Let’s talk about our all season mud kitchen! ☔️☀️🍁❄️ I shared this project on Instagram a month ago and got lots of questions about it. So here’s an update! Yes, I built it myself. No, I don’t have exact plans! But here’s how I did it, with as much detail as possible. I tried to use as many supplies as I already had.
NOTE: With the current COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders, I have never been more thankful to live in a house and have a backyard! Life has changed so much, so quickly in coronavirus times. I debated still publishing this post, this week. But ultimately decided if it could add to some beauty and creating or just a simple distraction. I hope you can enjoy it and maybe tuck some ideas away for later if you don’t currently have a yard with excess lumber scraps. :)
Last summer, I built a mud kitchen for my kiddo. Actually I built it for myself, but thankfully, he likes it too! It all started when we needed to redo our deck last summer. We had a ton of short boards leftover. I spent the second half of my deck working dreaming and scheming of building our little guy a mud kitchen. We had so many 20-24″ cedar 2x6s left that I knew it would make a perfect kids mud kitchen!
Indoor Play Kitchen vs Outdoor Mud Kitchen
Over the past year, I had considered buying an indoor play kitchen. There are sooo many cute play kitchens. Both revamped and updated mod kitchens and even just standard IKEA ones. We live in an old farmhouse style home and the downstairs doesn’t have a ton of extra space for one. I knew if we really wanted to we could squeeze one in our dining room space. But I really wanted him to be making use of our kitchen helper tower and helping make real food when he wanted to join me in the kitchen. And we already had an easel, an art cart, and his work table area in the dining room. It’s full but it feels well-used not over-crowded.
Plus, I knew if we added a play kitchen we would also be dealing with the five million play food and cutlery etc all over that we’d be constantly trying to contain. Plus, the final nudge in favor of an outdoor play kitchen is I’m always trying to find more reasons to play outside!
DIY Mud Kitchen: Inspiration
At the time, there weren’t a ton of mud kitchens around. I found a few on Pinterest and Instagram, that had parts that I liked. It seems like in the last year though, a ton of shops have popped up selling mud kitchens and even mass retailers. Kinda wild! So you can definitely just buy one now too if that sounds more your style! For me, what I wanted out of a mud kitchen was for it to be something we created and to have it be kind of a challenge to use up supplies that we already had (hello huge stack of leftover short decking)! Check out my outdoor Pinterest board for some of my inspo for mud kitchens.
Mud Kitchen Plans
Disclaimer: I don’t have an exact plan for this mud kitchen. But here is our supplies list. I originally thought I would use up all our 2×6 leftovers on the base and the upper section of the mud kitchen. After I got going though, I realized I needed lightweight boards up top so it wasn’t top heavy. If I was buying supplies from scratch I could have used lighter lumber down below too, but what I love about the finished product is how solid it is. I don’t have to worry about this thing tipping over or breaking if one of the kids decides to stand on it. I also made the kitchen in two main pieces. The base table and then the backing slides down into the base so it’s steady. This way we can move or store it easily if we needed.
The mud kitchen is 46″ wide – almost 4 feet. It has a 21″ tabletop. This felt almost too high for a just turned two year old. However, six months later, it’s the perfect height and he’ll be able to use it for quite awhile. The mud kitchen is 24″ deep, to accommodate the sink.
Our Supplies List:
- 17 – 24″ 2x6s cedar deck boards
- 4 – 42″ 2×6 boards for frame
- *6-8 – 1×4 pine or other cheap lumber for backsplash
- 1 large hammered metal planter bowl (for larger sink)
- leftover screws and some random rusty nails for some final attachments
- plastic water pitcher/faucet (leftover from our wedding, similar)
- Stove knobs (part of an IKEA lacing bead toy – secured with rusty nails!)
- Piece of 18″x18″ plywood
- Chalkboard paint (leftover from kitchen wall (similar)
- *small hammered metal sink bowl so it would match the larger one – $13
- *Cup hooks – for utensils -$3.40
- *tiny hinges for the oven – $2.58 (similar)
- *Play cooking supplies – $13 at Goodwill and few old items from our kitchen (similar)
- *indicates items purchased
- Circular saw
- Jigsaw for slanted bowl cut outs
- drill/impact driver set
*Note: when I was building our deck, I decided to go with the Dewalt cordless charging system, so all four tools use the same rechargeable batteries. You definitely don’t need all these to build a mud kitchen. :)
1. Start with the base frame. Make a basic rectangle frame that the you’ll put slat boards on top of.
2. Test out the spacing of the tabletop boards over the frame. I did about a 1/2″ gap so water wouldn’t pool on the top. Don’t secure your table top boards to the frame yet if you plan to make a lower level.
3. Flip the table top over and fit leg pieces in each corner. To make it extra sturdy, you can use 2 boards at each corner.
4. (Optional) If you want a lower level storage area or partial for an “oven” etc. you can repeat the steps in #1 and #2 above to make a framing for the lower level, or even do just half or a 1/3 to one side for an oven. Support the boards and then attach to the rest of the base frame. After you have your lower level boards attached, then secure all the table top boards to the upper level. Start with the two side pieces and then figure out your final spacing for the remaining boards between.
5. Create a backing piece by lining up all your horizontal boards on 2 vertical boards as support backing. Attach horizontal boards and (optional) add 1 top piece as a shelf if wanted.
6. Sink: If you want to use round bowls for sinks, flip the bowl upside down and trace around the outer edge. Then, using your jigsaw, cut at an angle slightly on the inside of your line. It will take a little bit of work to get the bowl sitting at the height you want. Just cut slowly and test it a bit at a time, as you can’t go back and redo this part after you’ve made too large of a cut.
Do any reinforcement of the boards on the underside of the frame after you have the bowl(s) cut out. As you can see in the image above, I have several small reinforcements and one large piece under the bigger sink. This was both to keep the top plank boards in place and to support the large bowl, when it has increased weight from being full of water.
7. Add any other fun parts and upgrades! I decided to add a swing-open horizontal door as an oven. If it opened like a regular oven door, I felt like it would end up getting busted off or sat on. I also added stove knobs from a wooden IKEA lacing toy that he wasn’t using. The perfect size for some old rusty nails to fit through. So they actually turn and it doesn’t unscrew anything. Other ideas at the end: paint stovetop burner circles, add faucet knobs, shelves etc.
Chalkboard – I had chalkboard paint and plywood leftover from a different project, so I decided to add a small piece to the backing.
8. Decorate the upper backsplash area. I purchased some cheap mug hooks. I added one row and after seeing how much our kiddo liked hanging things on the hooks I added a second row. You could also just attach nails or other hooks to hang pots and pans or cooking utensils on.
9. Spot sand and/or seal the wood. Most of the wood I didn’t worry about sanding much, I did a light sand, and there were a couple edge spots that needed some sanding. If I had been building this for a younger child I might have spent more time sanding. I also ended up putting one coat of clear sealant on the mud kitchen. I didn’t plan this from the start, but since I needed to spot test a board before sealing our deck, I thought oh I’ll just test it on the kitchen. Then I had a bit left over so I did one coat. The recommended was 2 coats, but better than nothing!
6 Months Later
This was one of the most fun projects I’ve ever made! I consider myself to be an amateur carpenter. Just a mom with some recent tool purchases. Ha! The last time I had used a saw was about 10 years ago when I made some garden boxes. If you’re curious about wood working, this is a super fun project to practice on! Since then, I just keep adding to the mud kitchen! I still might paint some little stove burners.
This thing has already gotten so much use and I’m super excited to see how much fun we have with it this next summer.
Bowls vs Sinks
Many mud kitchens that I found when I was in the inspiration phase, had real sinks. I think this is a fun idea, but as mentioned in the supplies list, I didn’t want to mess with the draining aspect. I figured bowls that we could also take out would be simple. And I already had the large metal bowl that we’d been using as a succulent planter indoors until… hello toddlers!
I wanted the option to be able to easily remove the bowl, spray it out with a hose or just put it away during winter if we needed. I also had 3 plastic drink dispensers from our wedding that we use about once a year for parties or lend to friends. So I donated one to his mud kitchen. Idea being that I could fill it up and then he could be in control of the water without giving him full access to the hose and water. Older kids can probably handle that fine, but at age 2, I didn’t want to have to worry about the waste of water!
Play Kitchen Supplies
There are tons of adorable play kitchen item sets out there, but I would recommend hitting up your Goodwill first. I spent $8 and got 6 great and unique items! Then I picked up the $5 play kitchen utensil set from IKEA, as I couldn’t beat that price at our Goodwill. And bonus is that his play kitchen looks super unique and not just like oh here’s my standard issue set of all IKEA play things.
I would 100% recommend building with leftover lumber and stuff you have. I realize not everyone has leftover wood and supplies from a deck rebuild, or even much of a yard. However, half the fun of this project for me, was seeing what we could do with what we had laying around. So stop by a “rebuilding center” or lumber yard or reuse place, or even Home Depot and see what you can find!
I hope you enjoyed a look at our mud kitchen and how I built it! Let me know if you have any questions about the process. If you’re just getting started in the mud kitchen scheming, I would recommend a water table to start! We got a cheap water table around 9 months old. He has played with it for two summers. And we will pass it on this summer to someone else. Last summer he really liked playing in gravel and dirt with a large bowl (that became the sink of his mud kitchen). Basically, all that to stay, start small, see what your little one is into. Really just getting outside and having some fun things to splash around and a “yes” space to play is all they need. But sometimes a project captures your imagination and you just get carried away!