Spring here in the Pacific Northwest brings with it outdoor play and mud! While it may seem counterintuitive to create a playspace for playing in the mud, there are many benefits for kids. Exposure to friendly soil bacteria can boost the immune system and helps to increase serotonin release in the brain, a hormone that helps in mood regulation. In addition, educational opportunities abound when children use all of their senses to create, measure, dig and build —whether in a mud puddle or a sandbox.
We’ve gathered 9 ideas for your very own sandbox or mud kitchen — from easy to complicated. Use the arrows above the image to find your inspiration.
1. Mud Kitchen from upcycled furniture
The Me and B Make Tea blog has fantastic ideas on how to upcycle old furniture for a mud kitchen. If you don’t have an old wardrobe like she did, she suggests anything from a shelf to a bookcase to use as a base. We especially like her use of large dog bowls as basins.
2. DIY mud kitchen in one weekend
In this tutorial from the blog Hands On as We Grow, learn how to create this cute kitchen in just one weekend. Part pallet, part two-by-fours this project is totally doable. They used a sink and offered up alternate ideas such as plastic bins. You know, just in case you don’t have a sink lying around.
3. Perfectly imperfect mud kitchen in about 30 Seconds
After going down the rabbit hole of gorgeous, complicated mud kitchen builds on Pinterest, The Rhubarb and Wren blog author ended up putting together one for her kids in seconds by pulling things together from around her house and yard. This post offers ideas for tools and accessories as well as books to read about mud after clean up.
4. Wheelbarrow mud kitchen
We love the sheer ingenuity of this mud kitchen from the Build, Sew, Reap blog. Seattleite and blog author Julie took apart an old wheelbarrow to create this amazing outdoor play space. Not only did she upcycle the wheelbarrow, but she found the accessories at a free estate sale. Bonus — this one is easily moveable!
5. Tire sandbox
Another timeless outdoor activity is the good old sandbox. If you can get ahold of an old tire, this design is a winner. The Ideas2Live4 blog has a step-by-step tutorial for making one in your backyard. The umbrella is a fun touch, especially for sunny summer days.
6. Sandbox with fabric cover
Taryn Whiteaker sewed up this super-cute fabric tent to go over a DIY wood sandbox. On her blog, find complete instructions for both the box and the cover. We love how the tent allows light in while still offering some shade.
7. Sandbox with benches
The creative family behind the blog called Utah's Adventure Family built this amazing sandbox. It features benches for the adults to sit on and a sturdy cover to keep out the elements (and the animals). This is a big project, but picture yourself sitting on the bench reading a book or drinking your coffee while your kids play? Worth it!
8. PVC pipe sand and water table
The Frugal Fun 4 Boys blog always delivers on family fun and this sand and water table is no exception! With funnels and pipes for extra pouring plus plenty of space for digging, this project provides hours and hours of fun. Bonus: It’s made of plastic, so there is no need to worry about weatherproofing.
9. Pirate ship sandbox
DIY not your thing? Well, ahoy, Matey! Kids can sail the seven seas while digging in the sand with this sandbox from KidKraft. It even comes with a canopy to protect the kids from the sun. All you’ll need to add is the sand and some digging tools. Parrot optional!
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in April 2020, and updated in March 2021.