“The world is ‘mud-luscious’ and ‘puddle-wonderful’!” – E.E. Cummings
That’s the feeling I had at The Parenting Place’s Friday Play Shoppe’s Mud Day. Water, dirt, sand, old pots, pans, shovels, myriad assortment of containers and materials added up to a definite mud-luscious kind of morning.
What I observed once again, however, as I have in the past, when most children are presented with open-ended, here-you-go materials, they hesitate, approach slowly, appear tentative about where to start and what to do.
In my observations, it usually takes at least 30 minutes in an environment that is purposely set up to be open-ended with no real directions for children to follow, before they ease into a natural rhythm that is beautiful to experience. This is not, however, the time to jump in and direct a child. There is usually a veteran child or two in the group who is one with natural materials and in harmony with beginning their work and setting the pace. We had our starter child this time and children were slowly attracted and drawn into her focus.
What I noticed again watching the children play was the peacefulness, the purposefulness and the concentration one feels from them. There was no rowdy wild inappropriate antics that morning. In fact there was very little noise. There was, however, a high level of “real work” being accomplished.
For children to have the freedom of making concoctions of their own brings the worlds of science and art together – experiments thoughtfully performed – mud soups artfully created.
But what resonates most for me, again and again when I observe opportunities like this is what is most essential for this type of play to occur – two things – time and access. Time for the children to trust themselves enough to use the materials as they wish and access to “raw materials” that offer the opportunity to use them in a child’s own way.
This type of open-ended, no- directions- play does not fit into a 15-20-minute time slot. It’s developed and constructed and evolves within the child’s mind and spirit and takes time. And anyone carefully watching this type of pure play, without interrupting, can feel this transformation.
So thank you to these young children for re-fueling my spirit and reinforcing my strong belief and passion that this valuable type of play and learning is and will continue to be satisfying and intrinsic in our children.
All they need is time and access.