Mudpies In the Garden – Our Free Play Experiment

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the benefits of free play and our intention to to be involved in the Petits Filous Free Play Campaign. Free play is allowing the child the chance to explore and make their own decisions during their play. Its something we did a lot of when Monkey was younger. However since he’s got older and we’ve had another child I hadn’t realised we had slipped into an environment where he turns to the TV more than he should. The slighting alarming thing is when he’s not watching TV he’s watching unboxing videos on youtube. Living in such a structured environment and now being at school means that a lot of his play activities are structured too. I know its affecting him as he has started mentioning the lack of ‘free play’ at school when I pick him up.

Petits Filous challenged us to take part on the boredom challenge. To turn the TV off and see what happened. So we did just that. Monkey declared he wanted to make mudpies. Something we have not done for a long time… So we headed outside in the rain and cold to make mudpies. Only I didn’t get involved at all, I bit my tongue and sat on my hands and let him figure things out for himself. I was totally amazed by the amount of time we spent in the garden. Monkey’s attention span can be a little challenging at times, but it was me that had to drag him inside after an hour and twenty minutes. I think if Kipper hadn’t woken from his nap then we may have been out there for longer. Although we were both frozen, Monkey not realising how cold he was until we were inside as he had been totally lost in his play.

I took a lot of video to try and understand what he was doing and his points of learning. There are a few which really stick out;

  • At one point Monkey decided that he wanted to get some more water for his mixture. He took the mini saucepan to the tap and filled it up. Then struggled to keep the water in it as he returned to his play. Next time he decided to take the watering can as it was easier to transport water. I found this whole process a bit of a challenge, I wanted to jump in and suggest the watering can straight away.
  • On his first mixture Monkey remarked that the sand he had been mixing in had disappeared. This is because there was only a small amount of sand to the mud. When he came to mix up another he used much less mud and added the mud to the sand instead of the other way around. This meant he got the outcome he wanted.
  • Mid way through the play process he decided that the mixture was too watery. Instinctively he started ripping handfuls of grass up. He added the grass to the mixture to thicken it up and get closer to the desired consistency.

As part of the experiment I got to chat through Monkey’s mudpie play session and the outcomes with parenting expert Anita Cleare. She explained to me that free play is so important because it allows children to naturally loose track of time. By getting lost in their moments of play they are in effect practicing mindfullness. These sorts of activities don’t happen at school much once they reach Year 1. Which explains why Monkey is struggling with the lack of ‘free flow’ when I pick him up in the evenings.

Anita explained that my observations above demonstrate Monkey going through a process of trial and error. He is assessing what he did, what has happened as a result, and if this met his requirements, yes or no? If not then he is looking to change something or enhance something such as adding the grass to bind the mixture. Not only is he learning elements of Science. He is also using his problem solving skills. Take the watering can example, because he is learning through experience it will stick in his head more than if I had given him the solution. Anita suggested that if he were to do the same thing again then its likely he would go straight for the watering can as he has learnt the solution to the problem himself. This is so important as he will now transfer this learning to other environments and problems.

She also suggested that its important for them to get outside. Letting Monkey get as muddy as he wants allows him to experience a lot more than the obvious. The outside environment changes all the time, nature is not a constant. Children do not get as bored outside as they would inside because they can extend their play by themselves. New things can happen because of its random variability. This definitely seems to have happened in our experiment, as he was more than happy outside and his play was extended long past his normal attention span. He also decided to start to pick different types of leaves from the garden to decorate his creation. I was surprised by just how many colours he found.

I am really glad we took part in this campaign. Its reminded me what is important. I am going to be making more of an effort to ensue there are opportunities for free play for the boys. I am also going to ensure I say no less and watch what happens. This whole experience has really helped us bond over mud, building on our relationship, something Monkey has been missing since his little brother came along. It was lovely to look through a little window into his world and I for one can’t wait to do it again. 

Once back inside after making mudpies Monkey declared he was hungry. He asked for some of the Petits Filous pots in the fridge. Petits Filous provides Monkey with the goodness of calcium and vitamin D, for healthy bones*. I didn’t realise that children can not make calcium so its important that they get it through their diet. The easiest way to do this is to ensure they get three portions of calcium a day. Although yogurts and fromage frais contain calcium not all have vitamin D. Petits Filous are fortified with vitamin D which means they now contain 50% of the recommend daily allowance of vitamin D. You can learn more about the nutritional benefits of Petits Filous at petitsfilous.co.uk.

The Petits Filous little pots which are great for at home and just the right size for Monkey. Not only does Monkey enjoy them but a recent Change4Life campaign launched by Public Heath England recommends Petits Filous with less than 100 calories per serving as a healthy snack for kids!**

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I am working with Petit Filous and Britmums promoting the #PetitsFilousPlayFree campaign about the importance of free play.

*EU Authorised Claim: ‘Calcium and vitamin D are needed for normal growth and development of bone in children’

***on specific variants: Petits Filous Strawberry & Raspberry Fromage Frais 6 x 47g, Petits Filous Strawberry & Apricot Fromage Frais 6 x 47g, Petits Filous Strawberry & Banana Fromage Frais 6 x 47g, Petits Filous Strawberry Fromage Frais 6 x 47g,Petits Filous Strawberry & Raspberry Fromage Frais 4 x 85g, Petits Filous Strawberry & Apricot Fromage Frais 4 x 85g,My First Petits Filous 6 x 47g, Petits Filous Magic Squares Strawberry & Vanilla 4 x 80g, Petits Filous Magic Squares Raspberry & Vanilla 4 x 80g, Petits Filous Strawberry Pouch 1 x 70g, Petits Filous Raspberry Pouch 1 x 70g,Petits Filous Strawberry & Raspberry Yoghurt 4 x 100g

89 Comments

  1. February 7, 2018 / 7:08 am

    We love Petits Filous, but we love free play even more. It’s lovely to see kids get out in the garden too and make a bit of a mess. I’ve very fond memories of being let loose in the garden and making mud pies. Kids can be their most creative when allowed to be a bit bored and find their own entertainment – usually without the need for expensive toys and gadgets too. Imagination and fresh air are the best play tools. #BloggerClubUK

    • February 15, 2018 / 7:17 am

      Couldn’t agree more! I use to love making Mudpies with my younger brother. Thanks for stopping by

  2. February 7, 2018 / 7:20 am

    I love this campaign. It’s so easy to take over and try to “manage” their play but it just shows how beneficial free play can be.

    • February 7, 2018 / 7:20 am

      #bloggerclubuk

      • February 15, 2018 / 7:18 am

        I had got into a guilty habit of doing just that! Thanks for stopping by x

  3. February 7, 2018 / 8:02 am

    I love free play for kids, really lets their imagination shine and feeds their natural curiosity! #BloggerClubUK

    • February 15, 2018 / 7:19 am

      Now we’ve started again I keep looking for the opportunities for them to do just that. It’s made such a difference to their mentality x

  4. February 7, 2018 / 11:35 am

    This is so great and wonderful to see. I must admit, we too have fallen into the routine you mentioned above. Free play is something we need to get back at.
    #BloggerClubUK

    Jemma x

    • February 15, 2018 / 7:20 am

      It’s so easy to do. I hadn’t realised until this campaign came along just how much free play we didn’t do!

  5. February 7, 2018 / 1:05 pm

    More children need to do this!!! Get muddy. Mix potions. Create! #bloggerclubUK

    • February 15, 2018 / 7:20 am

      Monkey keeps asking for our next time!! Couldn’t agree more x

  6. February 7, 2018 / 1:24 pm

    L loves free play and I hope that continues. For me it’s a great time to get stuff done so I’m not tempted to interfere #bloggerclubuk

    • February 15, 2018 / 7:21 am

      Ha ha yes! It’s great isn’t it. I had forgotten about the benefits to us too x

  7. February 7, 2018 / 2:14 pm

    Oh wow your son looks like he’s having such a good time! Embracing free (and messy) play provides our children with fun learning opportunities 🙂 #BloggerClubUK

    • February 15, 2018 / 7:21 am

      He loved getting covered in mud. Although it all went straight in the machine when we got in!

  8. Sarah - Mud, Cakes and Winw
    February 7, 2018 / 3:10 pm

    I love messy outdoor play. My boys just want water and create a flood all the time. Can not wait for the weather to warm up a little though #bloggerclubuk

    • February 15, 2018 / 7:22 am

      Yes it was pretty cold! Much more fun in the warm from my perspective!

  9. February 7, 2018 / 9:30 pm

    I love this and believe that freeplay is so important. I notice that my son solves problems really creatively if I leave him to it. I really enjoy just sitting and watching him. A child’s mind works in wonderful and unexpected ways!

    • February 15, 2018 / 7:24 am

      I was super impressed with Monkeys problem solving skills. I hadn’t sat and watched them for a long time. I was totally engrossed!

  10. February 8, 2018 / 6:24 pm

    I bet it was so difficult to let him play and not jump in, I would’ve found it really difficult. My youngest loves Petit Filous. 🙂
    #BloggerClubUK

    • February 15, 2018 / 7:25 am

      Yes I did! Espically when he used the saucepan to carry water instead of the watering can. But I’m learning and glad I didn’t x

  11. February 8, 2018 / 10:14 pm

    Love how children develop so much when free play is around or they are left to their own devices to an extent. As a home educator, I was amazed to see how boredom leads to creativity and also how passions emerge and very individual ones than that. Oh, and you cannot beat the fun of mudpies! #BloggerClubUK

    • February 15, 2018 / 7:26 am

      It’s fasinating, trying to do more of this at home even with the hectic lives we lead x

  12. A.E. ADKINS
    February 10, 2018 / 9:54 am

    This is fab, love that it was “dirty” too! I don’t think that some parents realise how their offsprings creativity is stunted by organised activities or their micromanagement. Give them a large cardboard box and watch them live, sail, drive or zoom away.

    • February 15, 2018 / 7:27 am

      Quite often the cardboard box is more fun than the toy itself!

  13. Ashleigh Allan
    February 10, 2018 / 10:10 am

    Love this kids love playing like this

  14. Margaret Gallagher
    February 10, 2018 / 10:49 am

    Great for fueling young imaginations through fun and play

  15. February 10, 2018 / 1:08 pm

    Mudpies – well that’s a blast from the past. Have to get out there and do those ourselves – when it’s a bit warmer! Your photos are great!

    • February 15, 2018 / 7:29 am

      I know being a child of the 80s this is all we did in the Summer along with making rose perfume!

  16. Tracy Nixon
    February 10, 2018 / 5:04 pm

    More children need to be outside freeplaying like us adults did when we were little! I remember skipping, playing hopscotch, making perfume from petals and jumping in puddles…..happy days!

    • February 15, 2018 / 7:30 am

      Oh yes the rose perfume! I loved it although I’m not sure my mum liked the fact her roses were destroyed!

    • February 15, 2018 / 7:31 am

      It’s not something I had really thought about until this campaign but you can really see the difference.

  17. February 11, 2018 / 4:35 pm

    I’m a firm believer in letting our daughter get bored! And I love quietly observing as she finds her own way. The creativity that comes out in various forms when she’s bored are possibly the most treasured moments, by both of us! #bloggerclubuk

    • February 15, 2018 / 7:32 am

      I had never thought about it until now but that’s so true!

  18. February 11, 2018 / 7:07 pm

    I love this! My husband is a nursery manager and he has always promoted the importance of free play both at work and at home. It can be hard at times not to step in but the kids really do get more from it if you don’t!

    • February 15, 2018 / 7:32 am

      I’m learning not to step in. He must be full of lots of great ideas for play.

  19. February 12, 2018 / 6:11 am

    Oh this looks like so much fun. Seren and Macsen LOVE making mudpies! And how appropriate for your blog name! 😀

    • February 15, 2018 / 7:33 am

      Ha ha I know! I’m surprised it’s taken almost three years to write about them though!

  20. February 12, 2018 / 9:38 am

    Being outside is so important for the littles and it’s such a great place to experiment with trial and error I’m looking forward to our daughter reaping the benefits of the freedom of outdoor play once the big freeze is over!

    • February 15, 2018 / 7:34 am

      Oh I know I could do do with some sun! Then I think he will be out there everyday with the toddler too x

  21. February 12, 2018 / 10:29 am

    I really struggle with my kids getting messy. I do my best to try and encourage it but inside i’m squirming! I need to make more effort to overcome my hang ups!

    • February 15, 2018 / 7:36 am

      I literally just put everything straight into the machine. He gets undressed in the conservatory so it doesn’t even get in the house!!

  22. Susan B
    February 12, 2018 / 4:37 pm

    An interesting post and very thoughtful and observant comments. It took me back to my childhood. Thanks for sharing.

  23. February 12, 2018 / 5:23 pm

    There are certainly lots of benefits to being outside and taking part in free play. #BloggerClubUK

    • February 15, 2018 / 7:40 am

      I didn’t realise how many until we took part in this campaign!

  24. February 12, 2018 / 7:01 pm

    We always make sure to have some Petit Filous in the fridge. Jack loves outdoor free play and I can’t wait to start introducing Olivia to playing outside when she is a little bit older.

    • February 15, 2018 / 7:41 am

      They are My belts go to snack now when he gets home. He particularly likes the pouches.

  25. February 12, 2018 / 9:21 pm

    Yep! Kids need to be out and about playing. I know it’s tricky these days but finding a safe open space can work wonders.

    • February 15, 2018 / 7:41 am

      Couldn’t agree more. There’s so much they can get up to in the back garden!

  26. February 12, 2018 / 10:21 pm

    We love free play and encourage it. My daughter loves to make things with boxes. She has such a good imagination and I’d love her to keep it 🙂

    • February 15, 2018 / 7:43 am

      Boxes are wonderful! They are often more fun than the toys themselves. We’ve had all sorts of things built in our front room x

  27. February 13, 2018 / 12:13 pm

    Nothing beats getting dirty outdoors. I’m 41 and I still love it! 😀

    • February 15, 2018 / 7:43 am

      Ha ha me too. And I find the kids love it when you get messy with them.

  28. February 13, 2018 / 2:56 pm

    I use to love making mud pies and I’m rather happy that my kids do too lol

    • February 15, 2018 / 7:44 am

      It’s such a classic childhood memory isn’t it!

  29. February 13, 2018 / 9:46 pm

    I’ve really loved reading this! Free play is so important. I keep seeing this Petit Filous campaign and I’ve loved reading about how it’s working for all the families involved. Since I saw the first post I’ve started to instigate it in my home life too. We are now turning off the TV and the difference it’s making to my daughter is huge. At first I found it really hard not to get involved and suggest things for her to do, but now I’m glad I didn’t. Her imaginative play has increased ten fold. It’s amazing how much Monkey learnt from free play in the garden and by just experimenting by himself. It sounds like he had such a great time and I love how he used trial and error to get the results he wanted. I also didn’t know that kids can’t make calcium. We LOVE Petit Filous so it’s great to hear they contain 50% of the Vitamin D they need. 🙂 xxxx

    • February 15, 2018 / 7:46 am

      Oh Chloe that’s wonderful I am so pleased. I really struggle not to get involved but as you say it makes such a difference. Thank you for taking the time to stop by xx

  30. February 14, 2018 / 1:07 pm

    At times I do feel guilty when my children say they are bored.

    This campaign is really valuable not only to highlight the importance of play but to reassure us as parents too.

    It’s made me realise I don’t need to step in, suggest or direct like I do and moving forward I will be much more aware of this.

    I adore the adventures they got up to! My children would love this!

    • February 15, 2018 / 7:47 am

      It’s been really valuable. I am such a control freak and I hadn’t realise what an impact I was having on his play x

  31. February 14, 2018 / 3:41 pm

    I love how you created muddies! The pictures are fab and free play is so important, what a wonderful campaign.

    • February 15, 2018 / 7:48 am

      Couldn’t agree more it’s realky changed my outlook on play and the TV!

  32. February 14, 2018 / 7:56 pm

    This is such a lovely post to read. The lyrics ‘mud, mud, glorious mud’ kept running through my head while I was reading it! Beautiful pictures, too.

    • February 15, 2018 / 7:49 am

      Ha ha! I think I am going to be thinking about that all day now!

  33. February 14, 2018 / 8:49 pm

    He looks like he was having such a great time. Neither of mine are big fans of mud but I have to admit they may partly because I’ve never encouraged them with messy play! Toby’s imaginative play has come on so much since he started school – it’s a shame the free play spirit of Reception stops when they get into Year 1.

    • February 15, 2018 / 7:50 am

      I know he’s really struggled with the transition and I hadn’t realised how much until we did this campaign. Needless to say the washing machine is in non stop now ….

  34. February 14, 2018 / 10:48 pm

    I feel like a terrible parent as I have never shown mine how to make mud pies! I think that is tomorrow morning sorted!

    • February 15, 2018 / 7:51 am

      I am sure you are not alone. Hope you have a great time. I’ve not introduced Kipper yet so be interested to see how your youngest gets on. I have visions of him eating it!! Boys!

  35. February 15, 2018 / 8:04 pm

    I love how much the kids can learn just by playing with some mud! So much more fun than learning with a workbook too x

    • Mudpie Fridays
      Author
      February 19, 2018 / 9:44 pm

      I totally agree, Monkey is mud mad! x

  36. February 16, 2018 / 9:00 am

    Omg! My idea of hell as it is so dirty lol. But sometimes they just want to have fun and they can learn so much with free play. I think sometimes we put to much pressure on ourselves to always entertain them though. Nothing wrong with them being on their own or just relax with cartoons or a book!

    • Mudpie Fridays
      Author
      February 19, 2018 / 9:45 pm

      I was totally doing this, applying all this pressure when I didnt need to. I am now putting pressure on myself to make sure he gets enough unstructured playtime! lol x

  37. February 16, 2018 / 11:17 pm

    I love this post – I was really interested to read about the watering can, I definitely struggled with not jumping in and making suggestions but it was just lovely to see Rose work stuff out on her own. So glad your guys enjoyed the challenge

    • Mudpie Fridays
      Author
      February 19, 2018 / 9:46 pm

      It was a great challenge and I am so glad we got involved. The watering can still makes me giggle! x

  38. Stevie
    February 21, 2018 / 7:07 pm

    That’s a messy old play day.

  39. Iris Tilley
    February 22, 2018 / 9:23 am

    Oh Crikey I use to love making mud pies can’t beat free play

  40. February 23, 2018 / 12:16 pm

    I love how kids can have the best of toys and still enjoy just playing with mud. It looks like yours had loads of fun. Thanks for taking part in the campaign Commenting on behalf of myself and BritMums.

  41. Margaret Clarkson
    February 26, 2018 / 8:03 am

    This is the kind of thing I would have done as a child. It’s good that parents are making a concerted effort to get back to this kind of playing, it’s so beneficial for children to use their imagination and decide things for themselves. Your photographs are great.

  42. Carrie Talbot-Ashby
    February 26, 2018 / 12:31 pm

    I love this 🙂 I home educate my four kids so free play is something we do a lot. I have found the more bored they get, the more imaginitive they get! Last week my girls wanted to make a mud angel, lol. We found their oldest clothes, went to the field that has just been dug over, I poured two litres of water over it and they got to work (though I did insist on hats lol) they had a great time….my bathroom will never be the same again but hey ho! 😉 x

  43. Jeanette Leighton
    March 3, 2018 / 10:48 am

    Nothing quite like making mudpies I have vivid memories of making them I’m too worried about germs to let my kiddies ATM ? as they catch everything going

  44. Sarah Haynes
    March 4, 2018 / 7:34 am

    This looks like a lot of fun! My children would definitely love this. Especially my son who lives getting messy

  45. Natalie Crossan
    March 4, 2018 / 10:36 pm

    My gosh ,how unimaginative do I feel reading all these comments – I’ve never heard of a mudpie!

  46. Kayleigh Watkins
    March 4, 2018 / 11:33 pm

    I love my children playing and getting dirty exploring nature, children grow up to quick, they should be allowed to discover and play xXx

  47. Tracy B
    November 29, 2018 / 1:50 pm

    Absolutely love this! I need to remember that play can be free too.

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