Muffin Tin dinners are great for busy moms and kids alike. But first, what exactly is a muffin tin dinner?
Basically, you take a muffin tin and you put a selection of foods in each hole, and serve it to your kids. This might sound a bit kooky but there are lots of ways to do this and lots of reasons why you should try!
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You can use a standard 12 hole metal muffin tin, for an easier meal a 6 hole tin works well, you can also use the silicone tins but just be careful as it’s not as sturdy! Alternatively, you can just use the silicone muffin cups which also come in different shapes, I often did this if I didn’t have enough random things to fill a whole tray.
Here are 5 reasons why you should do give your kids muffin tine dinners and one why you shouldn’t…
ONE: Muffin Tin dinners are great for picky eaters
I don’t really like the term picky eaters, toddlers get a bad rap for being picky and it’s really not their fault. When kids hit a certain stage in their development, their taste buds start to develop which means that things that they ate without issue before suddenly taste or feel strange in their mouth now. This is why some kids will eat mashed carrot but not sliced carrot (or fill in your kid’s weird preferences of the moment).
It is really frustrating as the chef when your kids go through this stage of development which is why using a muffin tin dinner for some meals is a great way to help you both navigate the “picky eating” stage.
You can add a variety of foods to the Muffin Tin Dinner, have a rule that they don’t have to eat everything but they must try everything.
In a similar vein, Muffin Tin Dinners work well when you have allergies and intolerances in the family so everyone is eating something different. If you have some common dishes that you will be all eating you can add them in and then tweak each tin depending on the person’s needs.
TWO: It allows kids to experiment
My son is far from picky but he did go through a stage when certain things were a strong NO! Leeks come to mind, leek soup was OK but a slice of leek, no thank you Blah.
Leeks aside there was something he has always liked doing and that is playing or experimenting with his food. He would ask “What does chicken and strawberry jelly taste like together” and I would be like “I have no idea, why don’t you try?” and he would.
Sometimes he would find combinations that worked well and other times… not so much.
It was fun watching him try things out and see what worked and what didn’t. 13 years on, he is still the same, loves to experiment in the kitchen, tries out new flavours and recipes. He has an endless curiosity around what makes certain food combinations work and will tweak recipes to improve them.
THREE: Themed Muffin Tin Dinners can be included with project work
I have to admit, this was my favourite part of Muffin Tin Dinners. back in the day, there was a blogger who ran a weekly muffin tin meal theme and a whole bunch of bloggers would create their themed muffin tins to post on her linky. There were some amazingly creative entries.
Not only that I often used the project-based units we were studying as the base for our muffin tin dinner, books, holidays, countries, festivals… there is no end to the themes you can choose.
Most of the time I would come up with what would be in the muffin tin dinner for the week but sometimes my son would get involved and help prepare the meal.
Hands down, his Halloween Muffin Tin Dinner was his favourite, weeks before Halloween he would start asking about it! And that’s how my viral severed fingers came about (featured on Buzzfeed and several other big sites) which was part of one of his Halloween tins.
BUT WAIT! Doesn’t it take forever to make these fancy tins?
No, not at all. get yourself some cut cookie cutters (you probably already have some) and some cute bento picks and if you want to get super-fancy, some food markers and then taa-daa suddenly your kid’s lunch went from boring old sandwich and salad to cuteness overload.
Of course, you can go all out and these are a couple of OTT examples…
Willy Wonky and the Chocolate Factory Muffin Tin Dinner…
Halloween Muffin Tin Dinner with Viral Severed Fingers!
FOUR: Easy To Throw Together
Another reason why I loved Muffin Tin Dinners so much is that they are perfect for finishing off all those dregs in the fridge. You know, the leftovers that aren’t enough to make a full meal but you don’t want to just throw out because it’s wasteful.
The beauty of a muffin tin is that you can put anything in it, there are no rules and you can mix and match whatever you have. It is brilliant for creating a fusion board, mix and match cuisine!
FIVE: Muffin Tin Dinner Education
I believe food education should start young, kids should know what they are putting in their bodies and what is good for them. Using a muffin tin it is visually appealing and easy for them to understand the portions, far much more so than a bowl of stew or spag bol, when they can’t really identify everything in there (which is sometimes a great way to sneak veg in)
I had a blogging friend who ran a small nursery. She used silicone cups which were colour coded. Green for veg, orange for protein, yellow for carbs and blue for dessert. The kids would get their muffin tin and go and pick up whichever cups they wanted but they had to have a specific number of each colour. 4 green, 3 orange, 3 yellow and 2 blue.
This gave the kids the choice of what to eat but also the guidelines so that they were getting a balanced meal. She said it worked really well and the kids loved it.
The Three Little Pigs Muffin Tin Dinner
One Reason why not to do muffin tin dinners
I clearly love muffin tin dinners and to be honest, was a bit sad when my boy grew too big, there simply wasn’t enough food in a muffin tin to fill him up!
But… I do think that muffin tin dinners are best used once or twice a week so that the kids get used to eating ‘normal’ meals too.
One thing I teach the Wonder Moms is about meal planning so picking a regular day for your muffin tin dinner is a great way to do it not only does it help you, meal planning takes a huge amount of noise and decision making out of your head. But it also gives the kids something to look forward to.
You can also have them make suggestions, what do they think would be good in a muffin tin meal? Or get them to design their own, then on a day when you have the extra time, help them to make up their own muffin tin dinner.
What To Put In A Muffin tin dinner
Whatever you like, there are no rules but a few ideas to get you going…
Dips such as guac or hummus
Yoghurt (we make our own)
One final way to use muffin tins is as a “build your own…” sandwich or wrap. The muffin tin is for the filling and then supply the bread, pita pocket, tortilla etc so the kids can build their own meal.