The Dirt on Mud Kitchens

How to set up shop for your little nature-chef
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Photos courtesy of K Antonius

Mud. A magical...err, messy part of childhood. Kids have a way of finding it, squishing it, smearing it, and tracking it. Sometimes even eating it! And if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, right? I love the feeling of cool mud underfoot in the heat of summer and the look of joy on our children's faces when they are free to dig in and explore! One way we've worked with, rather than against, our child's love for mud is to create a mud kitchen in our backyard.

DIY mud kitchen

It all started when our son was about two years old. We had a sandbox and some gardening tools out back and he was drawn to dig in the dirt. Tossing in an old muffin tin and a measuring cup or two led to hours of mud kitchen fun with little work on our part. Really, a mud kitchen can be such a low-investment of time and money that I recommend everyone try it out! Nature provides everything your kids need – mud, grass, plant leaves and flowers, water... I wouldn't say extras are superfluous, as they will be used, but they aren't a deal breaker.

Spring is a great season for mud kitchens, though our space is very much a mud and snow kitchen that is used year round, several times a week. It's open-ended enough to become whatever the kids dream up, regardless of the season.

Make Your Own Mud Kitchen

Minimalist Mud Maker:

  • patch of nature - even a square foot will do
  • kids will take that mud and grass and can make meatballs, mud-cakes, soup, and more

Middlin' Mud Slinger:

*Please do not literally do this in the middle of the road!

  • patch of nature
  • muffin tin, baking pan, measuring cup/s - whatever you can toss outside

Mud Master-chef:

  • patch of nature
  • shelf or cabinet of some kind to store supplies and to use as a cooking surface
  • pallets are great for creating a nook or for kitchen utensil storage (check to make sure that your pallet has not been used to transport chemicals and has not been sprayed with pesticides. Canadian pallets are only treated with pressure or heat. Look for a little wheat symbol with HT to be sure.)
  • muffin tins, baking pans, measuring cups and spoons
  • whisk, ladle, spatula
  • colander (this is tons of fun)
  • dustpan and broom
  • stovetop style kettle
  • anything else you dream up

Mud kitchen pallet rackDIY mud kitchenDIY mud kitchen and pallet rack

Almost all of the items in our mud kitchen are things the kids found at garage sales or second hand stores, with the exception of one or two things from the local dollar store. Our mud kitchen serves as a restaurant, farm kitchen, storefront, and more. Take a little space like this and add in a few kids with huge imagination and the possibilities are endless. I've heard them talking of threshing wheat to mill and sell to the baker who was behind the counter at his bakery. Today they were making porridge for their hockey team.

Mud kitchens are engaging in any season

If you want a little boost to your kids' mud kitchen adventures, check out Mud Pies and Other Recipes by Margaret Winslow. Once you are done swooning over the charm of this sweet little book, you'll find dozens of engaging recipes that use all kinds of natural ingredients such as stones, shells, and leaves. Another mud-loving activity: Mud-ball Gardening!