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How to adapt your outdoor area to incorporate a mud kitchen

How to adapt your outdoor area to incorporate a mud kitchen
April 28, 2015 Peter Samuel

“Mud kitchens provide something quite different to a soil digging patch, whilst also being much more easily managed. A mud kitchen includes elements of the much-loved domestic corner and cooking from indoor play, which are then hugely enriched through the special nature of being outside. Mud kitchens work well all year round, and need to be seen as a core element of continuous provision outside.” Making a Mud Kitchen by Jan White

We thought we’d put together an article with some ideas on how you can get the best out of your mud kitchen depending on the nature of your outdoor space. These ideas are equally relevant to both home gardens and early years settings.

Incorporating a mud kitchen into a garden with a digging area and free access to trees, bushes and flowers.

  • Ideally cover the digging area with a breathable cover to prevent soiling by animals.
  • Create a kitchen area enclosed on 3 sides using existing barriers eg hedges and fences or adding trellis or wicker barriers/ fences.
  • If you are setting it up from scratch surround the digging area with logs or a wooden border and make sure it is free draining (a layer of gravel at the bottom and the addition of some sand will help).
  • Have adult sized cooking utensils including pots and pans, sieves, colanders, whisks, large ladles wooden spoons, muffin trays and various sized bowls. Make sure these are stored so that they don’t gather standing water and are kept off the ground – a wooden crate made from slats would be ideal for this purpose.
  • Avoid using food stuffs that will attract vermin. All ‘food’ should be made from natural materials such as leaves, twigs, sawdust, seeds, sand, pebbles, berries, gravel and topsoil.
  • Have a source of water nearby. We are developing a portable water pump that would be ideal for this purpose but a water but would also do the trick. Large buckets for adding water, small buckets for transferring water, jugs, cups and bottles.
  • Have a designated are for washing up and brushes and tools for cleaning up
  • Have a storage area for wellingtons nearby. We are currently working on a wall mountable welly storage rack that could be ideal for this purpose. A seating area for putting on wellingtons would also be useful.
  • hooks for hanging up all in one suits

Incorporating a mud kitchen into an area without grass, bushes trees or a digging area.

  • You will need at least one large builders tray/ tuff spot.
  • Large storage boxes with holes drilled in the bottom or large wooden planters. These can be used to store topsoil, gravel, sand, compost, pebbles, sticks and twigs.
  • Large planters with growing herbs, shrubs and flowers. If these are backed with trellis for climbing plants then they can be used to create an enclosed area for the kitchen.
  • Other resources as outlined above.

Other Mud kitchen accessories and ideas

In addition to the things listed above you could also incorporate an old microwave, kettle, weighing scales, rolling pins, pallet knife, meat tenderizer, storage canisters, scouring brush and shape cutting tools.

You could also create a mud kitchen café with a separate eating area next to the kitchen. Children might want to role-play different roles like waiters, chefs and customers.

The important thing is to try and facilitate an open ended, child-led experience without too many rules, apart from the essentials – being kind, sharing and no throwing or eating mud! Opportunities for learning will develop naturally. It shouldn’t feel prescribed, children should be free to make a mess and experiment with the various textures as they see fit! That’s not to say they shouldn’t be expected to help with the washing up though, especially as this can be turned into a fun experience in itself.

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