glass beads, acorns, seeds, conkers and herbs. Have the ingredients laid out for easy access and rather than having everything mixed together, separate them into different containers. Wooden boxes, wicker baskets, canvas cubes are great items you may find lying around the house. Containers with multiple compartments are also great. And these help you to group certain items together and allow children to sort materials. These do not have to be expensive items – you can use household such as recycled egg cartons and spare ice cube or cutlery trays. When everything is laid out in this way children get the chance to think about which ingredient they want to choose.
Pans, funnels, colanders and muffin trays create more play opportunities and pestle and mortars always create lots of enthusiasm. Ice-cream scoops, jelly moulds and biscuit cutters are favourites too.
Charity shops and Pound shops are an Aladdin’s Cave when it comes to equipping a mud kitchen; stainless steel, wooden and silicone kitchen equipment is available easily and cheaply. It is also possible to find weird and wonderful appliances such as interesting bowls and scoops that children will enjoy guessing what they are. Silicone moulds are great for outdoor play; they are durable, reusable and come in a rainbow of colours and shapes for mud cupcakes to sandy jelly.
There are lots of fun enhancements that can be added to make extra special potions – powder paint and food colouring can make brightly coloured mud, washing up liquid makes a good foamy substance and bicarbonate soda will produce a mud eruption! Old cook books that you may have lying around can also provide good inspiration.
Kitchens can be enhanced and changed every day by providing different ingredients. Rose petal perfume is always a popular option for budding scientists in the kitchens!
Mud may be messy but the benefits of playing with mud are endless. We can’t encourage you enough to get your aprons and wellies on and go outside and start playing. Let the mud pie making commence!
You will get ALL of the items pictured in the photograph!
- Mud kitchen built from natural larch timber with butler sink, shelves, tiled effect splashback and hooks and holes for implements w120cm x d50cm x h112cm approx.
- Balance scales mounted on an oak log h112cm x w50cm approx.
- Digging trough w80cm x d30cm x h32cm approx.
- 2 x Oak seating stumps h30cm x w28cm approx.
- 2 x Oak slice plates w20cm x h3cm approx.
- Carved oak mixing bowl h30cm x w40cm approx.
- Various cooking implements
Infinite Playground will provide delivery with a delivery company and it will be sent on a pallet.
The individual or setting that wins will be responsible for positioning the kitchen. The mud kitchen is free standing and therefore will not need installation (although we would recommend attaching to a wall or post).
We would recommend that two people lift the kitchen and that the sink is lifted out of the kitchen before moving.
Due to the size of his Giveaway it is open to the UK only
To stand a chance of winning the Infinite Playgrounds Mud Kitchen you can…
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All entries must be made by NOON on FRIDAY 2nd DECEMBER 2016.
The more entries, the better your chance so get your parents/carers to vote for you too!