Make the space
Section 3 of the Making a Mud Kitchen book.
Age Range: all ages
Duration: 1-2 hours
Time Of Day: any time
Category: outdoor play
Make the Space
Kitchens can be all sizes, but the size will influence the feel of the place and, therefore, probably the kind of activity that takes place. Room for several children to work alongside or in collaboration seems important. Large, open-plan kitchens may well generate more boisterous themes and actions. A choice of both large and small nook-like kitchens would be ideal in a group setting.
Enclosure from fences and walls, or by installing low-level boundaries such as wicker fencing (so that children can see over but the space feels enclosed by them) can create a good mud kitchen feel.
A roof is not necessary as this would prevent the elements being part of the stimulus and range of experiences. Some kitchens that are in the middle of an open sand/digging area work fine too, but perhaps have less sense of being a special place.
In creating some sense of enclosure, it’s important not to separate the kitchen from the rest of the outdoor space. It needs to be easy to get in and out and to see in and out, and it needs to interact with whatever else is going on outdoors.
Working surfaces are a crucial element. These need to be at the right height for the children and to provide enough space to work at, with all the mess that creative kitchen work entails.
Shelving and cupboards add much to the feeling and functionality of the kitchen. It’s really helpful if each pot and utensil stands out by itself (rather than the jumble of a box full of stuff), and is easy to get at.
Hooks on walls or the front edge of shelves (beware that hooks are not at eye-poking height).
Baskets to separate types of utensil can be useful.
Finally, consider where all the old mixed material is going to go after use!