Hey there, lovely mama!
You believe that creativity expressed outdoors is as good for the soul as it is for the body. I hear you! Some of my fondest childhood memories include climbing trees, exploring in the woods, and making mud pies.
There was something about being — just being — outside that grounded me and awakened my imagination to a world beyond my own. Yes, life was simpler among the trees and dirt. And that’s one of the reasons I want my children to have plenty of free outdoor play: I know it’s good for them.
Raleigh, NC has the neatest little outdoor play center. You take a hike down a winding path to arrive at this enchanted clearing nestled in the woods. I enjoyed taking my toddler there to play in the awesome outdoor play areas, one of which was a mud kitchen!
Sophia, who was three at the time, enjoyed the center so much that I wanted to give her that same experience in our backyard using items we already had on hand.
She spent hours in this makeshift space, using her imagination, getting dirty, and inviting me into her pretend world of tea and soup creations.
We’ve since sold our city home and have been RVing full-time. And while I might’ve imagined she misses her room or our living area where she used to play, the single thing she ever mentions missing is… her mud kitchen!
I wanted to share this post and tutorial because I want to show you how something so simple can bring hours of fun, joy, and memories for littles. And it doesn’t have to cost a thing!
Before I get into our no-spend backyard mud kitchen, I want to briefly highlight some of the benefits of mud kitchens for kids.
HOW MUD KITCHENS HELP CHILDREN
Mud kitchens invite children to an extended period of play outside, where sunshine, gentle breezes, and natural elements minister to minds, nourish creativity, and tickle the senses. Stress gets worked out as the children work their hands into dirt and water and make it into mud creations.
SO, HOW DO YOU MAKE A SIMPLE MUD KITCHEN?
1. Scope Out the Best Spot
My goal for the location of the mud kitchen was to find a location that was:
a) shaded so we didn’t have to fear the sun getting too intense
b) fairly level so we could place a table that would be stable
c) and close to a water source so we could easily run the hose to our area
2. Create a Work Space
Since I didn’t have an unused table that would be suitable for outdoor use, I decided to make one. I found two crates, previously used to store garden tools, and an old piece of wood. I spaced the two crates a couple feet apart then placed the piece of wood on top. Because the wood was fairly heavy, it lay there pretty soundly with no need to attach it. If you do something similar, just check the stability and address any issues with a little problem-solving magic (and maybe a hammer and nails).
3. Find a Way to Dispense Water
It’s great to have a water source in your mud kitchen so that you’re easily able to not only make mud but a simple flower tea or acorn soup. You can simply fill up a pitcher on the days you’d like to play, but you may find yourself refilling it often. An even better option is have something to dispense water, such as a cooler or tea/lemonade dispenser.
My sister had given me the cutest glass water/lemonade dispenser. I had used it mostly for hosting events but at the time it was collecting dust. I decided to set it up on one end of the table and simply fill it with a hose as needed.
Sophia felt very grown up placing cups under the dispenser and filling them herself! (Outside is a great place to practice these kinds of skills!) 😉
4. Collect Unused Kitchen Items
I had built up a collection of mugs, tea cups, tea pots, jars, and utensils that I didn’t use much. I stocked her kitchen with these.
5. Forage “Ingredients”
Looking for cooking ingredients became a fun foraging activity for us. We often picked up items from nature walks or around the yard, stored them in little bowls and jars, and used them in our recipes!
6. Make Memories… out of Mud!
We loved the memories we made in our mud kitchen! They are memories that we cherish to this day. I’m wishing the same to you and your littles, and I hope this post showed you just how easy it is to put together. All you need is some creativity and a free afternoon.