I have worked in a variety of nature programs, and a common element among all the quality programs I have participated in is a really good mud kitchen. A good mud kitchen becomes the hub for child led outdoor exploration, it transforms with the seasons, and supports many different types of play. Messy play, dramatic play, collaborative play and best of all a mud kitchen supports independent play! I wanted to share some of the best tips I have found for arranging a mud kitchen
Tip One: Keep It Simple
A quick Google or Pinterest search will overwhelm you with beautiful, aesthetic, and elaborate mud kitchens. While these are beautiful, a simple mud kitchen is just as fun and just as useful. Don't feel like you have to build something fancy to enjoy mud kitchens. My experience has taught me the best mud kitchens include three simple elements:
Old pots, beach buckets, 5-gallon buckets, cupcake trays, and cake pans. Anything that can contain items.
2. Mixing Utensils
Sticks, spoons, whisks, shovels etc. Anything they can use to manipulate and mix.
3. Work Space
Tables, pallets, empty grass space, old stumps. Anything the children can use to place their creations on and in. Just like a real kitchen you need space to create and cook.
Tip Two: Consider your Climate
As a Canadian who experiences snow for 8 months of the year, we have to consider how the cold can effect certain plastics, as well as ice, and other harsh elements. We use our mud kitchen year-round and the transforming seasons bring all sorts of exciting adventures. Take into account your climate when building your mud kitchen to ensure it has year-round use!
Tip Three: Keep it Sustainable
The two biggest supplies you need in a mud kitchen are dirt and water. Making these resources sustainable and finite will help prevent your mud kitchen from becoming a mud pit. I always provide a certain amount of dirt and water for a set amount of the day and work with the children to help them understand how to ration and use materials wisely. We also reuse the mud and water from one creation to the next! I also encourage the children to find their own resources, can you collect water from a rain barrel or nearby spout? This tip is crucial to keeping your mud kitchen simple and sustainable for the adults and space around it.
Tip Four: Add Natural/ Seasonal Materials
We extend the play in our mud kitchen by adding seasonal materials we collect. We love adding pumpkins, leaves, and crab apples in the fall. Winter brings ice, snow, and pine boughs, and spring/summer often welcomes the addition of flower pieces, bird seeds, and different grasses. Think local and seasonal to extend the play in your mud kitchen.
Tip Five: Scaffold from your Mud Kitchen!
A mud kitchen is a great beginning space for many different learning opportunities. Following the child's interests allows us to develop deeper activities in our mud kitchen. Transform your mud kitchen into a restaurant and explore literacy by making chalkboard menus. Turn your mud kitchen in a bakery and explore recipes and numeracy! Mud Kitchens have the opportunity to support creativity and endless learning connections. Check out our post about way's to add to your mud kitchen here