When I was a child, my favorite activities involved being outdoors immersed in nature. Rather than spend my time playing with an indoor play kitchen, I preferred to make “real” pies from mud. Some of my dearest memories are of afternoons spent sitting on my grandparents’ back porch with a spoon and a couple of small pie tins packed with mud.
Without my prompting, my oldest daughter recently began creating mud pies of her own.
In keeping with this new favorite activity, I set out to create an outdoor mud pie kitchen for all my children. My goal was to keep things simple; leaving plenty of room for imagination. I also wanted to use materials we already had on hand or could obtain secondhand. An old crate turned upside down serves as the base of our kitchen; while a couple of old ammo boxes sitting on top provide a “stove” and a little cupboard. You can be creative with what you have or can obtain easily. I chose to place our little kitchen on our small back porch because my youngest is under two and I like to keep her close. However, it would be equally nice under a shady tree or on a small patio.
Every kitchen needs a table and chairs, and for that purpose we used pieces of wood that never made it to the woodpile last winter. These won’t last forever, but they are working well right now as both little seats and additional workspace.
Our dishes, pots, and pans have come from a variety of sources: thrift stores, our own cast offs, and a few little pots and pans that have been received as gifts. Stainless steel and galvanized metal are best because they won’t rust, but we do use old rusty pans as well, namely muffin tins. I have both full-sized and miniature thrifted pots and pans. My favorites are the small ones, of course. Another good addition is a mortar and pestle. We found ours at an international foods market.
Even my older boys like to join in the fun. This is one of my children’s favorite activities to do together despite the fact that they range in age from one all the way up to almost ten. In fact, even I like making mud pies. Seriously, it’s fun.
My four year old daughter adds special touches like a tablecloth (just a fabric scrap cut out with pinking shears) and fresh flowers.
A little galvanized tub makes a great sink for washing dishes, hands, and providing water for the mud batter. This is the only item I purchased new, and was obtained at our local feed store for around five bucks.
Plenty of dirt is essential. Even if you live in a city apartment without your own patch of soil, a bag of topsoil can be purchased and kept in a bucket on the smallest of patios. Every now and then I provide rice or dry beans as well.
While dirt is definitely the main ingredient in most of the dishes created,
sometimes “fried” wild onions make an appearance as well.
The possibilities are endless.
Armed with a pot, some soil, water, and an old wooden spoon, some fabulous dishes can be created. My daughter likes to have me smell her mud to make sure it smells “just right.”
Flower petals and other bits of nature make nice additions to mud pies, and gathering them is half the fun!
I have found that my children spend quite a bit of time decorating their pies and cakes until they are little works of art.
Pies are placed in the “brick oven” to bake. To create your own, simply line up a row of bricks in a sunny spot and there you have it! If you don’t have any bricks, you can draw bricks inside a cardboard box.
Keeping a tidy kitchen is also part of the fun.
But more often than not, tins full of mud and water are left lying about, as the little cooks run off to build another outdoor home, store, or restaurant; inspired by their imaginations and the little place you’ve created for them.
And that’s the beauty of it: a few simple props, some old pots and pans, and a generous dose of the outdoors and children can create hours of beautiful imaginative play.
Now it’s your turn to create a mud pie kitchen for your favorite little ones!
Ginny Sheller lives in Virginia with her husband, five children, and too many animals. They fill their days working and playing in a very old house on a work in progress homestead. Armed with her camera, Ginny documents their life and adventures on her blog Small Things.