June 29th is International Mud Day. I learned about it while building a mud kitchen at the centre where I work. To be precise, it was supposed to be a mud kitchen but somehow the project took an unexpected turn and it became a multi-purpose, all-age (including adults), gender-neutral space for working, playing, and resting.
The funny thing, it wasn’t even real mud that children used in their play but rather wet sand from the covered sandbox. The sand, water, and natural items transformed the sandbox into an ant sanctuary, a restaurant, a city road, a hot tub, a pool, a tattoo parlor, and a good ol’ kitchen. There was also beautiful messy play of pouring, mixing, dumping, and starting again.
There was a trouble, though. We didn’t have a space to store our sandbox tools. Left in the sandbox, most items inevitably got broken or taken somewhere else.
The only table top surface around the sandbox was a cable spool the size of a small round table. It was low enough for 5 year-olds but older children would hunch over to play there.
We had some old pallets lying around and so I got to work. Children teamed up to bring them over (it was not easy but they managed). This is the frame, 100% recycled wood.
While debating with myself about the perfect bench height for all ages, I realized that I am asking the wrong question. There is none. And it doesn’t have to be only one, I could divide the space and make different levels. So I did. (Please ignore the Tim Hortons cup, it was early morning before any children arrived).
Later in the afternoon, one of the boys who was watching me work casually complimented me on making a nice couch. ??? But when I sat on that bench… ah, it was nice! I started having second thoughts about covering it all with mud.
The second half of the now-not-really-a-mud-kitchen structure organically became a woodworking bench, or maybe simply a working bench. It is still right next to the sandbox, and I won’t mind children using mud on it but it is also sturdy enough for hammering, drilling, sawing, you got the idea.
And underneath, ta-da! There is ample storage for pots, pans, spoons, and other sandbox tools. That shelf was made out of replaced basketball court boards, again, 100% recycled.
I was putting the last nails in, when it started to drizzle and I didn’t have a chance to add the plaque that was put together by one of the boys. When the weather gets better, we will unveil our new structure and invite everyone to work, play, and rest there.
And I bet you, some days it will all be covered in mud!