Tag Archives: mud kitchen

The Great Mud Bake Off


My kids love any kind of cooking show. A particular favourite is The Great British Bake Off (or baking show as they call it in the US). In true bake-off style, they decided to make a mud cake. “The theme is cakes”, they told me “but it can’t be just a cupcake it has to be a proper cake”.

Today is International Mud Day, when children around the world celebrate the most diverse, low-cost and accessible plaything on earth. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate.

They build a plan and get to work, problem solving all the way.

They gather things from around the garden to create their designs.

The children explain the rules for the judging.

Something always goes wrong on Bake Off.  The trial run didn’t quite go as planned so the girls think again.

The trial run of the frog mould cake works perfectly, but when the final one is made it drops too early and spoils the mint and grass lily pad. After a few failed attempts a final frog is made by moulding it with hands instead.

Frog Cake in Great Mud Bake Off

And Master Baker this week is…..

The mint and rose surprise – sadly the frog was a great idea but there were a few problems with the batter.

Great Mud Bake Off

Don’t you love that play can be inspired by so many things? Happy International Mud Day.

the Great Mud Bake Off

Additional Resources for International Mud Day

Find out why mud play is good for you

Build your own mud kitchen

Make mud faces

How to Create a Low-Cost Outdoor Playspace in Your Own Backyard.

I recently hosted a party for friends and their families.  I was  surprised at the comments I received about my garden being an exciting place for children as I often think of it as small with too many trees and very little grass. I’ve worked hard to make it an enticing play space and most of the materials have incurred little or no cost. Here is a little tour.

Water Play

water wall on tree


The water wall is a recent project. The pipe came from an old vacuum cleaner and the other containers are empty bottles.  The containers are fastened to the tree using nails and pipe cleaners or threaded through markers for obstacle courses. The tyre at the base is to help my youngest daughter to reach.

water table

The good thing about the water table is that we can move it to different parts of the garden. It is perfect as a water source for the water wall . Other materials can also be used in the water table like the packing peanuts the children built sculptures with in the picture above.


Potions and Mud Pies

This is one of the children’s favourite activities and we have experimented with a variety of potion stations and mud kitchens. This is our current set up.  The plastic tub was purchased very cheaply after Hallowe’en and fits perfectly inside a tyre.  A split pallet in between is the workspace and another tyre with planks of wood laid over is where I set out materials for them to experiment with.  Test tubes, containers and sticks for mixing are conveniently located in storage nearby.

 potion station

I didn’t know these mud tables existed until one was offered on my local Buy Nothing Group. It would be easy to make something similar with a washing up bowl on a stand.

mud pie table
I have tried different positions for mud table and play kitchen and I am still unsure which works best. Currently they are close to each other but not in the same space so that the mud table, potion station and kitchen can be used together or separately.
Storage on the trees. The containers hold kitchen utensils for the kitchen and pans hang on hooks screwed into the tree.
storage on a tree


The children love this sandbox that I bought second-hand.  It is really sturdy and has held out really well.  The trees in our garden offer lots of shade so the girls can often be found making up imaginative games in the sandbox.
sand box

I use a storage net from Ikea to store the smaller sand toys, water toys and small balls and hang it from a tree branch.

storage outdoor toys

Mark Making

The girls are always making little paper signs to include in their play so I added a chalk board to the tree.  I placed it near to their play shop so that they could use it as a sign.

chalk board

The spool table  another space for mark making
kids play table from an electrical spool.

Imaginative Play

My eldest daughter created this puppet theatre using a sheet and a few sticks jammed between 2 trees. I nailed the sticks into the tree to stop them falling and added a board from a broken picture frame for them to write on. This could be painted with chalkboard paint but works just as well without.
puppet theatre

We were donated a large amount of fake flowers last Summer and we used them to create  a flower shop using an old plant stand and their play till. We could also use the puppet theatre with a table behind it. The girls use cars and waggons as the delivery vehicles.

The Flower Shop

The Fairy Garden

.fairy garden doorway

Quiet Time

Another Ikea purchase but something similar could also be made using a hula hoop and ribbon or tulle.  I hang it from a tree and put cushions and books inside.

quiet cornerWe also use a parasol for a shady spot. The girls recently created a face painting station beneath it.  The parasol came with our water table and doesn’t have a stand.  I used the stand for my Christmas tree.

A shady parasol

Sometimes they use my umbrella propped up on the porch for shade.

reading in the sun

Physical Play

Of all of the things we have in the garden, the one that is used the most by all of the children, is the trampoline. We have a Springfree trampoline that I was lucky enough to win in a competition. They are not the cheapest trampolines but based on amount of use and durability,  had  I bought the trampoline, it would have been a worthwhile investment. The trampoline is overshadowed by trees so the girls keep a broom next to it and brush off fallen leaves and seeds before getting on. They have created a number of games to play,  make up shows or practice gymnastics and often my eldest disappears to the trampoline for a bit of peace and quiet.


The balance beam is strung between 2 trees with paracord.

balance beam

We use tyres to make obstacle courses. Getting rain water out of them is also an interesting challenge for my youngest.

rolling tyres

I’ve made ribbon sticks before using sticks bought from a craft shop. These sticks  collected from the garden work just as well. The ribbon can be glued onto the sticks or simply tied. Ribbon sticks with multiple ribbons work well too.

ribbon sticks


Sound Making

Our music garden is housed between small trees. We made a jingle stick by nailing metal bottle tops to an old broom handle.

music garden

Observing Nature

My daughter made this nesting box and this year for the first time we were rewarded with a family of nesting sparrows.  You could hear the hungry little chicks as their parents flew close to them and we spent a lot of time lying in the hammock watching them going in and out of the bird house.

nesting sparrows

Other regular visitors are squirrels, hummingbirds and an occasional racoon.

hummingbird feeding


I am always interested in gathering new ideas for outdoor play spaces.  If you are interested too, follow my Pinterest boards:  Outdoor Play, Children’s Garden Inspiration and Forest School.

Build a Mud Kitchen – Why Playing with Mud is Good For Children

mud kitchensWith limited toys and great weather,we have been playing  with natural materials and everyday objects. The children and I created a mud kitchen in the garden.

What is a Mud Kitchen?

A mud kitchen is an outdoor play kitchen for children to explore the properties of mud.  In a similar way to my own mud pie and mud drink making as a child, ( I remember filling up small dirt holes with water and tasting the mixture with a stick) the children mixed the mud in a kitchen made of recycled materials.  You could use a ready-made play kitchen but it isn’t necessary.

How to Build a Mud Kitchen

We made ours using various items we found around the house.  We made a shelf using bricks and a piece of wood, an oven from a cardboard box and collected containers from our recycling.  An old cupboard, table or sink would work equally well and I’m sure that when our stuff arrives from the UK we will find things to add.

Collect old kitchen utensils, pans and bowls from charity shops, friends or car boot sales. We put a sign on our fence next to the mud kitchen requesting items – no-one has donated yet but the children check for new additions every day. It is a good idea to place the mud kitchen near a fence or tree where the utensils can be hung – this way the kitchen will be nicely self-contained and easy to tidy.

The Benefits of Playing in the Mud

Children learn in a variety of ways; many children (particularly boys) prefer to play outdoors.  In most pre-schools I have visited in the UK indoor classrooms exist alongside outdoor classrooms.  Children who may not choose imaginative play  indoors may be attracted to the mud kitchen.  The mud kitchen is rich in learning experiences including learning the rules of good hygiene, exploring  the properties of mud, manipulating mud and tools with their fingers, measuring, imaginative play building on the children’s own experiences, finding out about bugs, problem solving and co-operation and sharing. Involve the children in the creation of the mud kitchen, they will come up with many ideas that adults may not have considered.

Health Benefits

To add weight to my argument I read an excellent post this week about the health benefits of playing in mud. The Children of the 90’s project at the University of Bristol recently reported a number of benefits for children who spend time outdoors. One study suggests that children who spend more time outdoors are less likely to develop short- sightedness and they also found that good levels of Vitamin D was linked to better health including mental health.  Another study from Bristol University in 2007 suggests that friendly bacteria contained in soil, activates neurons responsible for producing the brain chemical serotonin.  A lack of serotonin is thought to cause depression; playing with mud is therefore likely to improve children’s mental health.

Our Mud Kitchen

playing in the mudWe built our mud kitchen during August.  In the UK this is often the wettest month of the year but here in Washington State we have had a perfectly dry month.  This was probably not the best time to build a mud kitchen but as the seasons change the play will develop.

We built the kitchen in a patch of garden where there was plenty of soil but soon discovered that the top layer consisted of wood chippings from the surrounding Pine trees.  This was great for sprinkling and pouring but moulding cakes and pies had limited success. child hosing mudI suggested we dig a hole to reach the true soil under the surface, we  used the hose to  wet it.  Filling the hole with water attracted a flying insect that we hadn’t encountered before, the girls were apprehensive but interested in watching the creature.

We are making coffee powder

My 8-year-old who loves the idea of creating experiments or being an inventor, mixed the mud to make coffee.

I suggested she put it into the empty coffee container but she explained that it started wet and took at least a day to drain off before it could be transferred to the coffee container.

mud pies
‘It takes at least a day to drain off’

My 3-year-old preferred to make a cake. She sprinkled grass on the top.

I’m looking forward to the change in the weather and seeing how the play develops as the mud changes.

outdoor play
‘I’m decorating my cake. It’s chocolate.’