With everyone stuck at home at the moment, the weather getting better and kids to keep happy and amused, we decided to build a quick and easy mud kitchen for our three- and six-year old to play with. The more things that they can play together with in the garden, the more they can enjoy getting some fresh air and engaging in creative play. A mud kitchen is the perfect kids’ garden toy as it is compact, you can make it from cheap materials and items you have around the house and it is great for solo play and also role play playing if you have more than one child.
Where to start then? At the moment it isn’t necessary to be going out to the shops to buy items for a mud kitchen and, in fact, you probably don’t need to. The best place to start is to go around the house, look through the shed or get in the garage and make a pile of things you find that could be useful. By doing this you will also be using up items that would otherwise be gathering dust or going to landfill, as well as saving money. Here are some suggestions of what to look for:
If you have had a delivery of something heavy in the past, chances are that you will have an old pallet lying around. If you don’t, then have a look on Facebook or send a message to a local Facebook group to ask if anyone has one that they don’t need. Also, if you are picking up groceries from a smaller shop, they often have pallets available that you could take. A local fruit and veg shop or deli are a good place to look or message them to ask.
If you can’t find one then gather some pieces of wood such as any batons, fence posts, old floorboards etc. as you can use these instead.
This will be the frame for your kitchen.
Some pieces of wood
Any other pieces of wood you have can be useful to make the kitchen sturdier and to make a shelf.
A small bin, ice cream tub or small bowl
If you can find something like this then this can be your sink, just ensure it is something with a lip. It doesn’t need to be that big, just something that will act as a sink and you could make a hole in the bottom should you wish to let water drain out.
Round knobs, tops, pieces of wood etc.
These items are for knobs to be used for the pretend oven or hob, so anything that has this shape and can if possible be turned will be great. If you can’t find anything then you could use plastic milk tops or jam jar lids, for example.
One or two larger round items
These are for the hob or hobs, depending how large your kitchen is going to be. No mud kitchen needs six burners so I reckon one or two will be enough!
You will want something to hold some of the kitchen items so an old Tupperware or butter container will do the job. We found we had an old food waste bin and washing up holder that we hadn’t used for years and didn’t need, so these were ideal to use.
Not a necessity but if you wanted to add a door on the front of the kitchen for an oven then a couple of hinges will be needed. Otherwise, you can do without an oven, as we have. A shelf and your child’s imagination will suffice!
Dig out any screws that you have, a mix of lengths will be helpful depending on the wood you are using.
You will need a jigsaw, circular saw or hand saw, screwdriver (cordless drill with screwdriver if you have one), pencil and tape measure.
Once you have a pile of materials and tools, you are good to go!
Step 1 – Worktop and back
The first step is to cut the pallet into two pieces. Our pallet had nine boards and so we cut it straight after the fifth one to make the kitchen surface the larger piece. The shorter piece can then be placed at the back and screwed into position with screws.
Step 2 – Cut out a hole for the sink
Place the item you are using as sink upside down so you can mark the position you want it. You will want to cut a hole slightly smaller than this so that the lip still has something to sit on and keep it in place. Cut the hole and check the sink fits. Best to cut a smaller opening to start with and then cut again as necessary.
Step 3 - Legs
Time for the legs, so you need to work out what height you want the kitchen to be. We went with 80cm high but it depends on who’s playing with it so check a few heights against them before you decide. Then using some thick wood, such as a fence post, old rafter or baton, cut four equal lengths with a saw, jigsaw or circular saw. Now screw these onto the sides of the kitchen worktop using two screws in each leg.
To help make the mud kitchen more stable we would suggest adding a support on each side. To do this measure the distance from the front leg to the back leg on each side and cut another length of wood, one for each side. Attach these with screws.
Step 4 - Add a shelf or two
We had some fence panelling left over and so a couple of these were perfect to cut and use as shelves. We cut three lengths to fit under the kitchen worktop and sit on the leg supports. These were then screwed into place.
We also had a short length of floorboard, so cut this and screwed it into the upright piece of the kitchen to make another shelf.
Step 5 – Accessories
Lastly, we added a hob and some knobs using items we had found. For the hob we had a circular plastic piece that we think came with an extractor fan at some time, but in this case is perfect as a hob. We also had the bolts that you take off a washing machine and had kept.
The tops of these pulled off and made excellent oven/hob controls. By simply screwing them on (but not too tightly) through the existing hole they stay in place and can be turned too.
The old food waste bin with the lid was screwed to the side to provide storage and some old kitchen utensils, pots and pans added to complete it.
This is what the final item looks like. Not bad for something that cost us nothing, gave life to old items and only took a couple of hours. There is still room to add a few more bits as and when we find them, or for the kids to paint it if they want to, but it is ready and has already been played with a lot during this lockdown period.
Not everyone will have as much wood and random items lying around as we do but if you’re creative you will find things that will work. If you make one yourselves, do let us know, we’d love to see how you get on, or if you have any questions do get in touch and we’ll try and help.
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Fresh Start Living is based in Leeds, West Yorkshire and covers surrounding areas as well as offering a remote interior design service.