Friday, 22 June 2012

mud, mud, glorious mud...

there's nothing quite like it...

"hey, I've found a writing feather"

Mud is a constant source of fascination for children, I adore watching them explore it - and new discoveries emerge all the time.  Mud is a perfect example of loose parts - something that can be used in endless ways and can represent a million things as it is moved about, shaped, explored and experienced.  Mud can be wet, dry, hard, soft, crumbly, rock-solid, sticky...  children will use so many words as they describe it.

It's International Mud Day on June 29th:

It should be mud day, every day!  As Ellen Ruppel Shell says:
 "forget about swings and teeter-totters and concrete turtles - to be a real success, a playground needs a few good mudholes" (from the article "Kids don't need equipment, they need opportunity", Natural Playgrounds).

Mud can give children endless opportunities for imaginative play, for scientific discovery, for creating wonderful images and sculptural forms.  It contains so many intriguing creatures - digging in mud enables you to discover and marvel at worms and all kinds of amazing mini-beasts. 

Add water and you have a whole range of new textures.  Dig a huge hole and you have a wonderful place of discovery.  Mud is different throughout the year, frozen mud holds a whole set of different qualities to summer soil... 

With the aid of waterproofs and wellies and it's fine to get covered in mud... but it's also a really interesting thing to feel on your skin!   A mud kitchen or potion-making lab needs no expensive equipment, I've watched children explore and invent for hours with some old baking pots and tins, wooden spoons, mashers and sticks.  Pestle and mortars work really well as do whisks, ladles, sieves and tea-spoons.  Soil and containers of different sizes let children explore weight and measurement.  Gutters, pulleys, planks, wheelbarrows and buckets let children move earth from place to place. 

I've watched boys who find writing and drawing inside daunting get incredibly busy and self-motivated outside to write and draw into mud.  If you are wearing waterproofs then children who are worried about getting clothes dirty find a new sense of freedom and exploration.

"Mud is the perfect material for art and building: easy, durable, beautiful.  Unlike standardised industrial stuff, it varies a lot.  Different earths do different things - or the same things in a different way - but just about anything works, and if it doesn't work, it lets you know so you can try something else."  Kiko Denzer "Dig Your Hands in the Dirt, a manual for making art out of the earth"

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