learning during lunch with muffin tin meals

We took it easy today, after a late night filled with a lot of sushi-eating and a slow and rainy morning.

So after swim, dive, and mini-team, we zipped home, very much excited for lunch.

And to spice up our day–and to get some guaranteed smiles and fully bellies from Maddy, Owen, and Cora–I whipped up a muffin tin meal for lunch. Muffin tin meals are always a huge hit for our family, and I love the sneaky learning that I can throw in over mealtime.

It’s nothing huge here, not calculus or physics–believe me–but some color learning, categorizing, sorting, counting, synthesizing.  And it’s totally fun for me and the kids.

Here’s the muffin tin meal skinny:

  • Muffin Tin Meals: My friend, Michelle, is the queen of Muffin Tin Meals–and thanks to her awesome blog tons and tons of parents are making meals more fun by throwing them in none other than the ole muffin tin.

I have been reading Michelle’s Muffin Tin Mom for ages now, so it’s been several years since our family has been rockin’ the muffin tin meals ourselves.  Every now and again I’ll break out the muffin tin–and we tend to go on waves with it–but I thought that since we’ve been struggling with trying to make Cora feel comfortable with her new gluten-free life, that muffin tin meals would do just that.

 Can you tell what the muffin tin focus was today?


Honestly, some days, I use muffin tin meals to make the pitiful lunch I have planned look more exciting than it is. (Like the photo at the lower left–totally a clean-out the fridge, have to get to the grocery store muffin tin meal.)

Other days, I’ll give the muffin tin a focus, like:

  • Foods of the same color: red, green, orange, white, etc.
  • Foods of the same shape: circle, square, triangle, etc.
  • All veggies/ fruits (perfect for snacktime during playdates)
  • Only dipping foods (food in one compartment, dip in another)
  • Foods that begin with the same letter: cracker, cheese, carrot, cantaloupe. . . / ham, hotdog, hamburger, hashbrowns. . .
  • Breakfast foods: dry cereal, yogurt, fruit, etc.
  • Numbers: one item in the first compartment, two in the next, and so on OR, the same number in each
  • Rainbow colors in each compartment
  • Color,  number, or food patterns
  • Make-your-own pb & j: peanut butter, jelly, crackers, breads

Today, I handed Maddy, Owen, and Cora their muffin tins for lunch, and I said the same thing I always say when I give the tin a focus: Okay, use your strong eyes and smart brains to figure out what all of these foods have in common. What was the Muffin Tin Meal focus today?  Take a minute to think about it before you yell out what you think it is. . .

I try, try, try to require some wait time so that they all have time to really look at the foods and think about what’s going on, but it’s hard when they figure it out and are excited to share.

And some days they get it, and some days they don’t.

Today they got it: all of the foods were white!

And after someone figures it out, I’ll say What other ideas do you have? Did anyone see something else?

Because often, even if I think I made a ‘throw-it-together-muffin-tin’ someone thinks of a really smart tie-in.


And that’s it. We ate lunch, Maddy and Owen played dominoes, and Cora worked on her people-drawing, and before we knew it, it was time to run out the door again.   Happy muffin tin summer!

(Huge thanks to Michelle from Muffin Tin Mom for sharing her awesome muffin tin meals with the world and for inspiring so many to make mealtime fun!)


Remember to please join Candace of Naturally Educational, MaryLea of Pink and Green Mama, and me for the Smart Summer Challenge, a six-week campaign where we all pledging to sneak in some sort of fun learning into our children’s summer days.

You can follow our calendar if you’d like, but you don’t have to.  You can get really crazy, but you don’t have to do that either.

It can be simple learning–even 5 or 10 minutes a day. Anything and everything counts, and all we ask is that you link up here on Fridays and share what you’ve done (meaning: share one way you participated). Each Friday for the next six weeks, we’ll choose one participant to receive an awesome (and I mean totally worth your time awesome) prize.

Our goal is to show all parents that if we can do it, anyone can do it. And if we want our kids meet with success in school and to enjoy learning about the world around them, it’s our job to create a lifestyle of learning for our families.  Join us!




  1. says

    Yes. I have been living under a rock. Just peeking out & discovering YOUR blog!!! I am a very slow learner and need all the hand-holding and encouragement I can find. Thanks for your spin on such a brilliant way to jazz up meal time. Way to bring the happy into the meal!!

    I won’t tell that there’s some educational under-pinning to your eating strategy. Looks like good ol’ fun from here. KUDOS!!!

    What did you learn at your conference??

    • amy says

      Hey Debbie! Thanks so much for keeping the learning under wraps, my friend. . . I learned SO much from the conference but with the Smart Summer Challenge underway, it’ll be a while before i can write a post about it. :(

  2. Beatriz G. Nino says

    It’s a very good idea forpicky eaters. I am going to try this at my school when we have a nutrition lesson because I havev picky eater and also children that are not used to eating veggies. Thanks for your ideas.


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