A mud kitchen is an outdoor play area for children, where they can make potions, bake mud cakes, get messy and have fun. Mud kitchens can be as simple as a shelf on top of a couple of milk crates or a fully fitted miniature kitchen with a mixing area, stove top and storage space. Optional extras include refillable water butts, hooks for utensils and chalk boards for recipes. There's a variety of mud kitchens to buy online or you could make your own out of recycled wood such as pallets or decking boards. The other option is to look in charity shops for indoor play kitchens that could be relocated outside, depending on their material.


The best place to put a mud kitchen depends on your children's age, the size of your garden and whether you mind having a messy area that can be seen from the house. If your children are old enough to play on their own, put it somewhere where you can keep an eye on them but enjoy free time while they're playing. If you have a garden where it can be hidden from view, your kids can make a mess you don't have to look at when relaxing outdoors.

If you are making a simple mud kitchen, it might be worth placing it front of a trellis or fence that can double as the backdrop. Put some hooks in the fence for hanging up utensils and pots and pans.

How can kids benefit from mud kitchens?

Having fun with mud. Getty Images
Having fun with mud. Getty Images

Mud kitchens encourage kids to spend time outdoors and get involved with gardening and wildlife. This kind of messy play can help children to connect with nature and inspire them to use their imagination. What's more, mud (or soil) contains the bacteria Mycobacterium vaccae. Studies have shown that when this is absorbed through the skin it triggers a release of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a natural antidepressant and mood lifter, providing a general sense of wellbeing – it can also strengthen the immune system.

Be creative with a variety of games and activities. You can also make your mud kitchen educational, helping children to learn about helping nature or grow vegetables. Mixing and stirring are also good for developing motor skills. Most importantly, getting messy is fun!

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Ideas for making a mud kitchen

DIY mud kitchen. Getty Images
DIY mud kitchen. Getty Images

If you're a DIY enthusiast, there are plenty of videos online demonstrating how to construct your own mud kitchen from sawn up pallets or recycled planks, but it doesn't have to be a major weekend project. To create a simple mud kitchen try one of the following:

  1. Balance a shelf on some round log seats or milk crates. Cut a hole in the shelf for a basin and use a nearby fence to hang utensils on
  2. Reuse an old wooden table or camping table and either put a mixing bowl on top or set one into the table. Use plastic boxes underneath for storage
  3. Look out for secondhand small cupboards or bedside tables that could make the base and already have inbuilt storage, then use a shelf or planks for the top
  4. Make a mud kitchen on the ground – look for a Belfast sink or similar that could be used for mixing mud, have a digging area and put out some pots, pans and utensils. Make sure it's an area that is not frequented by cats or foxes before turning into a play area
  5. Create a simple pallet mud kitchen – use one pallet for the back and cut up another to make the work surface and legs

Mud kitchen ideas for your garden

Nature collection. Getty Images
Nature collection. Getty Images

Mud kitchens have a lot of potential beyond mud pies. There's a range of games you can play using thing in the garden. We've come up with a few to get you started:

  • Turn the mud kitchen into a restaurant or cafe where children can pretend to be chefs and waiters
  • Use it as a potion-making centre, collecting ingredients from the garden, such as herbs, flowers and seeds. Add some water and bicarbonate of soda to make a potion bubble
  • Create a veg or flower patch next the mud kitchen. Children can grow ingredients for the kitchen, which is a great way to get them involved with gardening
  • Decorate mud cakes or cupcakes – you could use cupcake holders or muffin trays to create these and decorate with leaves, flowers or petals and seed heads
  • Paint stones – children could decorate them by drawing fruit, vegetables or sausages etc, to add to their store cupboard or sell at their cafe
  • Make perfume using scented plants like roses, rosemary, lavender
  • Host a tea party. Make up a pot of 'tea' and some play food to host an outdoor pretend picnic
  • Build a shelter if you have room using long sticks so children can play homes, with the kitchen to make their meals
  • Start a nature collection – fill a divided box with seedheads, flowers and fruits like conkers
  • Have a bird feeding morning – during autumn and winter, use the kitchen as a base to fill up feeders and make fat balls
  • Make bark and leaf rubbings to decorate the mud kitchen with

Mud kitchen accessories

Conkers as 'ingredients' for a mud kitchen'. Getty Images
Conkers as 'ingredients' for a mud kitchen'. Getty Images

Kitting your mud kitchen out with accessories doesn't have to be expensive. Children will be happy with old wooden spoons and spare pans, and if you don't have any spare, scour the charity shops. Items that are fun to use in a mud kitchen include:

  • Whisks
  • Wooden spoons
  • Mixing bowls
  • Old pots and pans
  • Plastic funnel
  • Calpol syringes for squirting water
  • Mixing bowl

To buy

These items are not vital, but here are some ideas that can inspire new games in the mud kitchen.

  • Plastic jars with lids to store ingredients such as acorns or conkers
  • Refillable water container with a tap
  • Outdoor aprons
  • Colourful watering cans
  • Flower pots
  • Mini chalk board for menus or ingredient lists - to encourage practising writing and drawing

Materials to use from the garden

  • Pinecones
  • Sticks for mixing
  • Conkers
  • Stones
  • Seeds such as conkers and acorns
  • Leaves
  • Moss
  • Twigs
  • Flowers

Things you could donate from your kitchen

  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Pasta shapes
  • Red lentils
  • Out of date spices to add colour to potions
  • Bicarbonate of soda (for fizzing potions)

Advice on buying mud kitchens 

  • Mud kitchens found online are usually made of either wood or plastic. Plastic ones are likely to be more budget friendly 
  • There are mud kitchens for a range of budgets, depending on how many extra features you're looking for, from around £50 for a simple table with sink, up to £200 or more for a kitchen with hobs, hooks and storage cupboards
  • Check the dimensions to make sure it's the right height for your child to stand at 

Where to buy mud kitchens