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!