Each day, we can feel the sun getting a bit warmer and the idea of spending the playing outside becomes more and more inviting. Creating opportunities for play outside will enable your child to work independently (that’s the dream!) and provide you an opportunity to play creatively side by side with your child. One of CMEE’s favorite outdoor play spaces is a mud kitchen. First of all, sign us up for anything mud, but secondly, the kitchen provides an opportunity to develop fine motor skills and introduce early math concepts. Replace plastic or wooden toy food with open ended, abundant mud and you have an endlessly fun—and free—activity!
There are several open source plans for building your own mud kitchen, so we have included a few tips for an easy, quick and budget friendly version below:
Use an old table.
Children have wild imaginations so don’t make this too hard for yourself. Use an old, low standing table, like a coffee table for example. Most coffee tables have a lower shelf which is an excellent place to store pots and pans. Plastic or wood are ideal materials but, since you are repurposing an old table use what you have for as long as you can. Exterior spray paint, and a circle stencil, makes adding stovetop burners a cinch.
Place it near a hose bib.
Obviously, we need water to make mud. Give your child an opportunity for independence by teaching them how to responsibly use the hose. If they are too young to turn it on, fill their buckets at the beginning of play. Make sure to provide plenty of measuring cups so they can easily move the water. You will be extra thankful the kitchen is close to the hose bib when you are the one hosing everything clean!
Use real kitchen items.
While toys are wonderful, children always seem to gravitate towards whatever adults are using. Clean out your cabinets or take a trip to the dollar store and fill your child’s mud kitchen with real kitchen tools. Spoons, spatulas, whisks, pots, pans, plates, bowls, measuring cups and funnels are simple and safe for your child to play with alone. Use plastic or bamboo materials that are easy to clean and will not rust. If you can find them, bus bins or a dish drying rack help to keep things organized.
Empty water when you are done.
Be sure to dump water out of all the bowls and cups when you are done playing. Store them somewhere where they will not collect water when it rains. Standing water attracts mosquitos and other pests.
Enjoy your time cooking up some fun outside this summer!