A mud kitchen can be messy but it can also be great fun, what child doesn’t love mixing up a mud pie? For younger children, mud kitchens can also provide a whole variety of different learning opportunities including sensory, imaginative, creative and exploratory play. Being outdoors gives children the chance to connect and learn about nature, to be creative and invent their own role play games and can even allow opportunities for early maths and science activities.
Mud kitchens are recognised as a key activity for younger children for forest school, a philosophy which is becoming increasingly due to the benefits of allowing all children to develop self esteem through outdoor learning.
Mud kitchens offer so much more than just the chance to explore mud and get messy. Playing outdoors in this way, helps to increase confidence and gives the chance for creativity, role play, collaboration and communication. Most importantly, whilst outdoors in a mud kitchen, you will notice that children are rarely anything other than happy and contented.
Creating a mud kitchen is quite straight forward. Here is how we created our mud kitchen.
The summer is always great for mud kitchens and outdoor learning but there is no need to limit it to warm sunny days. With the right warm and waterproof clothing, children should be able to enjoy outdoor learning for much of the year.
You don’t need a forest school environment to create your own mud kitchen. A mud kitchen can be situated in almost any outdoor area but there are a few things to consider when deciding where to place:
- Barriers like fences, hedges or walls can help to define your mud kitchen area giving it more contexts.
- Water supply – a mud kitchen does not need to be near to a water source as children will enjoy filling containers with water and transporting them. If there is not an accessible source of water, a larger container with a tap or water butt is a good option.
- Situating near to a sand pit will give children easy access to some of the materials that they will need and give the kitchen context.
Simplicity is the key to a great mud kitchen allowing the children plenty of scope for using their imagination. There are just a few essentials:
Mud is the key ingredient for any mud kitchen. Children can mix up their own mud in a variety of colours, consistencies and textures using bagged top soil, compost, sand, gravel and water. If there isn’t a nearby mud patch or sand patch, you can make these materials easy for children to access with big pots at floor level. For health reasons, it is important that soil has not been contaminated by animal faeces so soil from an open flower bed is not suitable. It is also important to think about how you will prevent cats from visiting your mud kitchen area when not in use. A tarpaulin weighted down at the edges should do the trick.
You will also need
• An outdoor kitchen unit
• Waterproof clothing, overalls/ aprons to protect clothes
• Pots, Pans and containers for mixing
• Kitchen utensils – these could be sticks, spoons etc
Although children don’t usually need much more than these essentials, for additional inspiration and possibilities you could try adding:
• Herbs or other plants including grass or flower petals. These are great for adding to concoctions or decorating mud pies.
• Containers or watering cans for transporting water
• Additional natural materials for adding to mud pies e.g. shells and pine cones
• Gardening gloves can be good for some children that are worried about getting their hands dirty or for very cold weather.
• A blackboard is great for turning your mud kitchen into a role play café.
A big thank you to the children that helped to create and try out our mud kitchen with plenty of splashing, pouring, squishing, mashing, stirring, patting and splatting!
A mud kitchen covers a number of different areas of the EYFS framework:
Communication and Language
• Talking, listening, describing and discussing what they are doing.
• Answering open questions about how they are making mud pies and what they are doing.
• Communicating with other children through role play games.
• Running, jumping and moving about in an outdoor area.
• Filling up, carrying and using water cans and kitchen utensils.
• Health and self-care – discussing the importance of washing hands after playing outdoors.
• Developing self confidence by creating their own games and ideas for play.
• Developing relationships with other children through playing games and role play.
• Writing recipes for mud pies and writing on menus for a mud kitchen cafe.
• Letter writing in mud or sand with sticks.
• Measuring water and other materials for mud pies.
• Using money in a mud pie cafe.
Understanding the World
• Exploring the properties, colours and textures of mud and discovering how the ingredients affect properties.
• Experiencing and discussing nature.
Art and design
• Mud paintings and outdoor art. (read our outdoor art post for more ideas)
Do you have a mud kitchen? We would love to know how the children have been using it for learning and play. Please leave a comment below.
Additional Mud Kitchen Resources
ABC Does – Make a Mud Kitchen – It’s a Must
Twinkl – Mud Pie Kitchen / Café Resources
Small Steps – The Benefits of Mud Play
Creative Star Learning – Let’s Get Cooking in a Mud Kitchen
Worms Eyeview – EYFS Learning Opportunities – Mud Kitchen