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Our take on the mud kitchen

Last spring I knew I wanted to add some type of mud play area to our yard. My boys had started exploring with making mud on their own and I wanted to encourage that play to continue and develop.

There are so many benefits to mud play so we welcomed the mess that would surely came along with it.

As I considered our space, our children and my intentions and goals for adding mud play into our lives, I decided against the increasingly popular ‘mud kitchen.’

I opted instead for a ‘mud pit.’ A clear space for entirely open ended play and exploration.

I wanted the boys to be able to make mud pies and dandelion soup but also to drive their trucks in the mud and set up construction sites and use all of their creativity and imagination.

I personally felt like the mud kitchen set up was too limiting and also a bit unrealistic for us. Don’t get me wrong, I see some really beautiful mud kitchens featured on Pinterest and Instagram, and often they make me want to dig in and play, myself. But, I knew that at our house, that the pots and pans would end up on the ground and they would want to spread out and have a big space. (This exact thing happened when we tried to keep train tracks on a train table.)

So, a mud pit it was.

Once I added a mirror (that I picked up from the side of the road) and some fencing to define the space, our mud pit was complete.

And, also, while it adds to the messy factor by about a thousand percent, I like that they get to sit in it, squish their toes in it and have freedom to explore.

For us, this set up has worked well.

The mud pit was a huge hit last summer and early this spring the boys, and our neighbors, were excited to get back at it. So excited, that they spent the better part of a day in April raking all the leaves and cleaning out the entire area, all on their own.

We made a few adjustments this year, making the space a little bigger, adding milk crates to organize pots and pans.

In addition to traditional kitchen ware, I added loose parts like bricks and rocks, shells, sticks and other natural materials. Their metal dump trucks were placed nearby and the sit on digger has been dragged over for construction work.

So far this year, they have made their mud muffins and soups, dug pools for worms, built castles, made ‘poo pies’ (don’t ask), done finger painting on the mirror and made tracks with their trucks.  I can’t wait to see what they come up with in the coming months.


I wanted to share our experience for those families or schools that want to incorporate mud play into their children’s lives but don’t think that a mud kitchen is the right fit for them. An open space with dirt, a few pots or buckets, maybe some spoons or shovels and water is all you need to experience the sensory rich exploration of mud play.

     

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Pebble bin

This simple and affordable set up has kept my kids entertained and engaged while providing a variety of sensory experiences.

When we first put it together, it was just pebbles and trucks but an immediate attraction. 

I had previously collected the rocks from the beach and I much prefer putting in the extra effort then purchasing rocks and not knowing what they’re made of or if they’re coated with something harmful. 

I also have a few tires in the yard and used one as the base. 

The round tray is a hot water heater basin. It’s great because it’s sturdy and has a drain to easily get rid of water. 
The trucks have been around for years and are usually in the sandbox. I definitely recommend purchasing a set or two for any outdoor play. They’ve been a big hit, encourage fine motor development and have held up very well.

To add on to the excitement, today I poured a few buckets of water into the pebble tray and removed the trucks

There was some great sensory input with scooping and digging while only using their hands. Texture, temperature and sound, too. 

My niece discovered that when dropping one or two pebbles into the water it made for a pleasant sound and watching the ripples in the water was mesmerizing for all of us. 


Mixing shells in with the pebbles provided yet another way to scoop and create. 


Later on, the trucks were brought back into the mix and it was decided that the addition of water was preferred to no water.

I’m excited about this new area of our yard and have a few more ideas on ways to change it up as the days go on. I’d like to add some more shells, maybe some sticks and possibly swap out the trucks for our Plan Toys bath toy boats.