A child care worker and SENCo and behaviour specialist from Ramsgate is taking parents and children back to basics with a plastic-free, ‘upcycled’ garden space for climbing, mud kitchen fun, bug hotel exploration and more.
Mum and former nursery manager Laura Rayner says the Muddy Monsters site in Westbrook means children can play and learn using natural resources -instead of rigid, plastic toy items.
She said: “Muddy Monsters is a natural, up-cycled garden space where adults and children can explore and discover together.
“Muddy Monsters is filled with endless open ended resources that enable children to use their imaginations with no limitations. As an adult we see a stick as a stick but to a child that stick is a wand, a guitar, a horse, a sword, a treasure finder and more.
“The mud kitchen is filled with metal saucepans and utensils, real vegetables, mud, water, flowers and fresh herbs. This creates so many sensory experiences, the smells, the textures, the colours, the way they crush and mix, plastic resources don’t have any of these.
“There’s climbing opportunities for a range of ages, all made by my talented dad out of pallets, tyres, car steering wheels, old school chairs.
“A busy board filled with real switches, cords and locks gives children the opportunity to explore fine motor skills and there is a music board filled with baking trays, tins and bamboo all making different sounds.”
The garden space also has a pipe wall, bug hunting area with a bug hotel, digging area with a hill and real digging tools, a large construction area with cable drums, pipes, logs, wheels, tyres and more for children and adults to explore
Laura said: “There is a small construction area with real life tools such as hammers, screw drivers, nails, hacksaws – children can use these and this allows them to assess the risks and challenges themselves. If you never give a child risks then they never learn how to assess them.
“If a child drops or throws plastic it rarely breaks, but this isn’t real life…..glass breaks, china breaks and children need opportunities to learn how to be careful, be gentle, be soft.
“Plastic feels the same, smells the same and sounds the same but glass, china, wood and metal all smell, look, touch, sound and weigh differently and this captures children’s imagination more intrinsically.”
Laura, who has a 19 year son, a 10 year old step daughter and a 6 year old daughter, says she was driven to open Muddy Monsters to give parents an outdoor area where their children can explore and learn.
She said: “I love the outside, I love seeing how engaged kids are in learning outside and realised that although nurseries do a great job providing outdoor spaces, they are limited by space and regulations.
“I felt there was nowhere really local that gave adults a place to go with their children and just explore in a secure environment – I feel there’s a new school of parents around now who want to go back to basics with their children and use natural resources rather than manufactured plastic toys but there just isn’t really anywhere that offers that around here or helps parents figure out how to do natural and loose parts play with their children.”
The 40-year-old, who also has psychology and early childhood studies qualifications, was offered the Westbrook Avenue space by a friend and is now running the Muddy Monsters sessions.
There are sessions throughout the week and weekends and discounts for more than one child, twins. Childminders and carers get free admission. Parties are also catered for so children can enjoy being outside on their birthday.