Case study: mud kitchen & loose parts in a preschool garden

August 17, 2017

A mud kitchen combined with access to nature, a veg patch, and plenty of loose parts, greatly enhances opportunities.

Author: Muddy Faces

Age Range: all ages

Duration: long-term project

Location: anywhere

Time Of Day: any time

Season: any

Tags: case study, garden, loose parts, messy, mud, mud kitchen, nature, preschool

Category: outdoor play

Rainbow Early Years, Wiltshire

Rainbow Early Years operates from a purpose-built classroom located in the grounds of a primary School in Trowbridge, Wiltshire.

Ages: 2-4 years
Author: Jo Clarke, manager
Rainbow Early Years website


We were introduced to the concept of mud kitchens through attending a network meeting & were signposted to Muddy Faces’ Making a Mud Kitchen book. As manager, I read it & decided to ‘have a go’.

We were already using a turfed sandpit as a digging pit, instead of a surface to play on – as was it’s intention by adults!

a small, battered mud kitchen set up

We gathered the available resources we already had into our small manmade play space, also bringing things from home, donations & purchasing from bargain shops. This was very successful and many children couldn’t wait to get outside to play.

sand and pots

We moved into a new building last summer & have now purchased a wooden outdoor kitchen to follow on with this play. Alongside this, a Belfast sink has been placed near the outdoor tap.

mud kitchen

In our new garden children have access to herbs, sand, pebbles, mud, grass, plants/shrubs, flowers, vegetables, chalk to mix in the mud kitchen as pies, potions, dinners etc.

We have not had many problems with this as I believe the staff & parents can see how engaged children become in their messy play – one parent has created a mud kitchen in her own garden.

a veg garden

Children explore the area using all their senses during this play. They also have access to loose parts/open ended resources such as: log stumps, decking planks, tyres, real house bricks, hollow wooden blocks, pinecones, bamboo channelling, drainpipes, tubing, hoses, den making kit and boxes.

circle of wooden stools

Children remain engaged when playing and exploring for sustained periods of time, when mixing in the mud kitchen, or finding ways to transport water. They are able to connect with nature by identifying insects, listening and identifying native birds, alongside finding out about the seasons & weather on a daily basis.

An artist who has visited us to create with the children has commented that the children in our setting are like freerange chickens!

a play bridge and willow growing next to it