One sunny day, the children took to painting themselves with mud from head to toe, and I began to wonder how I would clean them. Their clothes were soaked and brown; they had stepped in buckets of mud, making their shoes filthy dirty; and even their hair had become objects of their mud affection. Years ago, we had bought a small baby pool made up of two halves and an umbrella. The umbrella was long gone, but the plastic shells were still sitting in our storage area. I pulled them out and set them on the lawn. I began to fill them up, yet the water was still chilly. I decided to fill a few bucket loads of water from the hot tub to warm up the water in the pools.
After a bit more playing in the mud kitchen, the children turned to the pools. They barely fit into the baby pools at this point, but they sat down in them and began splashing. Soon they had taken off their clothes, and we used the pools to wash their pants and shirts and shoes, placing them each to dry on the lawn. We had a slip-and-slide that was rarely used, but I set that up. Friends came over and joined in the fun. The children oscillated between the mud kitchen, the pools, and the slip-and-slide. The sun shone warmer and warmer, and we broke out the hose with a crummy but exciting fountain attachment. Usually we’d keep the water on with medium pressure, making the fountain spray up a few feet. But that day we opened the pressure up full blast, spraying the water up high. Eventually, the wind kicked up, chilling the children, and they made their way to the hot tub.
Over the remainder of the summer, we kept the pools available, and a sort of rhythm emerged, as the children would spend hours in the mud kitchen. As the day warmed, they made their way to the pools. The rhythm made for a predictable play pattern, and the children were free to get as muddy as they wanted.
There are a variety of options for introducing deeper waters into the mud-kitchen experience:
- Find or buy inexpensive inflatable or hard plastic pools.
- Create backyard ponds or streams.
- Buy backyard fountains or hose attachments that can create wide and high sprays of water.
Introducing water features allows the children a new sense of freedom.
Bring on the Mud
They can get as muddy as they want, knowing that they’ll have plenty of opportunity for cleaning up.
Washing muddy clothes outside is surprisingly fun. The children love it.
Having durable water features give children a sense of independence and allows them to interact in new ways.