“We’re making mushroom soup!” The call came from a tucked away mud-kitchen microspace at Honeycomb Kids Preschool in Richmond. The heavy rain had made prime soup-making and fishing conditions at the mud hole. Students counted as they transferred cups of water from one container to another, watched where the water flowed when they dumped buckets, rolled in the mud, and experimented splashing with different tools. 

Director Ellen Kraft sees the benefits of this open-ended play, “What they are doing right now (dumping and pouring water) they can do this all day, but they’re only going to build with legos for maybe 7 minutes, 10 if they’re really focused. They can dump and pour for hours. So here we’re really strengthening their ability to follow through on something, have a creative idea, expand their attention span.”

Ellen explains, “When children are learning in nature, their play is truly developmentally appropriate. The children know what they need. They know how to interact with the natural materials that are all naturally open-ended…sticks and trees and grass, and everything around us. Every stick can become anything, all of these tall grasses can become anything … So I feel like we’re honoring their independence, their psychology and their disposition. It’s just honored in such a visceral way.”

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