Being a kid is the best. Your entire life is about play, curiosity, exploration and learning as much as you can about the world around you. One of the best ways to spark this in children and jumpstart the lessons about the world is to encourage sensory play and activate as many senses as possible through their toys. Many kids toys like the ones from Cocomelon and Ryan’s World have bright colors and interesting shapes in order to accomplish this task. Another great sensory experience for children in their younger years? A mud kitchen.
Why is Sensory Play Important?
As many parenting books and early childhood educators will tell you: sensory play is crucial to a young child’s educational process. The foundational skills of learning about an object through touch, sight, smell and even taste are the same ones they’ll use when learning how to read, solve a difficult math problem and master the art of writing. Helping them develop their observational and deductive skills is also crucial for a lifelong positive association with learning, growing and developing. Mud kitchens, through the tactile experience of playing in the dirt and creative experience of making “food” using pots, pans and other tools combine sensory play with being outdoors, a great combination for anyone’s health and wellbeing.
What Are Mud Kitchens?
Mud kitchens are mini kitchens for children that are built to be used outside in the yard using mud, grass, sticks and flowers for ingredients. They’re used by kids all over to make mud pies, flower spaghetti and rock soup, among other delicacies. Many of them involve a sturdy, waterproof and/or element-resistant design and include mini pots, pans, cooking tools, etc for serving and preparing food.
They’re easy to construct, easy to take care of and are a great alternative to your kids making the inside of your house messy on a Saturday afternoon. Having them near a water source like a hose can be great, but the exercise of filling up and carrying buckets to and from the kitchen also makes for a time-consuming and worthwhile balancing act. You can also buy a bag of soil and sand so your kids have plenty of dirt to work with, and even large gravel if they’re old enough to not swallow things they shouldn’t.
I’ve picked out some great mud kitchens that are available to order online, as well as some miniature kitchen supplies for kids and mud-making materials that’ll elevate the experience. This is a great activity to have on hand for long spring and summer afternoons, before the community pool opens of course.
1. TP Toys Muddy Maker Mud Kitchen
This high-quality, affordable mud kitchen is available to order on Amazon and comes with everything your kids need to get the full experience of playing outside. It includes both a wet and dry area with a stove and removable splash tub. It’s got storage for keeping everything neat and tidy, a hanging rail for keeping tools dry and organized, a chalkboard, serving station and it comes with its own pots and pans. The oven burners are stenciled on for an authentic look, and the FSC pressure-treated European timber wood is made to withstand the elements outdoors. This is made for kids three and older.
2. MudKitchenPlay Mud Kitchen
This mud kitchen is beautifully designed and available with options for personalization on Etsy. It comes with a stovetop, knobs for turning, a chalkboard for writing out a menu as well as a planter box for gathering natural supplies. The maker offers the option to personalize with your child’s name as well as design choices when it comes to the work top design. There are two wooden shelves for storage, hooks on the side of the kitchen, and it comes with stainless steel bowls for play. It’s made with pressure-treated outdoor timber and is designed to live outside.
3. Costzon Kids Kitchen Playset
This mud kitchen comes with a full pretend sink, kitchen workspace and pretend faucet and doesn’t cost more than $110. It’s made of high-quality, safe solid fir wood and has been built durable for long-term use. The faucet and basin for the sink are both made of plastic, are non-toxic and odorless as well. It’s easy to assemble and comes with clear instructions for putting it together.
4. CreativeWoodwork UK Hand Made Mud Kitchen
These adorable small mud kitchens are the perfect size for little hands looking to play, and come in a few different colors. They come in small, medium and large sizes as well as a few different colors that are all neutral enough to blend in with your backyard space. These kitchens are made for indoor or outdoor use, a weatherproof to last a minimum of six years outdoors and come with all of the accessories shown in the product photos. They also all arrive fully assembled, a major plus for busy parents.
5. Outsunny Kids Kitchen
BEST FOR TODDLERS
This kids mud kitchen from Outsunny comes with a water pump for simulating basic drainage as well as other features for an authentic playtime cooking experience. It includes details like a cutting board, knife and fake vegetables, as well as a food basket, a water basin, a water tap and a dinner plate. It’s made with a combination of PP plastic and spruce wood for a solid design, and has a bottom shelf for storage. It’s made for kids between the ages of 3-7.
6. WoodNPoppy Painted Double Mud Kitchen
This mud kitchen from WoodNPoppy comes with two sinks and plenty of space for cooking, storage and creation. The sink basins are from Ikea and the kitchen features hooks to hang cooking utensils as well as shelves for storing your child’s creations. The knobs on the front actually turn, and the wood is painted and stained so you can leave it outdoors year round.
7. MonarchStudioShop Double Sink Mud Kitchen
BEST FOR TWINS
This kitchen is great for twins or siblings who have a hard time sharing, as they’ve both got their own cooking area to work with. The kitchen comes with four hooks for storage, bins with lids that can mimic sinks or storage for food and a spice rack. These mud kitchens are made from natural pine wood in Martha’s Vineyard, and the makers also offer the option to swap out the plastic bins for stainless steel basins. You can also add stencils of burners on the top with chalkboard paint, and the whole thing comes mostly assembled with only a little work required to put it together.
8. Homemade Living Bamboo 3 Tier Shoe Rack
You don’t need to buy a whole mud kitchen specifically made for kids — all you really need is a small wooden cooking area and some pots and pans. This shoe rack, for example, would make a great mud kitchen for younger children. It’s made of 100% natural bamboo and is built sturdy enough for child play. It comes easy to assemble, is water-resistant and durable enough to place outside. Since it’s not made for the outdoors, I’d recommend bringing it in when there’s a storm or placing it underneath an overhang.
9. KEJIH Stainless Steel Utensils Set
This set of utensils and cooking supplies is sized for kids and is made of food-grade stainless steel that’s as safe for kids to play with as it would be in an adult kitchen. All of the tools are lead-free, ultra-thick and dishwasher-safe as well. The set includes materials like a fry pan, a strainer, a spatula, whisk and more. All the tools are durable and great for helping children develop fine motor skills.
10. Learning Resources Play Camping Set
This set of adorable camping supplies for kids would make a great addition to their mud kitchen setup through tailoring it to the great outdoors. It includes a pretend stove, lantern, pan for cooking food, chovel, compass and a first-aid kit. Like most of the mud kitchens above, this set is tailored for kids ages 3-5, and is perfect for make-believe camping expeditions.
11. Melissa & Doug Let’s Explore Camp Stove Play Set
This play set would also pair quite well with any mud kitchen, as it’s a miniature camping stove with 24 different pieces including utensils, food and cookware. The wooden fish is sliceable and some of the other food is double-sided felt. There’s an egg in a shell, a plastic kettle, two cups with drink inserts, two plates, sporks and an activity book. The stove itself has knobs that can turn, a reversible grill and griddle, a burner with a “flame” and all of the pieces can store inside after playtime is over. This set would be perfect on top of the shoe rack option above, or on one of the kitchens that doesn’t include a stove.
12. Michigan Peat Garden Magic Top Soil
If your yard doesn’t have a ton of dirt, a.k.a the “mud” part of “mud kitchen,” you can make some of your own with a bag of top soil and some water. This 40-pound bag will be plenty for your kids to play with, and is a blend of dark, reed sedge peat and sand.
13. Mosser Lee Desert Sand Soil Cover
Sand would make a great addition to a mud kitchen play area as well, both for tactile and aesthetic reasons. A blend of sand and soil makes for great dirt, and great mud for mud pies. This sand can loosen up heavy soil and make it easier to play with, and retains moisture well so mud pies will retain their shape.
14. Royal Imports 5lb Decorative Rocks
Rocks are another potential addition to the mud kitchen area, so long as your child is old enough not to swallow them and hopefully not to throw them either. These natural stones are non-toxic river rocks that are round and smooth, and can be used to enhance the texture of the soil your kids play with. They can also be used to decorate mud pies, served as an appetizer, the sky’s the limit! This 5lb bag will give your child plenty to work with, with approximately 160 rocks per bag.