Making the everyday magical: muffin tin snack trays

12 June 2020

We could all use a little dose of whimsy these days, yes? Even before the heartache of last week, there was – and is – the monotony and heaviness of COVID-19. So when June came downstairs after quiet time one day early in quarantine asking for a “special snack,” I was happy to oblige. Enter: the muffin tin snack tray.

Maybe you’ve seen one, or even enjoyed one yourself. I first heard about them from Merrick, and thought they sounded like a lovely idea – maybe a little extra – but something to tuck away for the elementary school years.

And then June requested a special snack and, well, here we are. Having muffin tin snack trays almost daily :)

Here are a few reasons why I have come to love the muffin tin snack tray:

— They are perfect for using up little odds and ends hanging around the fridge or pantry. Less food waste is always a win!

— Because of the fun presentation, and the fact that we’re all eating together, my kids are more likely to try anything new I add to the tray.

— Though most days I’m kind of haphazardly throwing things together, the snack tray presents a creative opportunity for the willing parent: you could theme the contents for upcoming holidays, play around with color or shapes, or attune it to a visitor. Kind of like a modern charcuterie board, but way easier :)

— It helps me get all the food groups into my kiddos in a day. Even if we don’t have a ton of fruits and vegetables at dinner, the snack tray gives me another opportunity to tick those boxes.

And now, a few tips for introducing muffin tin snack trays into your life:

— My initial thought was that I’d introduce snack trays when June started kindergarten – I figured everyone would be a bit older by then and they’d be a sweet moment to reconnect after being apart during the day. Having started earlier, I would say Shep, at 1 3/4, is just barely old enough to participate in a civilized way. He mostly grasps the concepts of sharing, taking one thing at a time, and not putting half-eaten food back into the tray, ha!

— You can fill more than one pocket with the same thing. You don’t have to come up with 12 separate things every day!

— To keep things fun without the budget going wild, I’ve started adding one novel item to my grocery list each week – a new kind of cracker, something from the international aisle, chocolate-covered pretzels, etc. Over a few grocery trips you’ll build up a stash of fun things that you can rotate in and out.

— We like to include a mix of savory and sweet, familiar and foreign, crunchy and soft. Add dips or spreads. Play with colors and textures and have fun!

— Remember you can easily adjust the amounts in each pocket for the number of people eating and how big of a snack you want it to be. June, Shep, and I partake in the snack tray together about 2 hours before dinner, and ours is sized appropriately.

— If you have older kids with bigger appetites, take a tip from Merrick: don’t refill anything until everything is gone. That way, they’ll be forced to eat the veggies if they want more marshmallows :) In our current life stage, I never refill the tray.

— To practice manual dexterity (so Montessori!) and slow the whole process down a bit, give everyone a fancy toothpick to spear with. We like these ones.

Friends, as a parent and a person I am an interesting mix of highly practical and consistently weak-kneed for the magical and memorable. No, not everything in our kiddos’ childhoods has to be magical – much of it will be humdrum and ordinary (and in my opinion that’s actually good!). But I also believe childhood should be punctuated by the needlessly fancy, the extravagantly whimsical, and the fun-just-because. The magical things I love the most are the ones that inject novelty into our days, cause us to linger together, and therefore slow down time. Muffin tin snack trays check all my boxes, and I hope they’ll bring a little sweetness to your days, too!

Friends, I’d love to hear a way you inject a little novelty or magic into daily life, whether or not you have kids!

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June 12, 2020 7:25 am

Given your experience, what’s the correct number of dips? Is it only 1? Do you ever have more than 1 dip?

Kelly Strawberry
June 12, 2020 8:10 am

So cute & have always loved and appreciated your practicality when it comes to making magical moments for your family! One fun thing I’ve done when pints of ice cream (like Ben & Jerrys are on sale) is buy like 6 of them and then we do ice cream taste testings to see what flavors each family member likes best!

Kate W
June 12, 2020 8:57 am

I have thought of you often during quarantine because I find in my memory the novel things with my now 4 year old are what I recall most vividly… going to the dinosaur museum, rides on the boardwalk, Easter egg hunts at the park where we were married in a historic chapel. Cut to being quarantined with my 9 month old I was almost paralyzed at times with upset over the fear of not remembering her precious 1st year vividly. I would think of you because you’ve written about injecting novel into life and did wonder how you’re trying to maintain that amidst stay at home orders. I did Do a deconstructed salad lunch in a muffin tray picnic outside with my son while my daughter napped and that lunch does stand out. Tonight Dad is doing a backyard camp out with our son. I would love to read a post with any other ideas you have to keep at home time memorable.

Kate W
June 17, 2020 7:27 am
Reply to  Em

That is a good point!! Thanks, Emily.

June 12, 2020 3:01 pm

We will do muffin tin trays for dinner for my little one who is 18 months and he loves them!