THE MUD KITCHEN &
Tom Bedard’s Framework
for Creating Spaces for Play
Observing children and how they use space is incredibly fascinating to me. Outdoor Mud Kitchens are especially interesting places to observe children hard at work. Last week, I was visiting the Christ Church Parish Day School in Hamilton, MA and I was delighted to meet a young chef in the Mud Kitchen during my tour of the Outdoor Classroom. This young chef announced her “soup” was ready and insisted that I try some. She held up a wobbly spoon filled with rocks and mud and awaited my response. She was beaming with delight while she explained that the “cookies” were wiggly because they have worms in them. What is it about Mud Kitchens that inspires this type of playful learning?
Tom Bedard’s framework for creating spaces for play may give us some insight. His body of work focuses on the sensory sand and water table. He uses low-cost ways to enrich sand and water table play while creating a variety of apparatus’. Can we apply Tom Bedard’s Framework for Creating Spaces for Play to the Mud Kitchen?
1. OVERARCHING PROCESS is understanding that children love and need to transport. Tom began with a 5-pound bucket and taught the children, “Put it in the Bucket.” What do you have in your Mud Kitchen that helps children transport?
2. ELEMENTS are important for children to experience space. Bedard believes, “Children will explore all spaces in any given apparatus no matter how big or small.”
- Levels: Offering opportunities for playing low to the ground, in the middle and reaching high are key in creating children’s play spaces. What can you do to your Mud Kitchen to add more levels? Are the children reaching up for stored pots and pans? Are they bending down to pull things out of the “oven”?
- Spaces: Children love to create spaces within spaces. Therefore, offering opportunities for children to explore over, under and through are important. Are there different work areas in your Mud Kitchen? How many sinks do you have? Do you have loose parts that offer opportunities to change the space?
- Holes: Children love the game peek a boo. Adding holes and elements that open and close speak to children. What can you do to add holes that create spaces within spaces?
3. ORIENTATIONS: Tom describes, “Children are naturally drawn to pouring, rolling, or sliding materials and objects down ramps, chutes, and tubes.”
How can you add these Orientations to the Mud Kitchen?
Now we went to hear from you. What did you learn? What do you think of Tom Bedard’s framework for creating play spaces? How can you apply this body of knowledge to your Outdoor Mud Kitchen?