Backyard mud kitchens are the hot new play idea for toddlers this year!
Mud kitchens can inspire lots of creativity, promote sensory play, and keep toddlers and kids busy outside so us parents can relax for a few minutes.
Read this list of 30+ ways to play with mud kitchens!
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If you don't have a mud kitchen yet, check out this post for inspiration: 11 mud kitchen ideas for inspiration.
As you can see, it is pretty easy to build a mud kitchen in the backyard, or you can even buy a pre-made one and save yourself a few hours of work!
Benefits of mud kitchens
There are so many benefits of mud kitchens for toddlers and little kids:
- Inspire creativity by re-purposing things around them - such as things from nature or thinking of other toys to use in the mud kitchen
- Promote pretend play
- Improve fine motor skills
- Improve gross motor skills
- Sensory play as they get messy and play with different textures
- Learn about how to use kitchen utensils, cups, measuring bowls
- Learn to clean up after themselves
As you can see, there are so many ways to learn with different mud kitchen activities.
Below are 30+ ideas for how to play with mud kitchens.
Related: Easy Summer Sensory Activity
A few tips for safe and creative mud kitchen play:
Obviously, adapt each play idea to your child's age and supervise them all the time. Don't leave kids unattended around water, and watch carefully to make sure they don't eat any mud, chalk, play dough, or anything else that is not edible.
Follow your kids lead on each one. If they are not into one of these activities, skip it, or adapt it to fit their interests. If they are having trouble getting messy, keep some wipes and towels nearby to help them get clean when they need to.
Protect your kids from the sun. Wear sunscreen. Wear a floppy hat.
Lots of these mud kitchen ideas require kitchen accessories. Of course, you can just grab things like bowls and whisks from your kitchen and use those.
But you might want to buy some dedicated mud kitchen toys if you don't want your nice kitchen things getting all muddy, don't want to do a deep clean of all your bowls and measuring cups every time you want to go cook, or don't want to scrub mud out of colanders.
Mud kitchen play ideas:
- Practice measuring and pouring with measuring cups and bowls. This colorful set of measuring cups is super cute for kids.
- Pretend to cook - stir mud and water together with a whisk.
- Open up a "mud cafe" and take "food orders" from parents. This little server outfit is just too cute for older toddlers and preschool kids.
- Play with pretend food - this is a great opportunity for no-pressure exposure to foods that your child may not have grown to like yet, great for picky eaters (this blog is, after all a blog about overcoming picky eating).
- Get a chalkboard sign and practice writing or drawing what's on the "menu." This one here comes with liquid chalk markers and stencils.
- Make mud patties - roll mud into patties or meatballs. Serve them to parents who have to pretend their toddler made some yummy food!
- Play with play dough. Or make homemade play dough in the mud kitchen!
- Play with slime. Finally! The one place where it's OKAY to play with slime.
- Paint rocks. Make them colorful and fun, or realistic.
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- Clean muddy rocks with a brush (sensory activity!).
- Set up a sensory bin or sensory table.
- Play with dry beans, uncooked rice, uncooked pasta (more sensory play!).
- Give your toys a bath. Get a loofah or sponge, some tear-free baby soap, and get sudsy.
- Use it as a play area to do this easy Ice Cream Sensory Activity.
- Play with a colander - toddlers love watching the water flow through!
- Play with funnels.
- Get a silicone cupcake tray and freeze water in them with pieces of confetti or small flowers. Ice cupcakes!
- Finger paint.
- Play with ice cubes. Freeze water with a few drops of food coloring, or freeze small flowers, leaves, or plastic toys in ice cube trays with water, and let your child play as it melts.
- Play with water beads (under close supervision! They are a choking hazard).
- Make imprints of leaves and flowers in play dough or clay.
- Use a mortar and pestle to grind flower petals and slices of citrus for a nice sensory and motor skills activity. This stainless steel one is great because it is relatively inexpensive, not heavy (aka safe to drop by accident), and won't crack like porcelain ones.
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- Make brownies out of mud and decorate them with sprinkles (make sure your kiddo doesn't try to eat them!).
- Paint with mud on canvas.
- Make a big soapy mess with bubbles.
- Make a "salad" with grass and leaves. Watery mud can be the dressing (delicious, right?)
- Pretend to make food for your dolls. (By the way, here are my thoughts about boys playing with dolls. Do you agree??)
- Practice cleaning up after yourself and putting away all the things.
- "Cook" Easter eggs.
- "Bake" by putting mud, clay, or play dough into muffin tins and leaving them out to dry. If you have a toddler, teach them about what happens to water in the sun and about how things dry.
- Dye cooked pasta and play with it in the mud kitchen.
- Stack measuring cups in size order.
- Learn what all the different kitchen utensils are used for: whisks, spatulas, turners, measuring cups, bowls, garlic presses, citrus juicers, etc.
- Give your kids old stale spices from the back of your pantry (not the spicy ones!), and let them practice shaking spices, or give them empty spice jars to fill with sand and dirt.
As you can see, there are SO MANY THINGS you can do with a mud kitchen!
Tell me below in a comment: What is YOUR child's favorite way to play outside?
Looking for other fun play ideas for toddlers?
- Water play ideas for toddlers for all budgets and spaces
- 20 Rainbow activities for young kids
- Swimsuit for toddlers with flotation - a must have for pools and beaches!
- I Spy printable - free printable, great for a rainy day!
- The best open ended toys for toddlers
- Mommy and me coloring pages - free printable!
Share this list of mud kitchen activities with a friend! And make sure to save it for later on Pinterest: