Releasing your inner hippo

Mud, the glorious love child of water and earth.

Some love it for it’s beautifying and therapeutic qualities, it’s an essential habitat for several members of the animal kingdom for thermoregulating, and hated by others for being just plain messy. I suspect these may also be people who have cream carpets πŸ˜‰

Love it or hate it it’s a wonderful play resource for children, I’ve worked in and trained practitioners in Childcare for many years and the biggest thing I’ve learnt is children don’t need expensive toys and equipment. Children are born explorers, enquirers and learners and we just simply need to keep them supplied with resources to facilitate this. You don’t actually need to buy a lot to do this, nature lends a very helping hand. Fill a garden with expensive climbing equipment and toys if you like but I bet if you add some old logs, tree stumps, some old garden tools, rocks, shells, water and soil the children will be much more engaged, on a far deeper level of learning. For those of you who prefer your learning more formal and structured, sure chuck some sticks in too and they can make marks in the soil. πŸ˜‰ While equipment can be very beneficial, natural resources and a little creativity can easily meet the holistic development needs of a child.

The outdoors (I hope) is starting to become a little more fashionable, most schools now are running or trying to implement the principles of forest school and several of the early years settings where I visit students now have mud kitchens. Hopefully this will be a trend that will (like mud) stick around for a while.

I am the first to admit I don’t always practice what I preach, put a child in my professional care and they will be engaged in a variety of engaging and stimulating activities, when at home with my own children I have dinner to cook, chores to do, my house is clean (some achievement!) and I don’t want compost everywhere. I get it! So we go out, explore the great outdoors (and my house stays clean) win-win!

I’ve spoken before about Wicken fen, a wonderful reserve close to home. This place in terms of mud is mudtastic, being a fen and all…

We recently attended a great activity session there called mud, glorious mud. It certainly didn’t fail to deliver in terms of mud!

Dressed in our shabbiest clothes we were prepared to get muddy, maybe not so for quite how muddy…

We started off quite tamely with a muddy take on archery, a giant target to aim at, catapults and a great big tub of mud. Grab your mud, take aim, splat!

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It was the perfect activity to slowly get used to the mud, my youngest daughter I expected to be the one to struggle the most. She lives for pink and fluff and princesses and so this was a nice transitional activity for her. My eldest daughter who is a real outdoor girl and explorer had a little wobble here over the vast quantities of mud. Worry not, she was soon over it, up to her knees yelling ‘THIS. IS. AWESOME!’

Next we headed over to the creative area, we are quite a crafty family so we were looking forward to this. A roll of paper was out for mark making which we left token hand prints on, but I can think of many ways this area could have been developed. Once an early years practitioner…..

We then progressed to a small mud pit, a freshly dug hole in the ground which was shallow enough to explore with boots still on and as my lot soon found out, fantastic for jumping in!

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With confidence growing it was make or break time, I convinced them to ditch the boots and get stuck in with the big mud pit. Tentative steps at first but they were soon wallowing around like regular hippos.

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They also had a go at making (muddy) clay models, using natural materials from the fen to produce some fab dragonflies.

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They even had the obligatory mud kitchen.

At the end of the session being hosed down was just as good fun!

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They had a great time, went home filthy and my head is swimming with muddy activities to extend and develop further …and I had to scrub the bath! πŸ˜‰

So follow me, follow, down to the hollow
and there let us wallow in glorious mud!

Oh come on, surely you’ve been singing that the whole way through?

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