Mom Monday {toddler lunch idea}

When I spotted this idea over on On To Baby, I instantly filed it away. I MUST do this for Piper’s next birthday. Jennifer Bishop threw this darling Matryoshka theme party for her daughter which you can check out over here. Her idea to serve a healthy lunch to the kids by serving a wide variety of healthy foods in ice cube trays was brilliant! It’s so great for picky toddlers too because they have such a wide variety! I love love love! Bravo Jennifer!

Event Design and Planning: Jennifer Bishop Design
Photography: Jennifer Skog Photography

Happy Mom Monday Everyone!

***UPDATE*** Are you in Southern California? Join me for my Food to Love workshop! Snag a ticket here. We will talk about healthy food choices, ways to get your kids to eat and love healthy foods and more! Hope to see you there!

68 Responses to “Mom Monday {toddler lunch idea}”

  1. This is a great idea to use any time, especially when your toddler is in the finger food stage. What a innovative way to sort out all of the choices!

  2. LOVE this! What a brilliant idea! Must try this with my son now. :)

  3. Yes yes yes… who thought that the colors, and the idea would be the ice tray!
    Great thinking.
    Your ideas are remarkable and make me want to say “why didn’t i think of that?!”

    -Tricia
    @mndesigngal

  4. I just wanted to let you know that I shared this idea on the Fish Sticks facebook page http://www.facebook.com/pages/Fish-Sticks-Kid-Sense/134550966655387 and a Pinterest pin of your blog on my own blog http://www.fishsticksandkidsense.blogspot.com. Thanks for the great pictures and inspiration!

  5. When I saw this, I knew it could be the answer for my very picky 2-year old grandson. He hardly eats any thing – but finger food – how yummy and inviting and colorful. Love this idea.

  6. [...] Wiley Valentine – Great small buffet idea for kids [...]

  7. [...] wileyvalentine.com via Suzanne on Pinterest Share this:TwitterFacebookEmailLike this:LikeBe the first to like this [...]

  8. Great idea, we do something similar with a fishing tackle box for our girls when we are out and about – they love it!

  9. This is why kids these days are such picky eaters ! I don’t agree with this

  10. This is great and fun for kids, Im deffinetly going to do this with my girls. I think this would save me so much time as well. I can make up a few lunches and stick them in the fridge or even the freezer.

    Estee this isn’t why kids are picky, when you make eating healthy fun and enjoyable for your kids then they are more likely to eat it and keep good eating habits because they associate fun with healthy, especially if you do this from a young age.

  11. Estee, could you please explain how this would turn kids into picky eaters, because to me it seems like it would have the opposite effect….
    I think this is a great idea for my one year old (who is becoming quite the adventurous eater already!)

  12. So how do you go about doing this?? Take the tray out and let them pick?

  13. Totally genius!

  14. This is a great idea, but I think the entire tray looks like a lot of food for one toddler meal. Maybe reduce the portions to half a tray for a meal or have the full sized tray as snacks they can graze on for the entire day. I love the mix of protein and veggies/fruit. Both of my children (now teens) loved to have small containers of items for them to choose from when they were hungry.

  15. I don’t agree with this either, that’s way too many choices for a toddler. I could see maybe 3 or 4. This is too much. Why do they need 14 different choices? This is what makes kids picky eaters, IMO.

  16. I think this is so great for toddlers who are just experiencing real foods. It’s an inviting, colorful way to introduce healthy foods! Our kid is way more likely to try something when she enjoys the presentation.

  17. Actually, if you fill it with a mix of foods they have tried before and liked, foods they’ve tried before and not liked, and foods they’ve never tried before, you’ve got a pretty good shot of finding out what they do and don’t like. Maybe limit 3-4 pieces per slot, so that they can ask if they want more of something.

    However, if you are doing this for a birthday party for toddlers, you might want to check with parents to find out if any of the kids have any food allergies so you can exclude those.

  18. I love this idea!

  19. I have done this a few times with my toddler, he is a semi picky eater. It does NOT create picky eaters- my son, seeing the stuff he likes tries it but then seems to think- hey this is good, why not try that? and he eats so much healthier when I offer this. Too many choices are generally not good for kids, but that is if you are asking them pick this or that, not when you put it all in front and they can have all of it, its just different

  20. I can’t see how this would create a picky eater. My son LOVES the plates/trays with small areas to put little portions of food or dipping sauce. Getting kids excited and interested about food is important.

    I couldn’t see doing this every single day, but for those off days where I can’t really think of one thing, a bunch of little healthy snacks is a fab idea.

    It wouldn’t work right now, as my boy is just out of a growth spurt so he’s not eating as much… but in short while he’ll turn into a little hoover again and I’ll have to keep this idea in mind. :) Even if you put the same food in a couple of different holes, portion control is great. We (adults too!) need more portion control in this age of “supersizing”.

  21. I think this is a fun idea for birthday parties or special occasions. I probably wouldn’t offer it every day as the novelty would probably wear off with my two. I don’t think the idea is intended to be used for every meal ever day- therefore doesn’t create picky eaters. Also if you don’t want to have 14 different options, buy a smaller ice cube tray. I have some that only make 6 ice cubes so that would solve the problem.

    I think the idea is fun and creative, and that is what encourages children to eat and enjoy food.

  22. Great idea! I went to high school with these two very talented Jennifers. =)

  23. This is a great idea, I think for 2 children! I have a 2 and a 3 yr old that I will try this on today:) thanks!

  24. LOVE this idea. my friend used it for her child’s 3rd birthday party, and my two kids absolutely thought it was amazing. and she was also able to present a couple for kids with allergies, catered to them, (ie. no wheat…so she made the kid a no wheat one). fabulous idea.

  25. For toddlers? heck, I’m 34 and this is how **I** like to eat. Little of this, little of that. Leave the tray out and graze throughout the day………… it would probably help me lose weight!

    IKEA also has those fun heart & star shaped silicone trays, that could be fun, too.

  26. This is the opposite of encouraging for a meal. How will a child learn the difference between a meal and a snack if they are presented with so many ‘snack’ foods in place of their meal? It looks like a good idea in theory, but i’m with the few that disagree- I think this is a terrible lunch- but great idea for birthday parties, I may use it at my sons party!

  27. Shawna – you really need to go back up to the picture and take a moment to look at the foods in the ice cube tray. There are MAYBE 1 or 2 that I would not give my kids for a typical lunch at home. WHAT bothers you about these options?!?! Also, what do YOUR kids eat for lunch???????

  28. LOL. I love the idea, but my youngest won’t even use a regular plate without throwing it…. But I certainly think the idea has merit for children who aren’t jerks.

  29. Perfect! My 2 year old only eat one MAYBE two bites of anything i give him…this is going to get used TONIGHT!

  30. I’ve done something similar, but with a 6 piece muffin tin. It’s all about the fun presentation for kids. Last time included a muffin, yogurt, dried apricots, grapes, apple slices and cheese cubes. My son absolutely loves this idea. He begs to have “muffin tin lunch”, but if I gave him the same foods on a plate, it wouldn’t be nearly as exciting. I don’t think doing this would produce picky eaters. However, an ice cube tray is too ambitious for me, but 6 options is a nice balance of variety and amount of work for mom!

  31. To each there own! Maybe it won’t work for one picky eater but it may for the other. I don’t think this will create a picky eater, unless they only eat just one food out of the tray, then there you go, doesn’t work for that kid. But to present food in a fun way will entice kids to want to try it again. For instance give kids a bowl of yogurt and ya they might eat it but put it in a bright colored tube and voila! they beg for it. And to the person who says this is not how you eat…um, yes it is! Society has ruined our eating habits. Three large meals a day is not a good way to eat. Eating small portions, of a variety of food to cover the food guide is the best way to go about it! 14 portions of different foods might be a little difficult for every meal, but so fun for a party! But to have smaller trays like some suggested is a great idea for everyday meals/snacks. Thanks for sharing such a fun idea!:)

  32. A meat and cheese sandwich or mac &cheese may be what someone considers a ‘meal’ – but it isn’t the only type of ‘meal’ that exists. Eating small portions of a variety of fruits and veggies (heavier on the veggies) is great!

    This is very cute. This is a great way to mix up the fruits/veggies and get vitamins, fiber and protein. I don’t have kids, so I have no clue how much kids eat, but for sure checking to make sure the appropriate calories (with min. sugar) would be key…and maybe a few more leafy green veggies couldn’t hurt…but in general, super cute.

  33. Small children having finger foods available is actually a very good idea. And the choices are smart ones. When my oldest son was still a tot & entering the “I don’t want to eat much” phase I spoke to his Dr out of concern that he was not getting enough to eat. He said that no child will starve themselves to death & to allow him finger foods to munch on even if it meant carrying around a fistful of food while toddling all over. At least they will eat. As far as ” not what you would provide for a meal”? I have no idea what
    In the world you feed your kids, but as an RN that works daily with nutritionists, I can guarantee you that the choices here would earn praise from each of them. Too many choices? Perhaps, but you can narrow it down if you like. Also, I agree that small portions of many things makes a child MORE likely to try a bit of this & that and learn to experience & enjoy new foods rather than shy away from them. Eating a meal does not have to mean sitting down to a huge plate of rice and gravy every night. THAT is what makes us a fat nation & THAT is what makes kids more likely to be picky eaters—by limiting their food experiences. Any nutritionist will tell you better to eat several small, healthy meals each day that three large ones as we were generally taught.

  34. Having read this I believed it was really enlightening. I appreciate you spending some time and effort to put this information together. I once again find myself personally spending a significant amount of time both reading and commenting. But so what, it was still worth it!

  35. For those of you who think there’s too many options and too much food…

    Why don’t you try using egg cartons instead, cut them in half and then there’s just six foods. One meat, one grain, one dairy, two veggies, and a fruit! …or whatever you prefer!

  36. I LOVE this! I think it’s a great way to encourage your little one to eat a variety of healthy foods! I find this to be a much more healthy & well-balanced meal than a sandwich or macaroni and cheese.

    I have practiced baby-led solids with my little one. We skipped most purees all-together and he’s been eating finger foods since 6 months of age. He has a very healthy relationship with a wide variety of foods.

    I think this is a very fun way to present children with a healthy meal. I will be trying it when he decides to stop throwing plates. ;) This is really what a typical meal looks like for my 14 month old…maybe not as many options, but a variety of healthy bite size items is really what he enjoys. He gets to pick out what he eats from his high-chair tray, and I’m usually left very satisfied with what made it into his belly.

    Studies show that this sort of thing will create a very healthy relationship with food. I really don’t see how it could do otherwise…? How is sitting down to one option better? Having likes and dislikes does not make one a picky eater.

    Why not allow a child to eat what they enjoy as long as it is healthy and they are getting the nutrition their growing body needs? …Especially when offering a variety of healthy foods from an early age is shown to make children less picky. Why not? I think that a child that’s experienced such an array of healthy options will be more inclined to sit down to a new dish and give it a try rather than a child who’s expected to eat all of one item that’s been set infront of them.

    Anyway…Jumping off of my soap box now. Sorry for the many….’s . I am over-tired. I just happened to stumble upon this lovely idea while browsing Pinterest. I think it’s great!

  37. I love this idea! My girls tend to snack on stuff all day long. I find myself in the kitchen always chopping, peeling or opening something. I think this could work for all of my girls every day! Such a fun idea!

  38. I think this is a great fun idea for serving snacks, even for my older (not picky eater) kIds!

  39. Just tried this with my 2 1/2 yr old. It actually made ME think more about what to put in the little boxes. I love the ideas the site had. Putting in more veggies and fruit can’t hurt anybody. Neither can variety. My toddler took the tray with him! I think he liked it! He didn’t finish it yet, so it will wait in the fridge til snack time and I won’t have to prepare new things! I’m going to try it on his 5 yr old bro too! It can follow them through dinner! I like the egg carton idea too… For bigger sizes! ( I have TINY ice cube trays!)

  40. with spring/summer coming and alot of time spent out doors. I see this as a great way to supply great nutrients to my grand-daughter while we are playing out side. I plan on placing a wash bucket near by to wash hands and she can grab n go.
    LOVE THIS IDEA.

  41. This is a great idea for picnics for the little ones too! My opinion: who cares if they know the difference between a meal and a snack. I’m pretty sure my son would eat all the fruit and crackers out while playing with the peas, edemame, etc. But when I use his little plate with sections I have noticed he at least tries a bite of everything so I’m sure this would be a great idea for him. Also, he is about 19 months and obsessed with learning his colors. At the very least it would assist him with that as well as being a healthy meal/snack. I also think the person that suggested the egg carton or half dozen idea was smart. You can put a little more food into them and fewer choices if you don’t have or want to include that many :)

  42. [...] wileyvalentine.com via Elaine on Pinterest Must Read Books … Middlesex  by Jeffrey [...]

  43. The idea I was looking for!! Great!

  44. Perfect!! My daughters love to eat little bits of this and little bits of that at a time, so this is genius!! And who would have thought to use an ice cube tray?? Although, in a world where most freezers come equipped with an automatic ice maker…I’m thinking a trip to Target is in store!

  45. [...] (6) Ice Cube Food Trays {via: Wiley Valentine} Rainbow Fruit Kebobs {via: Spearmint Baby} Lasagna Cupcakes {via: The Girl Who Ate Everything} [...]

  46. This looks like something my 16 month old grandson would enjoy. My local dollar store sells ice cube trays 2/$1, so I think we’ll stop there first.

  47. I’m always looking for new and creative ways to present lunch to my 2.6 year old. This takes the cake! Love it – can’t wait to try it.

  48. I’ve done this with my kids since Day 1, although never thought to use an ice cube tray. I saved all those little pudding cups and applesauce cups and filled them with bits of this and that. I frequently cut sandwiches into long, thin strips to share between kids and serve just a scoop of pasta salad along with everything else, fruit, veggies, leftover steak, whatever. Mine are now 6,5, and 3 … they have healthy appetites, eat *almost* anything and will try anything once…. *heads to the store for ice cube trays* Thx!

  49. [...] by the most pinned post we have ever had on the blog, I decided to give the ice cube tray food a try myself. Let me say, [...]

  50. My kids are older now but they would have loved it. A great way to introduce kids to new fruits and vegetables. I think it shows kids that healthy food can be fun and special. Too sweet.

  51. [...] food in ice cube trays was inspired by another pinterest post. The pin linked me to the blog Wiley Valentine which references the original wonderful idea from On To Baby.  Its one thing to get Master H to sit [...]

  52. I love this idea. I can’t wait to try it on my LO. He loves to eat but is always wanting something else. This should keep him happy at lunch!

  53. [...] Um jeito prático, divertido e sem risco de acidentes para servir lanche para crianças! Veja mais! [...]

  54. I can’t read what all is listed on the lunch menu. Can you tell me what all the foods are exactly in the ice tray. It’s such a great idea!

  55. [...] Ice Tray Toddler Lunch {Wiley Valentine} [...]

  56. What all do you put in the trays? I wanna try this with my 16 mo old..just need some ideas =]

  57. [...] by Wiley Valentine blog, I threw caution to the wind, and served up lunch buffet style for my one year old.  Wiley [...]

  58. I have a 1 year old adventurous eater. :0) There’s nothing she won’t try and, to my knowledge, the only food that gags her is lima beans lol. Anyway, she gets really frustrated when my husband and I go to a cginese buffet since she can’t eat that food yet and we feel really bad. I think I’m going to bring a tray like this next time so she’ll have her own buffet and not get upset. If anyone thinks this will make my daughter picky, you’re wrong. We’ve had a failproof meal system in our house that works: eat veggies first, then you get served meat, then get served carbs. We also keep any junk food on the highest shelf in our pantry, fruit and other healthy snacks on the bottom that she loves to get herself with permission and the occasional baked good on the counter that she already knows must be offered…not asked for. The key to raising a nonpicky eater is to make fruits and veggies fun and I think this a great idea! :0)

  59. For those of you complaining that there are to many choices for a toddler, use a candy mold. You can them at any craft store, and they come with 6-24 molds per tray that are roughly the same size as the mold on an ice cube tray.

  60. I love this! Gotta try it for my picky 3-year-old.

  61. Oh, what a FUN meal!!!! I think even my 11 year old would go for this; probably would love to make a tray herself! :) Wait, who am I kidding, I want a tray, too! (big smile)

  62. My youngest daughter has a 3 year old son who is a very finicky eater. I am a healthcare professional and one of my hobbies is cooking. In my spare time, I like to search out ‘food ideas’ that might appeal to my grandson. Thanks for this post.

  63. Oh my god! What a fabulous way to teach a toddler that they are in complete control and never have to “choose” to eat something they don’t like! My food allergy-laden child would love an excuse to not eat even more foods! Also, I’d love to buy a huge amount of food so that I can use 1/10 of it in ice cube trays,only to have the aforementioned picky kid shoot then all down! What an amazing way to waste hundreds of dollars! This is such an sneezing idea that I think I’ll just go burn $300 and tell my daughter that she can go ahead and run the kitchen. Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!

  64. Just came across this idea today. I’m intrigued and think it’s worth a trial, anyway. I just wanted to remark on the extreme rudeness coming from some of the mothers. I mean, it’s fine if you don’t like the idea. No one is forcing anyone to try it. But, seriously, are you a parent? Is this the way you communicate with others around your child? Because honestly, it bothers me that there will be another generation behaving like you. And I think the way others treat one another is much more concerning than another picky eater.

  65. What a refreshing idea! I will try this for my 2-year old’s birthday party next month. Thank you!!!

  66. I love this! Got a while to go for my son’s 2nd birthday, but will still try for a regular lunchtime. Thanks!

  67. […] Source: Picture 1 // Picture 2 // Picture 3 // Picture 4 // Picture […]

  68. I am from now on going to be known as the granma that serves lunch in an ice cube tray

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