The Original Mud Pie Kitchen

In the spring of 2010, after creating what I called a “mud pie kitchen” on our back porch for Larkspur, I wrote a tutorial describing our creative process for a website called Rhythm of the Home.  I wasn’t sure that the editors would even find it worthy of publishing.  But I guess I am far from being the only grown woman with fond memories of making mud pies as a child, because that piece ended up being the most popular ever in the history of Rhythm of the Home!  Mud pie kitchens began springing up all over the internet, and I could hardly believe it!  Over four years later, Larkspur’s enthusiasm for her mud pie kitchen is still strong.  She recently gave her first oral presentation at our homeschool co op and chose to speak about her mud pie kitchen.  I printed the photos from my original piece for her to share with her friends.  After revisiting those photos with Larkspur, I thought it might be a good time to post my original tutorial here.  And while these photos were taken in the spring, Larkspur’s favorite time of year in the mud pie kitchen is fall!

How to make a mud pie kitchen:

The original "How to make a mud pie kitchen" from Ginny Sheller
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.

mud pie kitchen setup small things blog
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.

mud pie kitchen tree stump small things blog
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.

mud pie kitchen tree stumps and water small things blog
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 thrifted both full sized and miniature 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.

mud pie kitchen table cloth small things blog
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.

mud pie kitchen utensils small things blog
My four year old daughter adds special touches like a tablecloth (just a fabric scrap cut out with pinking shears) and fresh flowers.

mud pie kitchen sink small things blog
A little galvanized tub makes a great sink for washing dishes, hands, and providing water for the mud batter. This being the only item I purchased new, was obtained at our local feed store for around five bucks.

mud pie kitchen dirt small things blog
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.

mud pie kitchen mud small things blog
While dirt is definitely the main ingredient in most of the dishes created,

mud pie kitchen fried onions small things blog
sometimes “fried” wild onions make an appearance as well.

The original "how to make a mud pie kitchen" from Ginny Sheller
The possibilities are endless.

The original "how to make a mud pie kitchen" from Ginny Sheller
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.”

The original "how to make a mud pie kitchen" from Ginny Sheller
Flower petals and other bits of nature make nice additions to mud pies, and gathering them is half the fun!

The original "how to make a mud pie kitchen" from Ginny Sheller
I have found that my children spend quite a bit of time decorating their pies and cakes until they are little works of art.

The original "how to make a mud pie kitchen" from Ginny Sheller
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.

The original "how to make a mud pie kitchen" from Ginny Sheller
Keeping a tidy kitchen is also part of the fun.

The original "how to make a mud pie kitchen" from Ginny Sheller
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.

The original "how to make a mud pie kitchen" from Ginny Sheller
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.

The original "how to make a mud pie kitchen" from Ginny Sheller
Now it’s your turn to create a mud pie kitchen for your favorite little ones!

 ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

-This is our favorite mud pie kitchen cookbook. We are on our second copy, and could use a new one because it is so well loved.

-You can find more mud pie kitchen inspiration here, here, here, and here.

 

Comments

  1. This is the most brilliant post! Your photos are so beautiful, and capture perfectly the creative play that is inspired by your gorgeous space. How often do you have to replace materials?

    • Thank you! Every now and then we pick up a few things at the thrift store, but mostly my kids find things in the woods around our house–other people’s old trash dumps make for lots of treasures.

  2. This makes my heart so happy! At the moment we live in a condo complex that would never tolerate a mud kitchen on the balcony (just received a notice that our children are not allowed to use sidewalk chalk inside the complex because it’s “defacement,” oh please) but SOMEDAY we will have a yard and will make just this kind of kitchen <3

  3. I love these pics Ginny! Memories of the wee small years. We, too, enjoyed mud pies in the backyard, and you’re inspiring me to keep it going for my 9 yr old (who is always looking for the rest of the gang to stay young with her).

  4. I so loved that website.
    Do you by chance know what happened? I checked again and again for the next season to appear, and it never did…….

  5. I love your tutorial! I have been meaning to create a space like this for my 3.5yo. Now I have a wonderful blueprint. Beautiful photos. I think I would enjoy cooking in this kitchen, too!

  6. They all look so little!! I cannot even imagine cleaning the mess that would result on the balcony if I tried this in our apartment. I would be ok with it, but the downstairs neighbours probably wouldn’t appreciate muddy water dripping onto their balcony. Because it would happen. Such beautiful nostalgic wonderful pictures, Ginny.

  7. it is pure beauty!thank´s a lot! hi from czech republic! i love this, everithing, God bless you and your familly! Zuzana

  8. I think you are the coolest mom ever for letting your kids get so dirty 😉 We made a mud pie kitchen last year (our first one!), inspired by you. But I’m afraid I limit the fun because I just don’t want that mud in the house! I’ll have to work on that. My husband doesn’t quite appreciate the mud kitchen at all and requires that we keep it in the empty lot next door (we’re growing grass and THAT is important to my man 🙂 ). This post makes me excited to clean up our mud kitchen and help my girls enjoy it into the fall.

  9. Love it love it love it. Takes me back. We were surrounded by oak trees so acorns figured largely in my girls’ play. Fun to see your girls little again.

  10. How beautiful…..
    This really took me back in years, now I wonder if my boys would enjoy this as much a I did and your little munchkins do *chuckle*…..
    Thank you for sharing your beautiful family with us xx

  11. I do this for my grandchild, she also helps in vegetable garden with watering & pulling out weeds etc. I cannot stand how most children nowadays are more happy inside watching TV or playing games, it infuriates me.
    So when she visits I take her outside & look for bugs & butterflys and even ants. There is a whole new world in our backyards that some children do not even notice.

  12. I made mud pies for years. It was one of my favorite things to do in the yard. I can’t wait for my daughter to do that as well!

  13. I love this!! I also love the fact that all of the kids are playing together. This is great. This is the life.

  14. One of my teachers got her father in-law to make one of these for our preschool playground. The kids love it!

  15. I kind of want to come over and play now… 🙂

  16. Elizabeth says:

    You should publish a book on the mud pie kitchen. It would be wonderful, and I know may kids that would love it.

  17. Thank you so much for sharing this.. It makes me smile to remember my Mudpie kitchen.

  18. They look so little! And I don’t know that Little Man would like making mud pies…but her certainly likes playing in mud.

  19. look how young they all were.<3 so sweet. now that we have a backyard that is suitable for such funness,, i think we will put one together too!

  20. This is SO adorable, Ginny! And, wow, but Silas looks like Larkspur, and Job like Beatrix in these pics! 🙂

  21. I just wanted to say that I just adore your blog & it is so inspiring and at the same time very comforting. I hope you get back from it just as much as you give because it really brightens my day when I take a peek.

  22. Tiny Keats is soooo cute!!! :3

  23. What wonderful memories they are making! Yes, it made me smile and remember soooo many years ago doing the same thing. 🙂

  24. Love the kids’ mud pie kitchen! I told mine a month or two ago that I wanted to do this, but we’ve yet to carve out the time. Your post is motivation to me to get my act in gear and get it done. My kids would love it!

  25. I’m so glad you reposted this here! Your mud pie kitchen inspired us to create one, and my children and I think it is one of the best things we’ve ever done. We even bought the cookbook, too! : ) Thank you so much for this inspiration.

  26. So glad you posted this here! I remember that original article now because when I first saw it I thought, Hey! I had what I also named a “mud pie kitchen” growing up, too and just like you my children followed in my footsteps. It’s so great, isn’t it?! And way to go Larkspur on her oral presentation!!

  27. Ginny,
    Thanks for re-posting this. Bracken absolutely loves to gather flower petals, mix them with water and sometimes grass and make creations in the garden. He would be so happy if I set up a mud pie kitchen for him. Thanks for the inspiration.

    Love,
    Taryn

  28. This brought back memories for me. We even “cooked” in the snow….making snow recipes. My little neighbor friend and I made so many “kitchens” for our mud pies. Orange crates were big in my day….to make scooters and furniture for our forts. Being an only child, it was mostly my own imagination that kept me entertained. Love the pictures of your beautiful children. They are so lucky to grow up in a home like yours. You are doing a wonderful job.

  29. This will be perfect for Monnie for next summer….

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