Sam Flatman, Educational Consultant for Pentagon Sport, gives his ideas on how you can build your own mud kitchen.
While some parents may a little nervous about letting their children play with mud, there is no doubt that mud play can be a valuable learning experience. It’s not only about getting hands on with nature, it’s also a good way to encourage pretend play, enjoy sensory learning and promote both scientific and creative thinking. Mud kitchens are increasingly being recognised as an excellent playground resource and are popping up in schools around the country. There’s no need to let the teachers have all the fun though, so why not build one in your own back garden?
How to Get Started
Building a mud kitchen can be as simple or complex as you want to make it. Pinterest is a good place to look for ideas and inspiration to help you think about the design of your mud kitchen. You don’t need to be a DIY guru to build a great mud kitchen, simply setting out a space with a few bricks and bringing out old kitchen utensils can be enough. Creating a successful mud kitchen is all about providing a space which has different resources and stimuli for children to get creative with. Just don’t forget the mud!
While some mud kitchens are very simple and rustic, made from old tree stumps and logs, others are more complex, and involve tables or benches. Crates, bricks or old shelves are great as kitchen counters and can be used to create a basic shape for your kitchen. These materials are also a good way to provide storage and (carefully) hammering a few nails in can make space for hanging utensils. Setting this up is a good way for children to learn to ‘tidy up’ as part of their mud play.
Pretend cooker tops can be lots of fun for children and adding on some knobs can help them to practise their fine motor skills as they twist and turn them. If you’re looking for something a little simpler, then add in some jars or drawers, which can also help to improve fine motor skills. Another good addition is a chalk boards. Chalk boards support the development of language and communication skills, as parents can write up menus or even just draw pictures with their little ones.
Basic Kitchen Utensils
Pretty much anything from the kitchen can become an engaging toy in a mud kitchen. Pots, pans and mixing bowls are the staples of a mud kitchen, as children need to learn how to mix, stir and scoop. Don’t forget spoons in different sizes that children can grip onto. Cups can also be good for measuring and adding water into the muddy mixes.
Extra Kitchen Utensils
Once the basics are in place, think about some more quirky items to engage children in different types of learning. Funnels can be a good way to combine water play into the mud kitchen. Sieves can be a good way to learn about filtering chunks out from dry dirt. Objects with strange shapes such as potato mashers and honey dippers can be fun for children. Baskets can be used for collecting other garden bits like flowers, sticks and grass too ‘cook’ with.
When it comes to mud kitchens, there’s plenty of fun to be had designing and building one in your own back garden. Let your children get involved in where they want the crates and pots to go, and enjoy working together. Get creative and try different designs and utensils to see what your children enjoy most – though let’s be honest, just getting stuck in with mud is probably fun enough!
About the Author
Sam Flatman is an Educational Consultant for Pentagon Sport. Pentagon have worked with over 5,000 settings to create innovative playgrounds and learning environments for young students. He has been designing playgrounds for the past 10 years and has a passion for outdoor education. Sam believes that outdoor learning is an essential part of child development, which can be integrated into the new school curriculum. He is currently based in Bristol with his two sons.