My Recipe for Three

preschool art

At preschool each week, I am struck over and over again by the absolute hilarity of the three and four year old set.  I could sit and listen to them talk for hours.  I find them amusing, adorable, and clever.  At home, my own almost 3 1/2 year old on the other hand, well, he bounces off the walls, talks fast and loud, and generally wears me out.  Yes, he’s hilarious and lots of fun but he is exhausting!  In fact, let me dig through my email quickly and find a couple of recent funny things he has said recently.  Sometimes I email them to my friend Eve who is amused by Silas’ antics, sometimes I just email myself!

-Yesterday after co op, I laid Silas in the (empty) church parking lot next to my van to quickly change his diaper.  He pointed to a nearby cigarette butt and said, “That was mine.  I used to smoke, but I quit.” 

-He just fell down and hit his head.  I picked him up and held him for a few minutes.  When he finished crying he told me, “That bonk on the head made me good now.”  As in good boy vs. bad boy.  I don’t buy it.

-I made rice pudding tonight, and Jonny asked, “Silas, “Isn’t mommy the best?”  He answered, “No.”  I asked him,  “Silas, who’s the best?” He deadpanned, “I am.  I poop the potty.”

Anyway, child number six, he demands attention, and he gets it.  I try to work things so that the good attention outweighs the bad.  It isn’t always easy.  Sometimes I have to make little sacrifices.  Such as…

Yesterday I had plans for an afternoon grocery shopping trip alone (the luxury!) Last minute, I decided to tack on a couple of fun stops and make the trip a date for Silas and me.  He’s been especially wild and crazy this week (this year), and I knew the one-on-one attention would do him good.  And really, when it’s just the two of us he’s a pretty fun date as long as I keep the outing under two hours or so.  Of course I didn’t, we were out for closer to four hours, and by the end he was throwing groceries out of the cart while I tried to remain positive.

Three is hard, but it’s good hard.  I just can’t let myself slip into a pattern of managing bad behavior.  It’s important to remember that even at three, Silas is an individual and if he’s a little wild and crazy, well then, I best find my way to help him get occupied in a positive way, rather than say yes to Starfall one more time….

Lots of outdoor play, stories, art, and the occasional date afternoon.  That’s my recipe for a happy three.


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.