Are you looking to engage your children with an outdoor space for creative cooking, grilling, baking, or other sensory outdoor explorations? Please do not get obsessed with a stationary build-out like a mud kitchen area – the bare ground is good enough for the children. Children play anywhere – pretty much as how they sleep anywhere.
For this activity you may need some of the following:
- Tuff Tray or any container you already have handy.
- Metal containers (let your thrift shop be your friend or shop my store)
- Pumpkins (can be replaced with watermelon, cantaloupe, or any food that has a hollow to it)
- Baking Soda
- and let’s not forget the children
I got free pumpkins from my local supermarket. It was the end of the fall season and the supermarket was giving them away free and who doesn’t love freebies. I understand if you are not comfortable using food for children’s play because let’s admit it – there are starving children everywhere. In my defense, we got these pumpkins free and for many other activities we either garden the items, had excess or items were cheap to buy – I am guilty of children’s exploration and learning even with food.
Pots and metal containers you no longer use in your kitchen can be recycled outdoors instead of sending them to the landfill. Another option is to ask your clients for donations to your school or shop thrift like my Etsy shop Mindful Playthings.
I have seen how children love messy play, this is a great activity for that sensory fun play. The science of sodium carbonate (baking soda) mixing with vinegar is always an interesting inquiry for children.
To heighten the investigation spices and colors could be part of the provocation – I wonder what happens if cinnamon is added, or blue and yellow water is added to the tray? I have learned to use the I wonder statement in many provocations – Tom Drummond offered that concept in his Enterprise Talk article.
Water and soap on the side allowed the children to add, mix, and prolonged the sensory exploration for more days. The transportation schema increased with their activity of moving water from one container to the next. Those pumpkins held a lot of liquid, their scoop and pour mathematics and science activity was emptied and filled back on repeat. [On a side note, even though the pumpkins were left outdoors, the squirrels and other animals did not eat them. I am not sure if the vinegar and baking soda repelled them].
Outdoor exploration is important to children’s development, their senses, and their connection to the world around them. Through outdoor exploration and play children learn about the weather, seasons, animals, vegetation, shadows, terrain, and science all around them. I implore you all to read the book by Richard Louv – The Last Child In The Woods.
I love to observe the children’s reaction to the invisible wind which remains a mystery, especially to babies. Children are naturally intrigued by the swaying of trees, scattering of leaves, or the movement of a child’s hair on a windy day. Getting outdoors helps children to learn joyfully.
I wish that every educator who is searching for ways to actively engage children’s learning will consider an outdoor classroom – learning happens in real form when we are outdoors.
x0x0 Suzette Salmon aka Miss Sue