Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Summer Sensory Diet Series: Mud Kitchens for Sensory Summer Fun

Today, I want to spotlight a childhood favorite to enjoy in your backyard for some Proprioceptive, Gross Motor, Fine Motor and Tactile Fun:

Mud Kitchens

Mud and children.  They are a timeless mix. 

Capitalize on this by having your children build a mud kitchen in your yard.  It can be as simple as a dirt patch, some water and a a few foraged materials brought together for some imaginary mud pie cooking or as complex as, well, time, imagination and resources allow.

To get the full sensory benefit from your mud kitchen, I’d encourage involving your children in its creation from the git-go.

First, bring on the provocation – a suggestion on a rainy day, browsing photos of mud kitchen online, putting out an old muffin tin alongside some water and dirt… whatever you think might capture your children’s interest.

Then, have your child sketch or write notes about some plans for their very own mud kitchen.  Help them imagine the possibilities and brainstorm recycled, foraged or otherwise readily available materials they might use.

Next, get to work!  Hunt down your supplies together and actually build the kitchen.  Do it in an hour, a day, or over weeks (as we have been doing ours!)  Consider using such things as:

  • a cooking appliance—an old range, a box made into an oven, shelves with homemade burners
  • pots, pans, muffin tines
  • large metal or plastic bowls
  • cooking utensils
  • baskets or buckets
  • pitchers of water for cooking
  • recycled containers to hold herbs, spices and food decor
  • natural items to represent add-in ingredients
  • milk crates, boxes or something else to act as shelves
  • smocks or trash bags to protect clothing if you wish
  • gloves and long utensils for sensory-defensive children to use
  • recipe cards, pencils and a recipe box to add a literacy element
  • log pieces or other found items to be used as tables and chairs
  • a large bowl or dishpan to be used as a sink
  • sifters, colanders and other cooking pieces
  • towels, dishrags, potholders

Finally, get cooking with a large portion of imagination!

Truly, whether you design, build and begin using your mud kitchen all in one short afternoon or make it a longer project, you will likely find that it can provide hours of active, open-ended play which fosters imagination and creativity while encouraging sensory input.

Looking Through Your SPD Lenses

Sketching out plans for your mud kitchen, as well as using utensils in it and decorating mud pies and cakes works fine motor skills.

Searching for, lifting and carrying materials to be used in the construction of the kitchen is great gross motor heavy work, giving the proprioceptive sense a work out, especially if you have your kids haul bricks as mine did.

And, of course, making mud pies and other concoctions is a tactile activity.

The following skills also come into play:
  • Visual Attention – for building the kitchen as well as for making pies.
  • Eye-Hand Coordination – for building and baking
  • Reaching/Arm Extension – for stirring, getting supplies, etc.
  • Motor Planning – for building and baking
  • Two-Handed Play – for midline focus and transferring and bilateral coordination
  • Self Esteem – for a job well done after building the kitchen or baking up some wonderful mud treats
  • Sequential Thought – for deciding how to make design plans a reality as well as for cooking up  and serving mud recipes
  • Cause and Effect – for example, if I add a cup of water, what happens to the sand?
Indeed, the seemingly simple concept of making mud pies is rich in sensory input and skills development.


(1) Add some extra tactile stimulation by providing water at different temperatures for the making of mud – ice cold, cool, warm and hot – or by changing the media used to make the mud – sand, dirt with gravel mixed in, soil, compost, etc.

(2) Literacy in the mud?  Why not?  Use rocks and twigs to spell out names or initials to decorate mud cakes.

(3) Practice grace and courtesy – or live out a social story – by having a mud tea party or pizza party.

(4) Adapt the kitchen to special interests to further creative dramatic play – a café, a pet treat shop, a camp ground, a firehouse kitchen, a truck stop, etc.

(5) Add some olfactory stimulation by adding scented materials – coffee grounds to the mud, sweet smelling flowers to the cake décor, fresh cut grass or freshly fallen pine needles as herbs, etc.
Mud kitchens truly are a timeless, adaptable activity that appeals to many children.  We have enjoyed many variations of them over the past few years, all of which provide great sensory input.

How about you?  Any great mud pie recipes?  Other backyard ideas?  We’d love to hear about your favorite sensory-based backyard experiences.  Please share!  And, stay tuned soon for the next part of the series, when we’ll be sharing an idea for the playground.

Until then, please feel free to enjoy any of the Summer Sensory Diet Series posts you may have missed:

Since my children are still enjoying their mud kitchen, I decided to link this post to the Weekly Kid's Co-op.  I think it's definitely an idea worth pursuing for any child!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You have an absolutely wonderful blog! Such neat ideas! I will be following to gain some ideas to use with my son! :)


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