Mud kitchens - just add water and play!

Benefits of Play  |  3 years ago

Mud kitchens - just add water and play!

Did you ever make mud pies when you were a kid? Take a bucket of dirt, just add water, and stir. If you had an old pie plate or a dish to put your creation in, you had a pie (if you didn’t, then you kept it in the bucket and called it soup).

A mud kitchen, or outdoor play kitchen, is basically a set up for your kids to make a glorious mess, but in this age of technology with so much time spent in front of a screen, it’s also a wonderful escape and a great tool for kids to develop skills and explore their environment.

A mud kitchen is an outdoor area that stores kitchen utensils, buckets of water, dirt, and whatever your kids’ imaginations can come up with - a slightly organized way to play outside in the dirt, really. It’s one of the most old fashioned forms of outdoor play there is, but it provides kids with a host of benefits. Outdoor play kitchens encourage sensory play, imaginative play, and cooperative play. Kids can explore and experiment: how much water do you need to get a good “pie” consistency? How about for “soup”? Can you make it look like tea for a tea party? As simple as it sounds, this requires experimenting, measuring, and observing. Another benefit is that this also requires gripping a pitcher or bowl of water, pouring it out, and scooping up mud or dirt all of which contributes to the development of a child’s fine motor skills and prepares their pencil grip for when they start writing. 

Coming up with ingredients, finding natural items to decorate a cake made of dirt, designing a restaurant, or developing magic potions all encourage children’s creativity, their problem solving skills, and their ability to work with others to execute an idea or to compromise (for instance, how do you solve the question of whether a handful of rocks makes the potion perfect or ruins it?). 

So what do you need for a mud kitchen? If you go on Pinterest, you will find elaborate outdoor play kitchens with real sinks and cabinets and countertops and cute decorations or painted accents. There are some seriously inspirational pins, and if you have time and a good DIY skill set, you could have a lot of fun creating your own Pinterest worthy set up. But it doesn’t need to be that complicated.

So what do you really need for a mud kitchen that will keep your kids engaged? An old cabinet, bookshelf or bookcase is great because it provides a work surface and some storage, but even a couple of boards propped up on bricks or cinder blocks will work. Whatever you use, it’s going to get trashed, so make sure it is something you would otherwise discard. Also, you will want to make sure it’s in a corner of the yard or on a patio that won’t ruin your landscaping or can be hosed off (while we are on the subject, some parents have their kids wear raincoats for playing in the kitchen apparently so they, too, can be hosed off).

Other useful items you can include are: buckets or bowls to hold dirt and water, big spoons, a colander, muffin tins or cake pans, a pitcher or teakettle for pouring, old pots and pans, garden tools, and stuff to help with clean up like a drainer and an old scrub brush. Search the back of your own cabinets or attic, yard sales or flea markets to find any of this stuff at low to no cost. It doesn’t need to be fancy, just unbreakable. Your kids won’t care if it all matches. They will just think it’s cool that you are giving them “real” kitchen equipment to use.

Once you’ve got all the ingredients for your mud kitchen, back away and let the kids have fun creating their own “recipes”. 

We are pretty passionate about getting kids and families outdoors. This isn’t surprising since we are a playset company selling outdoor swingsets and playhouses, but even without a playset, there are plenty of great ways to play outside.

Check out some of these links below for more mud kitchen inspiration:

Rain or Shine Momma, Inspiration from our Mud Kitchen

Around the Thicket, Eight Inspiring Elements for Mud Kitchens

Rhubarb and Wren, How to Magic Up a Perfectly-Imperfect Mud Kitchen Today!

1001 Gardens, 20 Mud Kitchen Ideas for Kids