Although they are nothing new, we have noticed a big increase in interest in mud kitchens recently. Perhaps this is due to the rise of the forest school philosophy which is described by the Forest School Association as:
An inspirational process, that offers ALL learners regular opportunities to achieve and develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a woodland or natural environment with trees.
Mud kitchens offer a good opportunity to adapt the forest school philosophy for an early years setting giving children a sensory experience and the chance to play outdoors with natural resources. The kitchen corner is usually a popular part of an indoor setting but outdoors and with the addition of mud, it takes on a whole new dimension.
Mud kitchens offer so much more than just the chance to explore mud and get messy. Playing outdoors in this way, helps to increase confidence and gives the chance for creativity, role play, collaboration and communication. Most importantly, whilst outdoors in a mud kitchen, you will notice that children are rarely anything other than happy and contented.
So here is our quick guide to creating the perfect mud kitchen.
Mud kitchens are inevitably more popular during the summer months but are ideal for year round outdoor play. As long as children are dressed up warm, the weather shouldn’t hinder their enjoyment in fact a spot of rain can often help to make the mud even more gloopy and fun!
A mud kitchen will be fun wherever you create it but by putting it in a corner or with a natural barrier like a fence, tree of corner, it creates a smaller space, helping to make children feel secure. Placing mud kitchens near to herb gardens, sand pits or flowerbeds will also give children easy assess for extra ingredients for their kitchen.
Mud Glorious Mud
So perhaps the key component for a mud kitchen is mud. Ample supplies of mud, sand and gravel will allow children to mix up mud with a variety of different colours and textures. Putting the kitchen near to a sand pit or mud patch can help to make these materials readily available. Big pots of materials at floor level can also make them easy for children to access. For health reasons, it is important that soil has not been contaminated by animal faeces so soil from an open flower bed is not suitable. It is also important to think about how you will prevent cats from visiting your mud kitchen area when not in use. A tarpaulin weighted down at the edges should do the trick.
Other Mud Kitchen Essentials
- An outdoor kitchen unit
- Old clothes and /or overalls
- Some type of containers e.g. pots and pans
- Sticks for mixing or a few kitchen utensils – spoons, spades etc
Fun Extra Ingredients
Children are usually pretty good at cooking up some amazing creations in their mud kitchens but just in case they are in need of any additional inspiration you could try adding:
- Herbs, grass and/or flower petals and scissors for chopping them into soup! In our mud kitchen the children loved using the Rosemary sprigs to decorate their pies and squish into water for a scented soup.
- Watering cans for transporting water to create the perfect consistency of mud
- Stones, gravel, shells, pine cones and other natural materials- good for decorating mud pies!
- For children that just don’t like or won’t get their hands dirty, a pair of gardening gloves lets them get involved too.
- We also added a little blackboard where we wrote some of the concoctions that the children had been making for a role play café.
In terms of the EYFS framework, playing in a mud kitchen can cover lots of different areas.
Communication and Language
• Listening to and following instructions
• Describing what they are doing either by themselves or in response to open questions.
• Role play games.
• Moving about in the mud kitchen and related outdoor areas.
• Handling equipment and tools effectively by filling and using water cans and kitchen utensils.
• Health and self-care – discussing the importance of washing hands after playing outdoors.
• Developing self confidence by choosing what to play in the mud kitchen and what to include when developing their own concoctions.
• Making relationships by talking and playing games with other children.
• Following or writing recipes for mud pies.
• Writing on a blackboard for mud kitchen café role play games.
• Writing in mud or sand using sticks
• Creating recipes for mud pies by counting spoonfuls and measuring different components for their mud pies.
• Talking about and using money as a part of a mud pie café role play.
Understanding the World
• Experimenting and discovering colours, textures and properties of mud, water and other materials by mixing, moving, pouring.
• Discovering and understanding nature through mini beasts and other natural materials that they discover and experience.
• Understanding and discussing the different seasons.
Art and design
• Painting with mud and creating pictures with natural materials. (our outdoor art post has some more ideas)
Do you have a mud kitchen at your setting? We would love to know more about your experience and ideas for the perfect mud kitchen. Please leave a comment below.
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