I’ve been keen to make a mud kitchen for T for a long time. They’re such a fun way to spend time outdoors, and are brilliant for all kinds of learning opportunities: sensory development; imaginative play; language development; learning about capacity and measuring; and scientific exploration as they mix different materials. When T started at a new nursery last year, I was hearing regularly about the time she had spent in the mud kitchen – and seeing the evidence on her clothes and shoes! So as we start to look to summer I am determined to get something set up for her.
My plans for the mud kitchen have always been somewhat grander than my DIY skills will allow for, and I’m sure it will not come as a surprise to most of you that Pinterest is largely responsible for this. I expect you’ve all seen some really beautiful mud kitchens made from upcycled pallet wood, and at different times I have planned to include inset metal bowls; real taps; or hobs made from log slices!
However, recently I’ve been thinking that actually, whilst any of the above would look lovely sitting in a corner of our garden, having something a little less polished might actually be of more play value. Think ‘loose parts’ on a bigger scale. If, rather than a purpose-built mud kitchen, we simply used some crates, logs or offcuts of wood, these could also easily become a shop counter, doctors surgery, train, or whatever else T chooses to imagine. Providing loose materials which she can use in an open-ended way, rather than something which has a prescribed purpose, opens the door for us to follow her interests and create a much broader range of play experiences.
So, rather than hesitating any longer, I’ve decided to get going with it! I already had some old pans in the garden which I got rid of when I decluttered our kitchen. In the last week, I’ve also picked up some small bowls and balti dishes from Asda (total cost £4), and a couple of utensils from a local charity shop.
T had a lovely time in the garden this week making mud pies! We both spent some time in the garden looking for things to add to her mixture, and included small flowers (mostly weeds!) and a few herbs. The rosemary actually scented the mud really well!
She enjoyed squishing the mixture with her hands (great for developing those muscles needed for fine motor movement!) before adding water.
I fetched her scissors so that she could chop up some of the materials she had collected before adding them to her mixture. T enjoyed talking about what she was creating, and using her utensils to serve us all up some delicious “mud pancakes”!
It’s great to have made a start, but I’m keen to develop the mud kitchen a bit more. I want to keep it low-cost (or even better, no-cost!), so I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for suitable loose parts such as unwanted sturdy crates, small logs and pieces of wood. I’d like to find a way for T to have easy access to water source, and might also look out for some more metal items such as a largish bowl, a jug or a teapot. I may add a few more herbs in to the garden to add to the sensory element of the play. I’d also like to get a small storage box for some of the outdoor toys, to help keep them tidy & protect them from the elements. I’ll do an update later in the year to let you know how we’ve got on!