There is little more important in our physical world than earth and water and they are truly intriguing things, especially when they interact. Young children are endlessly interested in – and biologically programmed to explore – the stuff of the earth, how materials behave and what they do. Mixing soil, water and a range of other natural materials has a foundational role in early childhood which has deep importance and endless possibilities for well-being, development and learning. The breadth and depth of what these experiences offer young children is truly remarkable.
Making connections through discovering and investigating cause and effect is the stuff of brain development and scientific process. Curiosity, fascination and the pleasure of finding things out are fundamentally important to the human state – being human. An even more powerful level of experience for the explorer is that they are the one making things happen – giving feelings of control and power, and over time, building a child who has a strong inner sense of agency (which itself is key to well-being and mental health). The processes of making ‘concoctions’ brings the worlds of science and art completely together through possibility thinking. The growth of imagination and creativity happens through building on concrete cause-and-effect experience to posing and predicting ‘what if…?’
Good scientists do this all the time, as do artists and all other innovators.
The mud play context and materials result in young children engaging in an incredible variety of actions, such as:
filling, pouring, emptying, transferring, mixing, stirring, whisking, frothing, scooping, ladling, handling, moulding, patting, smoothing, mark-making, throwing, splatting, splashing, sharing out, serving, foraging, selecting, picking, collecting, gathering, garnishing, shredding, crushing, mashing, grinding, measuring, adding, brewing, boiling, sieving, filtering, separating, pipetting and decanting!
In the same way, the range of potential experiences is vast, including sorting, classifying, cooking, transforming, creating, enquiring, testing, repeating, experimenting, naming, labelling, decorating, embellishing, selling and using.
The perfect stimulus of experiencing and exploring the physical transformations (doing) taking place puts the brain into the perfect place for creating mental transformations (imagination) – and the mix easily becomes coffee with sugar, a birthday cake, soups and stews, ice cream in many flavours, lotions and ‘make-up’, magical drinks and potions, wizard’s spells and perfumes… This work is filled with emotional, personal and social value and offers the context for learning a wonderful range of new and interesting vocabulary and verbal language exchange and expression. So let’s get to it !