Over the last year I've moved from a large setting with ample outdoor (and well developed) space to a small setting with the tiniest outdoor yard you've ever seen.
Summer is approaching and the challenge is considerable - how do I fit just 6 fewer children into a space 6 times smaller?
Our team used the Easter holidays to consider this problem. If your setting is anything like ours there is a lot of surplus in it. Things from an era long since passed. For example, we had a long picnic bench under a shelter. Great for picnics, not much good for anything else.
For me, the outdoors should be all about embracing the environment and sitting on a table doing a jigsaw puzzle doesn't work. So we got rid of the table. We also got rid of a plastic seesaw which provided zero learning, a basket ball hoop and dozen of bright plastic bricks which didn't really add to the space.
In its place we created a much larger loose parts area complete with piping, guttering, tyres, large water bottles and just about any metal we could grab to hand.
Then we thought a little about the woodland kitchen. It a space well used in our setting. its not fancy. In fact its just a table next to some shelves. We can't afford a wooden kitchen yet nor can we get anyone to build one for us. So we make do with what we have.
But what we do want is to work out a way for the children to continue to create lotions and potions using water and soil from the planters and to even expand it but increasing the capacity of the area to cater for potentially 39 children on a hot summer day.
We looked at out sand pit. I've gone through 30 bags of sand this year alone (thanks to all those sandy cups of tea;)). We decided to fill the sand pit with top soil so children can continue to make muddy delicacies but they can also expand into gardening and digging.
Finding top soil wasn't super easy. We have a spot at the back of our playground which is just soil but it meant going to dig with the children, filling buckets and carrying these back. After a couple of days of this we filled the pit (with a sneaky couple of bags of top soil from Asda smuggled in at night).
Now we have a fully working mud pit. We salvaged some child sized spades and forks from the gardening club which doesn't currently run and presto - a fully stocked and working mud area.
We're not a fancy setting. We don't have huge amounts of money but we know what our children like. The majority of our morning children and about half of our afternoon children simply adore spending as much time using mud as possible. These children tend to be the ones who are high achievers with solid foundations in the prime areas, but some aren't. Some are my SEN children who even struggle a little with Physical Development.
Do you use mud in your setting? I imagine the majority of us do nowadays but do you have a mud pit? Having one really taps into:
Physical Development (moving but also staying safe),
Personal Social and Emotional development (sharing, not hurting others with their tools),
Communication (talking through the process and of course, about the multiple worms they find!),
Mathematics, (think of the vocab, 'deep, wide, thick etc.)
Knowledge of the World (talking about findings, exploring using senses)
Expressive art and design (creating mud castles, potions, exploring and imagining)
Not to mention the Characteristics of Learning which are covered almost in full.
Mud washes off but the learning sticks forever.