Communication and language: Causing a stir

Karen Hart, teacher and education writer
Friday, March 22, 2019

Now is the time for children to harvest a range of exciting new natural objects, including catkins, blossom, dandelions, twigs and leaves – to take to the mud kitchen and have fun mixing them into magic potions.

Rain School by James Rumford (Houghton Mif in Harcourt)
Mud by Mary Lyn Ray (Harcourt Brace)
Mud Kitchen in a Day by Jason Runkel Sperling (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
TP Muddy Cook Wooden Mud Kitchen £49.99 Amazon UK
Little leaf buds, blossom, weeds in the grass and warmer weather – springtime marks the beginning of a new cycle of natural materials, making it the perfect time to really get to grips with the mud kitchen. These are the perfect ingredients for charging young imaginations.

The possibilities for introducing new and exciting vocabulary are endless during mud play and with multiple opportunities for encouraging communication through social play, storytelling and make-believe, it’s a perfect activity to use for encouraging communication and language development.

  • Playing and exploring
    Children investigate and forage for their own ingredients
    They introduce new components to the mud kitchen, extending play while ‘playing with what they know
    Children experiment and have a go with different resources

Magic potions
You will need: Small jars/containers – at least one per child; teaspoons; a collection of natural objects; washing up liquid, jugs of water.

This activity was one of my children’s favourites, they were always making me magic potions – in the garden, the bath, the kitchen sink... children just love to mix stuff together. There are loads of opportunities to encourage language and vocabulary here, introducing new words as children play.

Start by letting children forage for bits and pieces, either in your forest school area or during a walk to a local outdoor space. Some natural objects you should be able to find
this month might be: Catkins, blossom, daisies, buttercups, dandelions and lots of twigs, grasses and leaves.

Back at the mud kitchen, let children break up their flowers, placing little bits into their jar together with a spoonful of mud, water and a little washing up liquid, giving contents
a stir with the spoons. Leave a little space before screwing

lids on so children can shake their potions to create a few bubbles. If children are going to take their potions home or if you are going to keep them for display, write a sticky label for each jar showing the child’s name and the name of their potion – help children choose a name by suggesting ideas such as purple hair growing potion, or magic nose growing potion. One little boy chose to make a Harry Potter potion.

Talk about magic potions in fairy tales: The little Mermaid, Snow White, Alice in Wonderland etc. Choose one to read to your group at circle time.

  • Key vocabulary
    Potion, baker’s shop, whisking, mixture, sloppy, squishy
  • Key learning points
    Children talk about magic potions and how these appear in fairy tales.
    They follow instructions involving several ideas or actions while making cakes and magic potions.
    By playing shops, children respond to what they hear with relevant comments, questions or actions. They give their attention to what others say and respond appropriately.
  • Active learning
    Children concentrate on mixing, stirring and blending colours, and painting
    They experiment with consistency and persevere until they get a good mix
    They enjoy creating paint that is unusual and fun to use by following instructions

Mud paint pictures

You will need: Mud; watercolour paint – in squirty bottles ideally; heavy paper; washing up liquid; spoons for mixing; water in squirty bottles; chunky paintbrushes.

Put dollops of mud into little bowls, one for each colour you want to make. Ask children to experiment with how much paint they need to add to the mixture, but one or two squirts should do it.

Add water and a little washing up liquid to give a smoother consistency.

Lay out your paper, hand out your paintbrushes and let children get painting – they’re sure to want to do a bit more mixing throughout the activity too, so let the preparation become as much a part of the activity as the painting.

Use this activity as a circle time conversation starter. Ask children how they made their mud paint, breaking the preparation down into separate steps.

Taking photos of children during all stages of preparation will make a great visual tool to help children sequence the stages of preparation.

  • Creating and thinking critically
    Children realise their own ideas and are supported to talk about them
    They talk about associated experiences in their own life and make connections
    They choose their own ways to do things and use new vocabulary to describe this

Mud pie bakers shop
You will need: Play cash register and money; paper cake cases; mixing bowls; baking equipment such as: spoons, whisks, weighing scales, measuring jugs etc; water supply
– doesn’t need to be particularly close as children love to fetch; access to natural materials such as daisies, dandelions, leaves, twigs, grass and blossom.

Any extra bits that will be fun to use in a play bakery such as: Sand for sieving, gravel, pebbles, shells and tin foil’s always good.

Set up your bakery by using an old table as your counter/ work area and a little bedside cupboard makes a great oven. If you draw a couple of circles on the cupboard top it can be used as a hob too, but with mud kitchens it’s all about whatever is available, so an old crate or cardboard box work just as well, after all, it is all about imagination. Be careful about taking any of your home corner equipment outside

All that’s left to do is ensure that all the baking trays and cooking utensils are accessible to children and then let them get on with it. Do show them how they can make a little cake by putting a spoonful of mud in a cake case, and be on hand as a customer to buy some cakes.

Although you do want to keep the activity primarily about mud play, adding a little sand to some of the mud makes it much more malleable and easier to handle when trying to make specific shapes and use moulds.

Encourage ‘listening and attention’ by helping children play the parts of shopkeeper and customer, responding appropriately to questions and comments of others,.

Cooking area

Easy mud cakes
Although these cakes are a bit sugary, each child only gets a small blob so ok for a special treat. For 25-30 mini cakes you will need: four tablespoons of butter; half a teaspoon of vanilla essence; small packet of mini marshmallows; a couple of chocolate biscuits such as bourbons; seven or eight cups of coco rice crispies; wafer flowers.

  • Melt butter in a large saucepan, then add marshmallows and vanilla extract, stirring until the marshmallows have melted.
  • Take the saucepan off the heat and add coco pops and some small pieces of broken biscuit and stir in.
  • Put a dollop in each cake case and nish with a wafer ower. Put in the fridge to set – about 1 hour. Eat!

EYFS Early Learning Goals
Think about how children are meeting the PSED Learning Goal for self-con dence and self-awareness.: Children are confident to try new activities, and say why they like some activities more than others. They are con dent to speak in a familiar group, will talk about their ideas, and will choose the resources they need for their chosen activities. They say when they do or don’t need help. You can also extend physical development with opportunities to meet the Moving and Handling goal: Children show good control and co-ordination in large and small movements. They move confidently in a range of ways, safely negotiating space.

Key observation points:
Look for instances of children using imaginative language when talking about fairy tales, such as magical kingdoms and dragons.
Note words children use to describe the tactile experience of mud play, such as slimy and squishy.
Look for instances of children using appropriate ‘shop’ words, such as talking about money and using please and thank-you.

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