One of my all-time favourite ways to encourage authentic, independent play is to get outside. Why? Because I can almost guarantee that my children will gravitate towards the ‘mud kitchen’ for a daily dose of imaginative play. Whether they are making a potion or ‘food’ there’s always some way to get creative with play whilst outdoors.
So what’s the deal with a mud kitchen, is it expensive?
Short answer, yes it can be if you decide to order something bespoke, but it needn’t be. If you’re handy with tools, or know someone who is, then you can always DIY one. There are plenty of instructions to follow over on Pinterest.
I ordered ours via Amazon – I opted for a cheaper brand because we move countries every few years. I’m not going to recommend the brand because it hasn’t weathered very well. That being said, it does still do the job.
How to get started?
To be honest, all you really need to get started with a mud kitchen is an old wooden table or bench (you could use outdoor varnish to preserve it) and a collection of old kitchen equipment. If your children love it and you feel like splurging on a bespoke mud kitchen later on down the line, then go for it!
When we replaced our ancient pots and pans with some shiny new ones, the older stuff made it’s way into the mud kitchen instead of getting thrown away at the local tip. The children love using the real deal and it helps add some authenticity to their play. It’s also a good way to save money too!
Why is a mud kitchen beneficial?
The main benefit is that a mud kitchen will help to encourage authentic play. It’s particularly great for when your children are entering the realm of make believe ‘dramatic play.’ You can read all about the benefits of dramatic play here.
Other benefits include:
- Easy ‘sensory play‘ option. Sensory play is important and there’s no better way to embrace it than to be outside engaging with natural resources!
- Language development – playing pretend, learning new vocabulary, playing with siblings /other children
- Early math – counting ingredients, capacity, volume, weight etc
- Hand-eye coordination – pouring ingredients, adding water and so on
- Fine motor skills – stirring potions, using tongs, grating chalks.
- Learning about the world – children make sense of their everyday world by emulating what they see.
- Simply being outside! Children need at least 2 hours outside each day. Playing in a mud kitchen is an easy way to pass that time.
You can learn more about the benefits of being outdoors here.
20 of Our Favourite Mud Kitchen Resources
Okay, so have I convinced you to create a mud kitchen? If I have, then it’s time to get collecting resources. Some of these are seasonal and it might also depend on what part of the world you live in.
- Old (rust free) pots, pans and baking trays
- Water dispenser
- Kitchen utensils – wooden spoon, whisk, spatula, tongs
- Cheese grater
- Flowers – fresh or dried
- Conkers (you can soak these in vinegar and bake them to preserve – we’ve had ours for years!)
- Pumpkins, especially mini ones!
- Food colouring
- Small watering cans
- Dirt / mud (check that soil is ‘child-friendly’ and free of pesticides)
- Tea pot & cups
Please always use your best judgement when using everyday and natural resources in play. Small items that might pose a choking hazard risk should not be used with under 3’s. Throw away any items that have gone rusty.
If you want to understand the importance of dramatic play better, click here.
If you want to start a collection of everyday resources, click here
If you want to learn the importance of outdoor play, click here.