How to Create an affordable mud kitchen
Here’s our ‘How To’ guide to help you create an affordable mud kitchen for your little ones.
Mud kitchens provide so much more than your average “soil digging” experience. A mud kitchen provides a variety of elements such as a much loved domestic and cooking area, all of which are enriched by purely being outside! Mud kitchens are great also because they can be used all year and in all weathers.
Remember they don’t need to be fancy or expensive. There is nothing simpler than creating a kitchen using old kitchen items from friends, family or even our local charity shops.
Choose the location
Firstly find a suitable location in your garden. It needs to have ample supply of basic materials such as sand, water and mud. Offering both sand and mud provides a great contrast in colour and texture which is great when they’re mixing those mud pies together. Being located near a sand pit/ mud patch may give the kitchen more meaning but even big pots of these materials are perfect too as long as they are floor level.
Mud kitchens which have walls/ fences provide the opportunity to hang your resources such as utensils/ hanging pots or just even having them on a shelf make it feel more like a kitchen and better to use. A cosy corner just creates a room like environment that feels safe. Research suggests this is good for creating dramatic play.
A water supply is essential but does not need to be in the kitchen or even close by. Children love nothing more than transporting water using a variety of containers. It’s important here to make sure you do provide a variety of containers (different shapes and sizes) and have a water source, such as an outdoor tap/hose/water butt or a large container of water.
Gravel, pebbles and other natural materials are also a great companion for making in your mud kitchens.
Plants are also an important part of a mud kitchen. These can be taken from anywhere as long as children have the permission to pick and gather.
Make sure the space feels comfortable for the amount of children who will be using the kitchen. Having space for several children to work alongside each other is ample. Large open plan kitchen areas may create more boisterous actions.
Enclosure from fences/walls can create a good mud kitchen feel.
Working surfaces are a crucial aspect of a mud kitchen. Remember to make sure these are the right height for the children and provide enough space work at.
Remember to consider where the old mixed material is going after use in the kitchen.
Fitting Out Your Kitchen
Fitting out your kitchen can be simply done by using old kitchen items from your own home. Make sure you have something that will be the cooker (using an old microwave) can be very effective provides children with buttons and the opportunity to open and close doors.
A good selection of pots and pans, jugs, funnels and bakeware. This will provide children with endless opportunities in their creations.
Plenty of bowls and containers such as jelly moulds/ice cube trays.
Enhancements suitable for occasions such as adding food colouring to water or essence to provide a new smells.
A big washing up bowl usually sunk into a work surface is a very helpful part of the play and great for washing their hands afterwards.
Keeping it safe and healthy
First foremost children must be kept safe whilst they have access to these important experiences. Our role is to ensure we manage their play safely.
Contact with soil is beneficial for children as the bacteria in it can help build healthy, functioning immune systems in young children.
Soil can however carry harmful pathogens and care to ensure contamination from cat/dog faeces is extremely important. Using a purchased loam topsoil rather than using soil from your backyard is beneficial and will reduce the risk. These can be purchased from any nursery/garden centre.
Handwashing is an essential aspect of playing in this way. Make sure this is established as a routine when initially setting up your mud kitchen.
Make sure children stay warm and comfortable as mud kitchen play is usually a wet experience. Having waterproof clothing for cooler weather and well in the warm weather its up to you.
Remember it doesn’t have to be expensive! Just have fun!
Written by Emma Weir