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June 10, 2010

Mudpies: Gourmet or Homestyle

Mudpies The other day I found a funny article on the lively and funny group blog Parent Dish. In this particular entry, Lenore Skenazy details how she found a gourmet mud pie baking set for the reasonable price of $40.  It features a hand-crank mud mixer and a working sink. Manipulating mud -- it turns out -- is not as simple as it used to be.

“What made you think you could possibly make mud pies on your own?” Skenazy says sarcastically. “Are you a baby Martha Stewart of something?”

Skenazy goes on to describe how, in the past, a child could play with a stick and turn it into almost anything they needed. Now, you can go to a store and purchase a separate toy for every use a child could have come up with for a stick -- swords, wands, light sabers, etc.

“We live in a wonderful era when adults can give their kids almost everything imaginable, so the kids don’t have to imagine anything,” Skenazy points out.

Now imagine if you dropped your child off for pre-k in a five acre forest. There are no computers, no “educational toys,” no desks, and no letter match BINGO games. Instead there are buckets, rakes, and shovels, nature trails, and a fern-covered hut.

At Cedarsong Nature School there are only three buildings: one storage, one library, and one composting potty. At snack time children snack on “forest candy”, edible buds they collect from trees. They play music, climb trees, and run.

Erin Kenny, founder of the outdoor pre-k program, was a lawyer before she read Richard Louv's book "Last Child in the Woods." Now she spends every day playing in the woods and helping children learn “basic environmental science” in the natural environment. There is a counter movement to the assessment-heavy academic preschool underway in America that is offering just that -- an open-ended, play-based learning. What kind of education would your child get in a school like this?

Are there certain toys or gadgets a child must have to enhance learning or can they get just as much from the great outdoors?

Image: https://gracialouise.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/mud_pies_1_1.jpg


I loved reading about Mud Pies, just heard Skenazy on the radio, and Last Child in the Woods has been on my reading list for a while now.

So I finally had to write. I teach creative dance to children and often see parallels between opinions in these blogs and my own work.

Today's is no exception.

I get paid to dance with young children. In the 20 years I've been doing this there has been an explosion in programs for young children, music and activity books for preschoolers, and props-- you can spend a lot of money on props.

But you can also just put on your favorite song--Mozart, Black-Eyed Peas, or both--and dance with your child. Maybe cut up a pair of old curtains to use as scarves. And go to town.

Trust me, your kid will love dancing with you, and you will get more out of it than you can imagine.

A Hopi Indian saying:
"To watch us dance is to hear our hearts speak."

The only downside: I'll be out of work!

I'm a huge believer in the value of outdoor play to the learning and development of young children across all developmental domains. You can't beat it in my book :)

We love mud at our preschool - you might enjoy one of my recent posts about mud play.

I've just found your wonderful blog, and I'm off to read some more :)

Hey Jenny!
I had to take down your link to your blog because it was messing up our formatting. But! if people just click on your name they can go to your blog. Thanks for commenting.

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