Spring Project: Outdoor Kitchen
How-To Make an Outdoor Kitchen for Junior Chef in Your Backyard or on a Patio
Are you looking for creative ways to get your child outside and using their imagination? At our Backcountry preschool-age programs like Eco Explorers and Nature Playtimes, we often open up an outdoor kitchen for all the little explorers with big imaginations. Springtime is a great time to set up an outdoor kitchen area and all you need is a good spot, some natural materials, some old kitchen items, and your imagination!
Step 1: Gather Old Kitchen Gear Go through your kitchen and pull out a few things that you can spare. These will probably get a little dirty and a bit banged up, so make sure it is something you don’t mind saying goodbye to. Grab old pots, pans, wooden spoons, plastic bowls! You can even grab some placemats, cloth napkins, oven mitts—anything you think will help to spark their imagination.
Step 2: Pick Your Spot This is the part where you need to get creative and put together a space for your child to do some outdoor cooking. Ideas for the kitchen setup can include an outdoor bench, some old logs you can layout as a surface to work on, a wooden pallet, some boards you can put out, or even just a blanket that you don’t mind getting a bit dirty.
Step 3: Collect Some Fun Natural Items to "Cook With" Grab some baskets, a paper bag, some little buckets, or whatever you have and walk around to collect some different things you can cook with: pinecones, rocks, leaves, flowers, wood chips, feathers, the sky is the limit! If you have any seashells laying around they make a great addition as well. You will also want a base of some sort such as sand, pebbles, wood chips, leaves, etc. that they can use to make their delicious food out of.
Step 4: Play!
If your child hasn’t played in an outdoor or pretend kitchen before you can always help get them started a bit. Show them how to mix and stir, and add touches of the natural items they collected to make some wonderful creations. Once they get going, watch out! They will be whipping up leaf-tacos, sandy cupcakes, pinecone cookies, and seashell soup for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If it is warm enough out and you don’t mind getting messy, you can even add some water into the mix!
Tara is an Environmental Education Coordinator with the Backcountry Wilderness Area. She was born and raised in both North Carolina and Colorado (#halfnative) where she spent a lot of her childhood outside, and now as an “adult” she strives to provide opportunities for today’s kids to do the same! When she’s not finding new adventures and trails to explore with her husband, little one, and friends, she’s probably taking pictures of her cat, (Chicken) Nugget Warrior Princess.