Hey Fall! ‘Tis the season for rainy, dreary weather. And with all the rain comes mud. And with mud comes mess. Every kid’s favorite! IYKYK. Messy play for kids is the ultimate way to have fun, feel free, and, well…. be a kid! And from a parent’s perspective, outdoor messy play is the best way to make a mess. Why? Because there’s virtually no cleanup required, and nature soup from a mud kitchen is delicious. (Okay, maybe not the second one so much).
So, what’s the best way to have fun and make a mess in the mud outside? In a mud kitchen, of course! With these fun ideas, your kids will love having permission to play outside making mud pies and stone soup until the sun goes down. And if you have been following Days with Grey for some time, you know having a mud kitchen doesn’t require a fancy price tag.
RELATED: Fall is a great time to get outside and get messy! Try out some of these fun fall activities for preschoolers this season.
What is a mud kitchen?
A mud kitchen is an outdoor space for kids to play and create with nature’s messiest sensory material: MUD! Mud kitchens can have no frills and are simple to set up with a mixing bowl and bucket of water. They can also have elaborate designs that include running water. (whoa!)
I know what you’re thinking — there’s no way I will tell my kid to play in the mud! But let me tell you, once you witness your kids playing with so much enthusiasm and freedom in the mud all afternoon, you will wonder why you had never allowed this before.
Mud kitchens are designated spaces for kids of all ages to make ALL the mess they want. Watch your kids explore sensory play, get creative, use their imaginations, and have endless fun while playing pretend outside.
RELATED: This muddy water sensory play is another fun outdoor activity for mud-filled days!
What can playing in the mud teach my kids?
When children are given the space, tools, and PERMISSION to engage in messy play, they flourish! It’s no secret that playing outdoors is fantastic for kids of all ages.
Fun fact: You don’t need mud in a mud kitchen! Just add water and see where your child takes the play.
Mud kitchen play has so many learning benefits for your kids:
- Boosts creativity
- Builds independent play skills
- Encourages outdoor nature play
- Enhances imagination and pretend play
- Increases sensory play awareness
- Strengthens fine motor development (mixing, pouring, scooping)
- Supports socialization skills
Studies have shown that playing in the mud is developmentally appropriate and healthy for kids.
RELATED: There are so many fun ways to play outside! Don’t miss our 50 outdoor activities for kids.
DIY mud kitchen
Mud kitchens don’t have to be expensive or over the top. Let’s be honest; it’s going to be covered in mud. I’ve seen so many plans on the internet for building a DIY mud kitchen with store-bought lumbar. But this can be tricky if you don’t have a craftsman at home. (Don’t worry, I have an incredible alternative below.)
The best part about embracing a mud kitchen for your kids is that you can set one up quickly and easily with what you already have.
Mud kitchens also don’t even need a wooden counter space! Imagine that?!
- Find an outdoor space that looks like a good home base for a mess.
- Place a folding table (like the white party tables) in the space. No folding table? No problem. Put some supplies on the ground to get started. There is always room to upgrade later.
- Add a few mixing and pouting essentials.
Trust me. Kids can do the rest. They will likely have a vision that will outsmart ours.
Outdoor areas to consider:
- Backyard playset
- Driveway or patio
- Grassy area
- Old outdoor playhouse
- Outdoor sensory table or bin
Once you have your designated mud kitchen space, grab your outdoor kitchen supplies and get to mud-baking!
RELATED: Not ready to embrace the rainy weather outside? Check out our list of rainy-day activities for kids.
A dreamy mud kitchen alternative
Some of you are reading this, loving the idea and hating the execution. If this is you, I have the best mud kitchen that can be shipped to your door. I discovered this mud kitchen at the NY Toy Fair this fall, and it is DREAMY! When I look for the best toys for kids, I want them to grow with my child. This is an example of the open-ended play I am talking about!
Hape makes this mud kitchen out of anti-corrosive wood for ages 3+. This set includes a pot, ladle, bowls, flowerpots, sieve, water tank, sink, faucet, oven plate, and menu blackboard. After set up, all you need is to add water and nature!
Days with Grey participates in Hape’s affiliate advertising program. As an Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Read more about these links in my disclosure policy.
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Regardless of what type of mud kitchen you have set up for your toddlers and preschoolers, there are some simple supplies you will want to add. This outdoor sensory play supply list is our go-to for all things related to outdoor play. It’s the Dollar Tree plus anything you are looking to upgrade in your kitchen.
Kids don’t care about formal, expensive, or fancy things. It’s more about the experience, so fill your setup with fun outdoor kitchen supplies. All of the kitchen tools and supplies are really what makes the mud kitchen come to life!
Add some old kitchen tools or outdoor sensory supplies to your setup. Mud kitchens might include simple tools a real kitchen may have, such as:
- Ice cube trays
- Measuring cups
- Mixing bowls
Fill the afternoon with muddy pretend play
Embrace all things messy with mud kitchens this fall! Your kids will love playing pretend in all the mess. Playing in the mud is developmentally appropriate and important for building fundamental independent play skills in young children. If you have been trying to get your kids interested in sensory play, this outdoor messy, muddy play will surely reel them in and keep them busy and having fun all afternoon on those long, dreary fall days ahead!
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Mud kitchen play is good for all ages! Kids aged 1-7 years old love muddy sensory play. That said, anytime is the best time to get your kids outside playing in nature.
Kids can make anything in a mud kitchen! When given the space and tools to create, kids will create various ways to mix, pour, and play pretend in the mud.
Mud kitchens don’t have to be built or bought. It can be a simple DIY setup that involves sensory bin containers or old outdoor playhouses. Toss in some old kitchen tools or outdoor sensory play supplies, and let your kids play for hours!