Community Playthings is a company that makes furniture for children, and they've got an idea that was once common sense but has now become radical: Let children play outside. Let them make mud pies and get dirty. "Dirt and water are the perfect recipe for hours of creative play," the company writes, "and the Outlast Mud Kitchen is built to handle any amount of mess and drama."
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The Mud Kitchen is a series of outdoor furniture consisting of counters, drain-able sinks, trays, crates and drawers, with the countertops sized at the child-friendly heights of 18 or 22 inches. Tool holders on the side can hold trowels, ladles and other mud-shaping utensils.
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To make the furniture able to withstand the rigors of water, the outdoors and children, hard-wearing (and FSC-certified) Maple is used. The wood is treated with acetic acid--the number two ingredient in vinegar, after water--to increase durability and longevity. As the company explains:
Can wood become weatherproof? Yes! The secret is acetylation. Acetylated wood won't shrink, warp, twist, or rot because its chemical structure is modified to resist the effects of moisture.
The acetylation treatment means that yes, you can leave the furniture in the yard and not have to haul it inside. It also comes with a ten-year warranty, and if your kids are still making mud pies after that length of time, well, that's kind of on you.
Community Playthings has been building furniture for seventy years, and the concept of allowing children to play in dirt is not only sound, it's better for their immune system. If you want to read up on this subject, check out "Dirt Is Good: The Advantage of Germs for Your Child's Developing Immune System." This isn't some kooky anti-vaxxer screed--it was written by Dr. Jack Gilbert, a University of Chicago scientist, Faculty Director of the Microbiome Center (i.e. he studies microbial ecosystems for a living) and a parent.
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Here's an excerpt of an interview with Dr. Gilbert from NPR:
"[In the past we] allowed our children to be exposed to animals and plants and soil on a much more regular basis. Now we live indoors. We sterilize our surfaces. Their immune systems then become hyper-sensitized. You have these little soldier cells in your body called neutrophils, and when they spend too long going around looking for something to do, they become grumpy and pro-inflammatory. And so when they finally see something that's foreign, like a piece of pollen, they become explosively inflammatory. They go crazy. That's what triggers asthma and eczema and often times, food allergies."
Also check out more of Community Playthings' products here.