To be considered baby- and toddler-friendly, a plate generally must have two features: durability and separate compartments. The plates need to be durable to withstand frequent throws from the high chair, and as Baby Center points out, little fussy eaters often don’t want their food to mix.
So like many new parents, I fell into the trap of buying plates specially designed for toddlers. Before I made these purchases, however, I wish I had come across the clever and budget-friendly toddler plate approach that is today’s hint.
The idea, which I came across over at the blog Tots and Me: use muffin tins as toddler plates.
It turns out that there’s a whole community of moms online sharing muffin tin meal inspiration (often creating muffin tin meals tied around themes), as Jean Van’t Hul pointed out on Babble.com out a few years ago in a nice roundup of muffin tin meal focused sites. (I can’t be the only parent who just learned about this trend, so you can find out more about the online tradition of sharing muffin tin meal ideas over at Muffin Tin Mom). And the meals have been called everything from preschooler bento boxes to muffin tin tapas.
The price on these toddler plates can’t be beat, assuming you have muffin tins (or similar cupcake tins) around your house already. But even if you don’t, such tins are still a more frugal purchase than regular old toddler plates, since they’re a double duty product.
In other words, you can still use the tins for their intended purpose, and you can make much more than muffins in them. Case in point: Check out the kid-friendly muffin tin recipes in a roundup by Barbara Rockwell over at PopSugar Moms, and think muffin-size omelets, mac-and-cheese made in muffin cups and meatloaf cupcakes too.
Besides their cheap price tags, muffin tins also make it easy to offer a well-balanced meal – just make sure to fill up a number of the muffin holes with different kinds of foods.
Over at Hellobee, Wendy of the site Wendolonia says she has found muffin tins with six holes to be the perfect size for preschoolers and she offers a helpful how-to for making a simple, well-balanced muffin tin meal.
Looking for more muffin tin meal inspiration? The site Wholesome Toddler Food offers a helpful well-balanced “Mighty Muffin Tin” snack idea, and Pinterest has a wealth of muffin-tin toddler meal plans you can follow.
What are your favorite muffin tin meals? What are your favorite baby and toddler mealtime accessories and why?