Tag Archives: messy play

Mud glorious mud

The unschooling diaries: week thirteen

This week, we have finally managed to start sorting the garden out for summer.

It’s not an especially big space, and because our house is essentially built into the cliff face it’s on three different levels – and has no grass. So over the wet, windy Devon winter it really does start to look quite sorry for itself, and I start yearning for a house with a proper garden with room to run and explore.

I’ve realised, though, that there is actually an awful lot we can do with the space we have. Rather than bemoan the lack of lawn, I’ve decided instead to focus on what an interesting space it is, and its huge potential as an outdoor classroom. So, with Arthur taking the lead of course, we’ve been exploring exactly what that might look like – and having lots of messy fun in the process.

We started with some digging and pulling up of weeds in our raised beds. Arthur was very keen to get involved, and was fascinated by the bugs we came across along the way. We found snails, slugs, earthworms, a centipede, woodlice and a caterpillar – and had a good chat about each of them before getting on with our work.

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We also got the tuff spot out into the garden, creating a mud-filled paradise for Arthur’s beloved diggers, made even more fun when we added water to the equation.

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We managed to work some arts and crafts in there too. When we were in Lanzarote we’d talked about how Cesar Manrique had used volcanic ash in his paintings – Arthur had been quite intrigued by the unusual textures it created. So, inspired by the puddle that formed after some overnight rainfall, we decided to try some mud art.

We started with some puddle painting, using oil and food colouring to create colourful swirls on the water. This didn’t work brilliantly as Arthur got a bit over excited with the amount of oil he added, but it was still lots of fun!

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Especially fun was, of course, stamping in the oily puddle – and seeing how much Arthur was enjoying making footsteps on the deck I decided to give him a bit of a canvas.

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Then, after a slight diversion to make a magic potion, we got properly stuck in and covered a large sheet of paper with pva glue before pouring on the muddy concoction and mixing it up with anything else that took our fancy…

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There was more focused preparation too, with Arthur climbing inside the raised beds to get the earth ready for planting (and make some mud castles).

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It was all so much fun! And tidying up was even more so: Arthur was super keen to use the hosepipe, and I in my infinite wisdom let him. It was going great until he accidentally splashed me whilst I was holding the tuff spot, and I yelped, and he laughed, and… well, let’s just say we both got very wet!

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All in all it’s made me very excited about our little garden, and the fun and learning that is going to happen there in the weeks and months to come. There is something about being outdoors that just can’t be beat.

 



Going with the flow

The unschooling diaries: week nine

I’ve been mulling over various different options for this post today – Arthur’s delight in playing with sand at Paignton sea front, his growing interest in helping in the kitchen, the hours of roleplay that followed when we found a Buzz Lightyear costume in the charity shop – but it’s actually an almost inconsequential moment that I keep coming back to.

Leigh was late home on Friday, but with it being the weekend I figured we’d wait for him before pushing on to bed after Arthur had finished his dinner. That’s daddy time, generally – the chats about the day and the washing things and the stories – and both of them miss it on the odd occasions when he can’t be around.

I didn’t really have a plan – which could, at the end of a long day, have ended in disaster – but as it was distraction came in the most unexpected form. I’d been unpacking a delivery whilst Arthur ate his dinner, and it had arrived in a box filled with little polystyrene pellets. I normally whip them away from Arthur whenever I order from this company, but on Friday I guess I was feeling a bit more relaxed and so I let him explore. And the resulting play was, I think, the best fun he’d had all week.

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Things started pretty simply: having watched me unpack my order from the box, he proceeded to fill it with all of his precious things and offer it to me as a present.

Then once I’d gone through and admired each of his ‘gifts’, he decided that he wanted to see what it was like in there himself.

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Then of course came the tipping out, and the moment when on another day I might have put a halt to all of it. The tuff spot comes in handy for that – even if it didn’t contain the pellets for long…

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He piled them up and drove his diggers into them, threw them in the air to see how they fell, smooshed them and squeezed them and generally just experimented with this new material that had previously been off limits.

And whilst he played I sat and watched and laughed, until his daddy arrived at the door and came in to find us giggling in the midst of a pile of mess. Fortunately he got it too.

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I couldn’t tell you exactly what Arthur learnt from this little bit of unplanned and unstructured play, but still it felt important: to give him permission to go a little bit wild at the end of the day, to go with the flow even if a part of me was raising some serious eyebrows, to let him lead and explore and make us both laugh.

As much as it’s great to have some carefully thought out activities on hand too I think it is moments like this that remind me why I am leaning towards unschooling, and the freedom it gives my son to be who he wants to be.

 



Word of the Week: Mess

Today the word that sums up the week that was is:

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As it happens, this doesn’t actually refer to mess that was made, but rather mess that wasn’t. In fact mess that I think I’ve been a little afraid of making, a fear I might have inadvertently passed on to Arthur. It is the glorious, creative, colourful mess that comes from painting: something I’ve avoided doing with Arthur for far too long.

It’s a little odd, really. Those that know me would certainly not put me in the category of people who are mess averse. I’ve never been one for minimalism, and have embraced all sorts of mess with Arthur so far: the avocado and porridge face packs that come with baby led weaning, the bathroom floor tsunamis in the name of watery fun, the muddy knees (and hands, and noses) of outdoor exploration. But for some reason, despite loving art in all it’s forms and being brought up by a supremely creative mother who facilitated endless projects, I have thus far shied away from adding paint to the list of things Arthur has been allowed to make a mess with.

And this week, I decided it was time that changed. I bit the bullet, got out the various supplies I’ve collected so far, and waited for Arthur to make a mess. Except he didn’t seem all that impressed. It didn’t help that the first thing he did was put the paint-laden brush in his mouth – those embittering agents really don’t taste all that great. I felt a bit guilty for setting him up in his high chair at the spot at the table where he normally eats… Confusing much?

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He seemed vaguely interested in the brushes and stamps I’d been recommended by a friend, but admittedly more in the different sounds they made when he banged them on the table than in what would happen if he put them in contact with the gloopy stuff.

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And he was considerably less impressed when I gave him a helping hand to coat his fingers in said gloopy stuff, appearing to get positively afraid of what it might do as our little art session went on.

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I tried my best to model the messiness, sacrificing any attempt at artistic merit for the sake of lots of smooshing and smearing and slapping. But he really wasn’t having any of it, and in the end I had to admit defeat.

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I’m a little mortified that my reticence to get out the paints for anything other than tightly controlled mummy-led crafts over the past fifteen months might have given Arthur a paint phobia. And for that reason alone I will most definitely be persevering. I’m thinking next time we should scrap the high chair, and just free things up with paper on the floor. I admit I’m cringing a little as I write that with thoughts of baby paint handprints over everything the minute my back is turned, but if that’s the sacrifice I have to make then so be it.

If all goes to plan, there should be plenty of messy, paint-splattered posts in the weeks and months to come. Wish us luck! It’ll be fun, right?

 

The Reading Residence