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Zion Christian Preschool director says yes to the mess


Last updated 11/29/2019 at 4:48am

Preschoolers at Zion Christian Preschool play in their new mud kitchen.

Lana Janey

Special to Village News

A few weeks ago, one of our families came into my office with a request and a sweet brown-eyed girl looked up at me and hopefully said, "Can we have a mud kitchen?"

I didn't even hesitate to say "Yes!"

Her parents told me they wanted to donate one to our preschool, and I was thrilled. I knew my staff would embrace it, despite the inconvenience, but convincing some of our parents might be a bit trickier.

I clearly remember, as a parent of young children, not wanting to bring out messy activities too often because I didn't want to deal with the cleanup or laundry. The idea of my young children engaged in frequent mud play at that time of my life bordered on unthinkable in this neat freak's mind.

A few years of intensive study in child development, however, has changed my perspective. Mud play for children has some amazing benefits for children who learn about their world through hands on sensory experiences.

In addition to being a wonderful sensory experience, it is a fantastic way to strengthen both fine and large motor skills as children use hands to scoop dirt, mix it with water, pound it into molds or shape it with their hands.

Many positive approaches to learning come into play as a child focuses on the task at hand, experiments with materials, discovering cause and effect and engages in problem-solving – science at its best.

Math concepts are built as children measure materials and learn experientially about volume and density. Communication and social skills are strengthened as children engage in collaborative efforts. Complex negotiating skills take place between two young chefs who both want the same muffin pan, and resolve to take turns.

The mud kitchen furniture and tools are a donation to the preschool from the parents of one of its students.

Without question, my favorite thing about mud kitchens is the creativity and imagination I've witnessed. I've often been invited to eat at a new business owner's restaurant. Children are marvelously creative and have offered me many things I've never tried... chocolate soup, peanut butter lasagna and macaroni and cheese ice cream, to name a few.

Small waiters have taken my order and asked me to pay $100 for a salad. When I exclaim "So expensive!" I'm inevitably asked "What does that mean?" and I get to add a new "juicy" word to a child's growing vocabulary.

In addition to all of the above reasons to say "yes" to the mess, there have been a number of studies in recent years that suggest that playing in the dirt has been found to reduce allergy and asthma symptoms, alleviate stress and boost the immune system – just search the internet for the "benefits to mud play" for more information.


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