Mud Kitchen

3 generations. 3 kitchens. One love for cooking.

My mom doesn’t have a Mexican bone in her body but you would never know that if you tasted her tamales or huevos rancheros. And don’t get me started on her green chili soup and candies jalelanos. She has a gift in the kitchen, one that I’ve had the honor of watching her cultivate from the bar stool across from her. I’ve been her sou chef since i was a little girl and have the way her wedding ring sparkles as she holds an onion steady with one and chops with her other cemented in my memory bank. I’ve laughed at her dance moves and disco voice as she uses her spatula as a mic. And I’ve been grateful to be her taste tester.

I’ve never farmed nor does my garden look pleasing to the eye at the moment but you would never know that if you tasted my vegetable soup or chicken pot pie. I have a passion for using fresh herbs in my cooking and am fascinated by how a twig of rosemary can transform a dish. My cooking is often interrupted to pretend to be the wolf as my three year old trots around as Little Red Riding Hood, a frequent scene that I know I will miss greatly when this season in life is over. We have some dance moves too, they mostly include ballet twirls to some old school country as I use the mixing spoon as a mic. And I’m grateful to have my own little taste tester.

She’s never cooked a complete meal in her life but you would never know that as she stirs and pours in her mud kitchen. She carefully gathers leaves and flowers from the yard to add to her muddy creation. She twists and turns, slowly mixing her soup one moment and frantically pouring water and tossing in dirt the next. She always has a song in her head; her three year old voice belting out, her hips do a little sway, and a stick transformed into a mic in her hands. And I’m grateful to once again be a taste tester, even if it is a bit muddy.

3 kitchens. 3 generations. One love for cooking.

My parents made Lydia a mud kitchen for her second birthday. It has shelves and hooks for dishes, a stove top with buttons, a dog bowl sink and an oven that is always baking some delicious cookies. It’s the most well-loved and used present she’s ever received. She spends hours outside foraging sticks, filling her tea kettle with water and creating meals. She frequently falls into the roll of the mom while cooking. She tends to her baby dolls and stuffed animals that seem to find their way outside to join her kitchen. The learning that happens when a pot overflows, the mud is too dry, or the flower petals float on the water’s surface is invaluable. And the memories made in the kitchen continue…

Kitchens are a place for creating, experimenting an connecting. They are a place to both reflect on the day but also to just be completely absorbed in the textures she smells of your creation. They are a place to gather and bond over a mutual appreciation for kinship or food.

Mud kitchens are no different. If you’re searching for my daughter pre-breakfast or between 3 and 5pm, check her kitchen. She’s often engrossed in stirring, patting, mixing and foraging ingredients from the yard. She was gifted the kitchen from my parents for her second birthday. We are over a year in and it’s not an exaggeration to say that she plays in her kitchen daily. My parents did an excellent job creating a space that is simple yet had wonderful little details that allow her imagination to explode. They created little knobs for the oven that pulls down to bake muffins and cakes. They selected a dog bowl for the sink so she can easily pull it out to dump it when she’s done doing her muddy dishes. They placed little hooks on the back wall to store her well broken in pans.

Her dishes and pans are a hodge podge. We love this Melissa and Doug set because they are light weight but durable. We also have had luck snagging cheap utensils and cups from thrift shops. A little water station has been a wonderful addition because it allows for more independence in her cooking adventures.

One of my favorite ways to surprise my daughter is by adding a new element to the kitchen. Recently it was transformed into a cut flower shop, using old flowers we are gifted when my son was born. I’ve also welcomed painted rocks and adorable little pumpkins. Fresh herbs and citrus slices add another layer of sensory to the kitchen as well. In the summer months, I’ve added ice cubes to some bowls. I’m still plotting some new winter surprises- suggestions welcomed.

 

To answer questions that I’ve received about the kitchen. Yes, it does get extremely messy. I highly recommend that you put your kitchen within reach of a hose to spray it down. Yes, our kitchen is in a covered area because the covered space was already in our yard. I don’t think that is needed though. Yes, I resume her to clean up her own kitchen. This is a new one for me but I love it. She has a mini broom that she sweeps the floors and I encourage her to put her dishes away at the end of her play session, like I do in our home kitchen. No, she doesn’t try to actually eat her concoctions. However, I’m sure she would have if she has it when she was under two. We have that to look forward to with our son. Yes, I do play with her in the mud kitchen. There is a good healthy balance of independent play and parent-child play. I love mushing mud, adding in flower petals and if course sitting down to enjoy sone freshly made soup with her.

So yes, I’m just as in love with the mud kitchen as my daughter is. It was made with love by her grandparents and is played with with love by the little chef. 3 generations. 3 kitchens. One love for cooking.

Home Learning: Year 3

I’m a firm believer in learning begins at birth. Even our smallest infants are learning to process the tones of their families voices, the touch of hands gently stroking their head and the smells of dinner radiating through the house.

My Lydia turned three at the end of July. She is full of curiosity, joy and fantasy. Her vocabulary continues to expand and watching her make-believe play may be my favorite part of parenting. We continue to teach her at home- confidently following her lead, expanding her strengths and bringing up her weaknesses. As of now we are home-educating through an eclectic mix of learning philosophies.

I get asked all the time, especially now that she is three, what we are doing for school. My answer remains the same as it has since birth, “We play and read.”

But I am adding a tiny bit more structure to her play-based learning at this point. I have found that she loves having a theme at Roots and Wings Playschool and is delighted when I put together a display or books and toys based on a theme. Lydia is a naturalist to her core and an avid book reader, so I am using those interests as our pillars for learning this year. I will be doing quarterly themes.

September/October/November: Trees

September will focus on apples and introduce the beauty of trees bearing fruit.

October will focus on fall and the changing of seasons.

November will focus on giving thanks.

Each will be infused with literature, puzzles, and hands on learning about trees. We will dig deeper than we have before and work towards one of my “3 year learning goals” for her- identifying multiple trees in our backyard using her knowledge of leaf shapes.

December/January/February: Woods

December: Holidays/Winter (using The Little House Picture books as our guide)

January: Woodland Animals

February: Gnomes and Fairies

We will explore hibernation, animal homes, the changing of landscape, snow, and end with the whimsical study of fairies and gnomes.

March/April/May: Weather

March: Clouds/Rain

April: Sun

May: Moon

We will begin tracking our weather as we transition from winter to spring. We will explore outside and learn about the moon phases.

June/July/August: Garden

June: Seeds

July: Bugs

August: Flowers

We will enjoy summer gardening through the study of planting seeds, learning about all of the plants that make up our yard and neighborhood and watch our flowers bloom.

Most of these themes, I’ll just be doing activities that fit Lydia’s interest. We can add little learning themes throughout as we make our way through the year. I will pull from The Peaceful Preschool when appropriate. She knows most of her letters through play so we don’t explicitly teach them. I do plan to infuse letters and sounds into our themed studies a bit more than I have before since she loves language and is showing an interest in letters and reading. For those looking for suggestions on how we plan to integrate the letters with our themes, my plan is to loosely focus on a few letters each quarter. I will simply display them in our home and review them as they come up in books and our planned activities.

Sept-Nov Letters:

A- apple

F- Fall

G- Grandparents

H- Halloween

O- October

P- Pumpkin

T- Tree

J- Jack o lantern

Dec-Feb Letters:

B- Bears

D- Deer

W- Woods

X- ummmm… because I have nowhere else to put this letter

March-May Letters:

C- Clouds

K- Kite

M- moon

R- Rain

S- Sun

U- Umbrella

E- Earth

June-August Letters:

I- Insect

N- Nest

Q- Queen (bee)

L- Lettuce

V- Vase (flower study)

Y- Yellow

Z- zzzz sound from a bee? 🙂

Summer Rhythm

I often think of rhythm as the webbing that holds are weeks together. Without sending children to school and without working a consistant schedule, I find that having a strong home rhythm is even more important.

 

We generally use meal times as our rhythm anchors. Our rhythm hasn’t changed much since the fall, which I am very grateful for but it will very soon since I’m 38 weeks today! I’m eager to see how our little Gavin fits into the rhythm and how it will need to be adjusted for his needs. I find that the beautiful thing about rhythm rather than routine, it can ebb and flow to fit our lives.

 

When you are reading this, please note that these times are fairly flexible.

 

 

~ 7:00 Morning Rhythm

 

Lydia wakes up. I have been trying to have a little art “invitation to play” set up for her. She loves it. I also usually give her a tiny serving of fresh fruit to hold her over until I make breakfast. I prep this the night before so it is super simple.

 

We begin with bit of outdoor playtime, lately straight for the sandbox, sidewalk chalk or pool. She tends to stay close to the house in the early morning.

 

Breakfast- We still do a variation of eggs almost everyday for breakfast. Lydia sometimes requests oatmeal or yogurt so I accommodate those easy requests. I make our lunch smoothies while I am already in the kitchen.

 

After breakfast, we naturally settle in to read books while I have a little more coffee.

 

Then it is free-play, usually indoors, but these summer months pull us outside too. This is when I do household chores like laundry.

~10:00 Morning Adventure

 

I have been blessed with friends and an incredible play-based community. This lends itself from doing great developmental exploring any day of the week. I have been trying to be very mindful about what we agree to join in on. I look at proximity, time outside, child-led interest and my own enjoyment.

 

Mondays- Home Day

Tuesdays- “Mom Mom” time. Lydia spends the morning with my mom.

Wednesdays- Roots+Wings Playschool

Thursday- Home Day

Friday- Playdate, usually at a local coffee shop with a playground!

 

We have snack time during our morning adventure. This is usually fresh fruit and some type of nut or seed.

~12:30 Lunch

We try to get home from our adventures for lunch most days. I could push it and keep us out longer, but the flow of our afternoon works so much better when we are back by 12:30 or 1:00pm.

 

Lunch is smoothies and often something crunchy like crackers to satisfy our snacky needs. I keep a big basket of library books in our dining room so they don’t get mixed up with our other books. We read these while she eats.

 

We usually do lunch at the dining room table. In the summer, we tend to gather on the porch though.

 

~1:00 Quiet Time

My daughter doesn’t nap anymore but this post-lunch time remains very dear to my heart. She plays quietly in the room and reads stories with me.  Once in awhile, if she isn’t sleeping and I feel like she needs some shut off time, she watches a show.

 

I often have the white noise machine going at this time. We have one that has a timer, so after some quiet play, if I need a break, I set the timer and she knows she has to stay in her room until it turns off.

 

Potty Training hint: Put a mini potty in the room to stop the “neeeeeed” to come out of the room to go.

 

~3:00 Free Play

Our afternoons remain our free play time at home. We explore in the backyard, create art in the playroom and just bop around. Generally this is a two hour time block, even in the summer heat or the winter cold. This is when I tend to the garden, clean up the yard and water plants.

~5:00 Dinner Prep

I retreat the the kitchen to prep dinner. Lydia often helps me with this prep or plays with play dough or draws at her little bench right by the kitchen.

 

Lately she has been into audio books. I put on a story for her from Spotify, get out a book that matches the story and pull out a felt set that matches the story. She loves this and will often listen to fairy tales 3 or 4 times while I finish dinner prep. I try to clean all the dishes that I can while I go so after dinner clean up goes fast.

 

This is part of the day that I know will be harder with a newborn. Ayy!

 

~5:30 Dinner

We gather, as a family, at the dinner table.  She sits and chats with my husband and I at the dinner table until she is full. After awhile, she is free to go play in the playroom, directly off our dining room, while we remain at the table.

 

~6:00 Family Time

Kitchen clean up. Playroom clean up. Family playtime or stroller walk.

 

~6:30 Bedtime Routine

Sometimes she hops in the shower or bath, depending on her level of dirt.  But it is always brush teeth, books then bed. We do about twenty minutes of reading and then its time for her to go to bed.

Observer of Play

I’m an observer of play.

Yes, I do run a one day a week playschool, am a former teacher, and lead a playgroup. But those super prestigious(ha!) titles don’t compare to what I feel is my role in my community.


I watch little hands interact with dirt and sticks. I watch feet stomp and jump off rocks. I watch bodies twist coming down slides. I watch shoulders tense and ease as the children engages in a new game.

I listen to spontaneous songs belted out in the middle of a field. I listen to giggles as a centipede crawls on messy hands. I listen to the sweetest conversations as baby dolls interact. I listen to invitations to play, followed by engagement or toddler politics.

And I observe the parents while these incredible learning experiences are happening. I observe their words, or lack of. I observe their guidance, or simply their presence. And I observe their eyes, so clearly falling in love with their child over and over again, while they watch play.

It is such an incredible honor to take the time to observe this.

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