Welcome to the Mud Cafe 
Give your child with the opportunity to feel the "squish" of mud between their fingers and develop their "culinary" imagination by setting up a mud kitchen in your backyard.

Mixing dirt with water, adding a dash of dried leaves and a sprinkle of sand helps children explore cause and effect, develops their curiosity and introduces them to science.

A mud kitchen doesn't have to be fancy or expensive. Scrounging for materials around your home, at a second hand store, or from family and friends is a fun project that you and your child can work on together.

Here are five tips to help you create the BEST mud kitchen EVER!
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Start scrounging. Look at items with your child and talk about how you might use them. You'll be amazed by their creative ideas. Use wood scraps to build a base for the sink, stack up crates and pallets to make shelves, saw a log to create a table or stool. Still struggling? Check out ideas on Pinterest to jump start your imagination.
Take Five_2
Use items in new ways. Anything made out of plastic, metal, or wood that can hold up to sun, wind, and rain is fair game. Discolored, bent and scratched up pans are perfect for a mud kitchen (Check carefully to make sure there are no sharp edges). Collect lids from plastic containers to create a set of "fine china". Paint rocks to look like food. 
Take Five_3
Dress for success. Have your child wear their swimming suit or designate a "mud kitchen approved" wardrobe of play clothes. Rubber boots, raincoats, and plastic aprons also make great kitchen attire and are easy to hose off when playtime is over. 
Take Five_4
Don't fear the dirt. Keep in mind that kids are washable. Research indicates that spending time outdoors and playing in the dirt can help your child build up a resistance to bad bacteria. Obviously you should discourage children from actually eating their mud pies and always have them wash their hands and face before eating a real food snack or meal.
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Give them time to imagine. Spending time outdoors helps children relax. Figuring out the right dirt-to-water ratio for soup or choosing the right stick to decorate a pie takes time. Supervise your child's  activities, while giving them space and time to try out ideas and practice their problem solving skills. 
Q.  Mud kitchens sound like a good idea, but we don't have much space or enough stuff to put one together. Any suggestions ?
A. Start small. A plastic ice cream bucket, some yogurt containers and some plastic silverware are enough to get the fun started. Then, as you are able, build a countertop and sink like shown here with four crates and a board. Remember, it doesn't have to be perfect or beautiful... just fun.


Do you have a question or a topic you'd like us to explore? Contact Parent Services at PSstaff@ndchildcare.org or call 800-997-8515

More Resources to Explore
Visit the Child Care Aware┬«  website and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to learn more ways to help children do problem solving and gain confidence.

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