We've been spending lots of time outside in our garden the past few weeks, trying to make the most of the mild weather while avoiding the crowds. I've been potting on and planting out the last of our veggies and flowers, pruning and clearing, and generally pottering about. Bean has been splashing about in our pool, tending to her guinea pigs, swinging on her gymnastics bar and making all sorts of wonderful 'offerings' in her mud kitchen.
Do you have a mud kitchen in your garden? Mud kitchen play offers children of all ages a unique opportunity to learn and develop, while connecting with nature outdoors. You can read all about the benefits of a mud kitchen here. Did you know that recent studies have revealed that mud contains microscopic bacteria called Mycobacterium Vaccae which increases the levels of seratonin in our brains? No wonder children are so happy playing in their mud kitchens!
You will need:
A work surface - This could be a purpose built mud kitchen (something simple such as this or something more upmarket, such as this, both of which have excellent reviews). Or, perhaps you are handy, or you have someone in your family or wider community who is handy, who could help you to make a mud kitchen?
Bean's Daddy made her a mud kitchen (see photos above, taken last summer) out of recycled pallets and a pre-loved stainless steel sink when she was a toddler. Now that she has outgrown it, we have passed it on to a friend and are using an old cable reel which I have covered with a waterproof oilcloth (I used a staple gun to secure the oilcloth to the cable reel). In my experience, children benefit from ample work surface space (in much the same way as we do when working in the kitchen) which is often lacking in purpose built mud kitchens.
An alternative could be that you invest in a Tuff Tray, with or without a stand, which is more open-ended as it can be used for lots of other outdoor/messy/small world play invitations. If you are on a budget, or have limited space, a smaller tray such as this works well. Both trays can be placed on a low table, or directly on the ground. I've also seen sweet little table top kitchens, like this one, used outdoors for mud kitchen play.
Here are a few examples of mud kitchens that I've seen online over the past few weeks. There's so much inspiration out there, and mud kitchens to suit all budgets and spaces.
Suggested mud kitchen resources:
A large cauldron or saucepan - for making BIG soups, great for gross motor work.
Saucepans - lightweight
A frying pan or small wok
A colander and/or sieve
A baking tray
A muffin tin
Crockery and cutlery
A tea pot and tea cups
A pestle and mortar
Utensils, such as a potato masher, whisk, ladle, large serving spoons, pastry brush, measuring spoons.
Ice cube trays
Scissors (if age appropriate) for cutting grass, flowers and herbs fresh from the garden.
There's really no need to buy these items new. Ask family and friends who may be decluttering their kitchens, and others in your local community. Buy second hand at car boot sales or charity shops. Look on Freecycle, Facebook marketplace or Gumtree.
Mud - if you're buying this in, what you need is top soil.
Clay - beware of those that contain plastic.
Herbs (fresh from the garden, or out of date dry herbs from your pantry)
Fruit and vegetable scraps
Natural loose parts such as pine cones, pebbles, shells, seeds.
Would you like instructions for more simple, fun, low cost, low waste, open-ended and child led play invitations, suitable for the summer months? Ideas that require minimal resources, often using materials that you will already have in your supplies, or that are readily available to you at little to no cost?
Read all about my 31 Days of Summer Play collection here. Suitable for girls and boys, from 2 years (with close supervision) up to around 7/8 years, with older siblings and adults often joining in too. Check out the hashtag #31daysofsummerplay on Instagram to see some of the activities in action last summer.
Let me know if you have any questions about mud kitchen play, or about my 31 Days of Summer Play collection. I'm working towards releasing a 31 Days of Process Art collection for August, which I can't wait to share with you!
This blog post contains affiliate links. If you do click through, Bean and I will receive a small amount of commission which will contribute to new books and resources for her home education. You can, however, find all of these resources elsewhere, including other online retailers, second hand selling pages and your local library.