The weather is starting to warm up, and we cannot wait to get outside! A lot of our outdoor time is spent doing gross – motor activities – running, biking, climbing, but we also have a special area of our backyard dedicated to outdoor pretend play.
Outdoor Pretend Play: Mixing up Nature Soup
Some people call this a mud kitchen (and I know we have all seen the gorgeous mud kitchens on Pinterest that are probably nicer than my actual kitchen). But the truth is, I don’t love playing in mud – I love playing with water. To manage this kind of play, we have established a few tricks and rules that have made this outdoor pretend play work for our family.
- I love yard sales—my kids call this “treasure hunting”. Rather than purchasing plastic kid toys we love to incorporate real household items into our outdoor pretend play:
- Muffin tins
- Wooden spoons
- Metal bowls
- Ice cube trays
- Cookie sheets
- Metal cake molds
- Squirt bottles
- Wooden mallets
The kids can use these materials however they want (short of smacking each other with them). They are stored in a basket so clean up is easy. These materials are sturdy, but if they break or get dirty, I do not feel stressed.
- The real treasure of this collection is our water jug with a spout. The kids can be in charge of their water and can manage their own play. And I don’t need to stand there with a hose or keep refilling their buckets. This has been a game changer for our outdoor pretend play. Our first year we had a cheap one and it didn’t hold up—in my opinion, it is worth investing in a quality jug that will last a long time.
- In addition to our collection of household objects, we have jars of nature loose parts which are our ingredients—rocks, sticks, seashells, acorn tops. The kids will find these treasures on walks and then we can refill our supplies. We do not have outdoor pretend food—the rocks and seashells can be a carrot for soup, or chocolate chips for cookies, or eyeballs for witches stew. If this feels odd to your kids, you can model it for them—pretend to mix it together and taste your own soup. Tell them how yummy it is and offer them a taste.
- My kids love using leaves and flowers as ingredients in our outdoor pretend play, so we agreed upon a designated area in our yard where the kids can pull leaves (it is basically a giant weed). Rather than pulling from our garden, the kids understand that there is ONE space where they can pick, and they don’t feel as tempted to pull from all over.
- While my kids get started with playing, I get prepped for clean-up. I have a towel ready at the door so they can wipe off their feet before they come in.
Once we have the materials gathered, our rules established, and we are ready for clean-up, my kids are free to enjoy this outdoor pretend play and mix up their own recipes, open a restaurant, set up a tea party, throw a birthday party, or whatever else they can imagine.
You might also like: