My Favorite Things List 2017

I get it. I am not Oprah. But I absolutely love this time of year and how it has led me to find many of my favorite products for my kids. 

From the first five items I ever shared on a Christmas wishlist (see 2015 wishlist here) to the gifts that filled my wish list last year (see 2016 wishlist here), I am now a proud owner of all ten of these items. They were the items I really, truly wanted for feeding my own family over the past two years as a new mom and items I am glad to have shared with each of you.

This past year has opened up a lot of new opportunities though. I enter into 2018 humbled and grateful to not only have gotten to officially launch Veggies & Virtue LLC in 2017, but also to look back and see how much this platform has grown in the past 12 months.

Beyond the number of you who now follow me on Instagram, Facebook, or my weekly newsletter, what means the most to me is how many of you have come to trust me.

I want you to know that I don't take this lightly.

As a mom, there is nothing I protect more than my children's well being. With this, comes the discernment to know when, where, and on what to invest our family's time, money, and energy. I weigh these decisions heavily myself in hopes that it will serve both my children and family well - not just now in these foundational years, but also in all the years to come.

And I know you do too.

That's why as a mom and pediatric dietitian, I make it a priority to scrutinize the products I recommend on Veggies & Virtue. I love sharing those that I see a natural place for in achieving,

"Less Meal Time Stress. More Feeding Success."

I also get pretty darn giddy imagining how these items may make their way into your homes and lives in the upcoming year. I get excited knowing the feeding wins I have seen in our home personally as well as with my clients professionally when using items like those I share below.

So as one small business owner honored to support so many others with theirs, may you find comfort in knowing a few of Veggies & Virtue's Favorite Things.

Use these as Christmas gift ideas or a little added inspiration for how to get your family on track with feeding in the coming year. In doing so, know:

My small business and each of those below are so grateful for your trust and support.

 
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Veggies & Virtue: My Favorite Things List 2017

I have included three options under each of the following categories. While there are so many amazing products out there to try, these are my top three (in no particular order).

Please note that some of the following links are affiliate links. You are not charged any more for using these; however, a small commission from each sale helps support Veggies & Virtue continue its mission to serve families like yours. For more on my disclosure and privacy policies, please see my legal page.

 

Subscriptions

Veggie Buds Club  : Use code VEGGIELOVER15 for 15% off a 3-month subscription or VEGGIELOVER20 for 20%. Ends 11/25

Veggie Buds Club : Use code VEGGIELOVER15 for 15% off a 3-month subscription or VEGGIELOVER20 for 20%. Ends 11/25

Nomster Chef  : Keep your eyes out in Spring 2018 for new subscription options!

Nomster Chef : Keep your eyes out in Spring 2018 for new subscription options!

Z Dough  : Use code VERYMERRY for $10 off orders $40+ over the Black Friday weekend. Ends 11/27

Z Dough : Use code VERYMERRY for $10 off orders $40+ over the Black Friday weekend. Ends 11/27

 

Toddler Stools & Chairs

 

Feeding Tools

Meals with Milton  : 20% off on all orders. Ends 11/27.

Meals with Milton : 20% off on all orders. Ends 11/27.

Lunchbox Love Notes  : Use code BLACKFRIDAY for 50% off on 11/25 or CYBER60 for 60% on 11/27.

Lunchbox Love Notes : Use code BLACKFRIDAY for 50% off on 11/25 or CYBER60 for 60% on 11/27.

 

Kitchen Tools

Foost Kid-Safe Knives  : Use code veggiesandvirtue for 10% off

Foost Kid-Safe Knives : Use code veggiesandvirtue for 10% off

Mabel's Labels  : 40% OFF the most popular labels. No code needed. Ends 11/27.

Mabel's Labels : 40% OFF the most popular labels. No code needed. Ends 11/27.

 

Lunchboxes

Yumbox  : Order on Yumbox.com with coupon Friday30 for 30% off.

Yumbox : Order on Yumbox.com with coupon Friday30 for 30% off.

OmieBox  : On Sale for $29.99 (over 20% off!). Ends 11/27.

OmieBox : On Sale for $29.99 (over 20% off!). Ends 11/27.

Dishware

ezpz  : Use code EZPZFUN20 on Black Friday.

ezpz : Use code EZPZFUN20 on Black Friday.

Dylbug  : Use code BLACKFRIDAY2017 for 20% off or get $10 off of orders over $50.

Dylbug : Use code BLACKFRIDAY2017 for 20% off or get $10 off of orders over $50.

Clothing

Bapron  : Use cofe BFCM for 20% off plus a free carrying bag with all orders. Ends 11/27.

Bapron : Use cofe BFCM for 20% off plus a free carrying bag with all orders. Ends 11/27.

Little Dumpling Apron  : Use code BLACKFRIDAY for 20%. Ends 11/27

Little Dumpling Apron : Use code BLACKFRIDAY for 20%. Ends 11/27

Unitee Kids  : 15% off + free shipping for orders over $100. Ends 11/27.

Unitee Kids : 15% off + free shipping for orders over $100. Ends 11/27.

 

Educational ITEMS (that you can totally use to teach in the kitchen and/or using food!)

 

The Best of 2017

Well, there you have it! Some of my most favorite small businesses and products from this past year. I hope you are able to score some deals to stock up on these items. No matter when you buy, I am confident these will be tools you and your family can use to achieve newfound feeding success in the New Year!

Kid Friendly Friendsgiving Menu

One of my favorite things about November is how just about every parent I know is trying to make a more intentional effort to instill an attitude of gratitude in their children.

Between gearing up for Thanksgiving followed by the official season of gift-giving with Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, now is an ideal time each year to involve our kids in the WHY behind the WHAT.

Rather than just getting them dressed, in the car with two (preferably matching) shoes on, and on our merry way, I would love to encourage you to consider one additional thing this holiday season:

How can you engage your children in a Friendsgiving gathering?

While having a kid in at least borderline clean clothes and arriving somewhere on time is a success for any mom in and of itself, I think there is more we can aim for as we approach the holidays. This isn't to put more pressure on your already weighed down role as super mom, but rather to reflect on something I shared about in my Instagram stories last week:

Reclaiming the FUN in motherhood.

It is SO easy this time of year to get wrapped up in all the to do's, gifts to get, places to go, and people to see that the plans of getting little people properly dressed and out the door becomes THE goal. So can we just commit to take a step back and maybe even entertain the idea of a yoga pants and mom bun dress code when inviting others into our homes?

Because as fun as it is to get dressed up and "actually do something" these days, there is something to be said for the legit Friendsgiving gathering that gives us a more authentic opportunity to see all there is to be thankful for, including friends, family, and wholesome food.

 
Kid Friendly Menu Ideas for Friendsgiving
 

So whether your Thanksgiving is filled with local friends, visiting family, or a combination of the two, this month's collaboration with my sweet friend Ashley from The Littles & Me is meant to help you cultivate thanks and reclaim the fun WITH your kids. We hope you enjoy the ideas shared in this post!

Below are kid-friendly menu ideas for Friendsgiving plus some festive ideas for table settings.

Be sure to then check out The Littles & Me for more ideas on Friendsgiving activities for kids!

Kid-Friendly Friendsgiving Menu

 
 
 
Turkey Veggie Platter for Friendsgiving or Thanksgiving
 

Turkey Veggie Platter

Want to know how to get your littles to eat a few more healthy foods this holiday season? Make them as inviting (if not more) than those you'd prefer them eating less of! This turkey veggie platter is a great thing to set out for snacking before your Friendsgiving meal. Better yet, have your child(ren) help pick which veggies will make up the feathers then help arrange them.

While this turkey veggie platter may not travel well, it is easy to assemble on site. Just bring your grocery bag full of a few different colored vegetable items and some dip. Then when you get to whichever friend may be hosting your Friendsgiving, just put it together there in less time than it would take to bake or make something else!

For our turkey, we used features made of: romaine, cucumbers, sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes, and baby carrots. The turkey head was made from a white mushroom and eyes were olive slices. The turkey's beak and wattle was made from two colors of bell pepper, as was the bowl for the veggie dip. We used the Siggis ranch dip recipe here, but hummus would also be a tasty option!

 
Turkey Sandwiches for Friendsgiving or a fun Thanksgiving lunch
 

Turkey Sandwiches

For a fun and festive yet easy main course idea, make a turkey sandwich! You can fill it with a variety of ingredients and combinations, but we stayed true to a "turkey sandwich" and used all-natural turkey and sliced cheddar cheese between two slices of softer than usual whole wheat bread (so the bird didn't fall apart!). Just cut your sandwich into a circle using a cookie cutter, then you're ready to have your kiddos assemble the rest. Find a variety of apple types to vary the colors of the feathers, then use an apple cutter to core and cut into sections. Add a small triangle of sliced cheese for the beak. Raisins make an easy option for eyes, or you can plan a bit more ahead and use extra-fun eye ideas like these or these (affiliate links).

 
Popcorn Cornucopia for Friendsgiving or Thanksgiving
 

Popcorn Cornucopia

Do you still have any ice cream cones lingering in the pantry since this past Summer? Well now is the perfect time to bust those out and put them to good use as cornucopias on your Friendsgiving menu. Easier than those you have to bake in a cone shape, these can be filled with popcorn for a festive tribute to our nation's pilgrims! Just be sure to use caution if offering to small children, as popcorn is a choking hazard for kids under four. With little turkeys who may not be ready for popcorn yet, offer Kix cereal as a safe corn-based option instead!

For an easy, inexpensive, all-natural popcorn, use my DIY microwave popcorn recipe here.

 
Dried Apples in the Oven for Friendsgiving or Thanksgiving
 

Dried Apple Chips

The Washingtonian in me can't do Fall without also including apples! Something I love even more is the excuse to soften up these crunchy Fall favorites to make them even easier for my 21 month old to eat and yet equally enjoyable to the rest of us.

That's why I was excited to try this dried apple recipe from Eating Well. Using only an oven (as I don't yet own a dehydrator), we were able to make some softer dried apples as well as crisper apple chips to enjoy as the fruit component to our Friendsgiving.

Need a shortcut? Buy some already dehydrated apple chips at the store (like these by Bare) and enjoy all the same! They aren't organic nor as cost-effective but in the spirit of ease, are a great time-saving option.

 

Friendsgiving Tablescape for Kids

Want to know one of the best ways to keep your children both occupied AND engaged as you prepare to host a Friendsgiving (or Thanksgiving) meal? Assign them age-appropriate tasks that they can take pride in! These are a few of my family's favorites:

 
Kid Friendly Friendsgiving
 

Tablecloth

I love the hands on idea Ashley shared in her Friendsgiving post here! See the example in the image above.

Setting the Table

Let your child pick out some festive and inexpensive items at the Dollar Store to set your Friendsgiving table with. While this isn’t the most environmentally-friendly option, it gives your child the freedom to set the table without fear of breaking their grandmother’s heirloom china. It also means no dishes for mama, so that’s a win win!

Help your child to count the number of place settings needed, space them out around the table appropriately, then add in plates, cups, and plasticware. For a final touch, have them add the napkin to festive napkin rings (see the next idea).

Turkey Napkin Rings

Inspired by my friend Ludavia at The Mama Workshop, I just can't get over the cuteness of these easy napkin rings. We have been saving toilet paper rolls for the past few weeks so we would have enough tubes to make these, but you could totally use a paper towel roll cut up too if you are short on time! Regardless, all you have to do is trace and cut out your child's hand on Fall colored construction paper and you have an adorable, economical way to decorate the table.

Name Cards

If your child is able to write their letters, this is also a great excuse to have them practice spelling the names of those they are thankful for. Make little name cards to put out on the table and have your child write each person’s name on each to be set out at their spot at the table.

 

Ready for more ways to create FUN with your little turkeys for a Friendsgiving (or Thanksgiving) gathering?

Hop on over to Ashley's post on the Littles & Me to see all these activity ideas:

Friendsgiving Playdough Activity
Color Your Own Tablecloth Thanskgiving
 
Pin the Feather on the Turkey

Happy Friendsgiving, friends. I am sincerely grateful for YOU!

Turkey Trouble Snacktivity

I am always looking for fun seasonal books to add to our library, so I was thrilled to learn of "Turkey Trouble" when Beth and Ludavia suggested it for this month's Book Box.

 
 

This is a silly story that instantly got my littlest trying to gobble like a turkey and then act out all of the turkey's silly farm friends. The disguise element had my oldest's eager for more silly dress up ideas, something three year olds can just never seem to get enough of! That's why I am especially excited to have so many resources now for how to make Turkey Trouble even more fun and engaging, thanks to partnering with BethLudavia, and Mandisa for this month Book Box Snacktivity.

Together, we have come up with four ways to enjoy this book all month long. Each are simple to implement and age-appropriate for kids from your youngest to your oldest. Add to it the edible element below, and this is sure to be a book your family with eat right up this Thanksgiving season.

We hope you and your little turkeys will find joy, laughter, and a healthy dose of hands on learning through this month's activities!

 
Create Your Own Turkey Muffin Tin Snacktivity
 

Create Your Own Turkey Muffin Tin Snacktivity

Makes 2 turkeys

Ingredients:

1 pear, halved and cored
Four mini chocolate chips (two per turkey)
1 baby carrot
Colorful assortment of fruit

  • Banana slices
  • Grapes
  • Satsuma wedges
  • Pomegranate perils
  • Pineapple pieces
  • Cantaloupe cubes
  • Blackberries
  • Raspberries
  • Others of choice
 
Create your own turkey muffin tin
 

Instructions:

  1. With pear half in hand, gently poke a small hole for each chocolate chip. Make a third small hole for the beak. 
  2. To make feet and beak, cut carrot lengthwise in four slices or until carrot is to desired thickness. Carefully cut a three pronged foot from the end of each carrot slice. Trim down to include a small leg as well. With remaining carrot pieces, carve one triangle beak per turkey being built.
  3. Place pear half flesh side down on plate. Insert “eyes” and “beak.” Place feet/legs at the base of pear. Provide child a plate large enough to create their own turkey on (suggest at least 8” diameter).
 
Thanksgiving snack idea for kids - build your own turkey
 

4. Fill muffin tin with an assortment of colorful fruit "feather" options. Allow child to practice patterns, play with different shapes and textures, and taste test each of the "feathers."

5. Once created, enjoy this snacktivity while reading "Turkey Trouble."

 
Turkey Trouble snacktivity for kids
 
 

For more fun ideas...

Want to do more creative and kid-friendly ideas with this month's book, "Turkey Trouble?" Be sure to check out the links and age-appropriate learning activities from each of the following mom bloggers! Each introduces you to new ways for your child to imagine, learn, explore, and engage with this fun seasonal story.

 

Visit Days with Grey for this easy, engaging, and educational outdoor activity!

Days with Grey Turkey Trouble Activity
The Mama Workshop Turkey Trouble Activity
 

Visit The Mama Workshop to see these cute ideas to dress up and disguise the turkey in this story!

 

Visit Happy Toddler Playtime for more ways to disguise the turkey using supplies you surely already have on hand!

Happy Toddler Playtime Turkey Trouble Activity
 

What is your family's favorite story for the Thanksgiving season?

Come share over on my Instagram or Veggies & Virtue on Facebook!

9 Clever Non-Candy Valentine's Day Ideas

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Are you still searching for some Valentine's Day ideas that are fun and yet not full of sugar? Since roses and gourmet chocolates aren't quite the love language of little ones, consider using one of these non-candy Valentines Day ideas instead to send some love.

9 Clever Non-Candy Valentine's Day Ideas

You're my main squeeze. 

Tie this free printable from Funky Polka Dot Giraffe around your kid's favorite kind of squeeze pouch.

 
 

You are the apple of my eye. 

Pair this printable from Craftaholics Anonymous with a whole apple, an Apple Pie LARA bar, or a snack bag of dried apple rings.

 
 

You are awesome sauce.

In case you didn't have enough apple-related options already, Craftaholics Anonymous offers another adorable saying to stick onto a cup of apple (or other flavored!) sauce?!

 
 

Orange you glad we are friends?

As part of Eat Healthy Designs Valentine's Bundle printable pack, choose any number of tags to put with cute, non-candy ideas. I love the idea of adding this one with an easy-to-peel clementine or two.

 
 

I think you're a-doh-able.

Put mini Play-doh containers (in the Valentine's sections at Target or any main grocery store) through this printable by Grace and Good Eats for a kid-friendly option that appeals to many ages!

 
 

You blow me away.

Pair this printable from The Girl Creative with a little container of bubbles. Almost everywhere around seems to have inexpensive options with heart-shaped wands (I have seen them at Hobby Lobby, Target, the Dollar Store, and Party City to name a few).

You color my world.

How fun to put this printable from Crazy Little Projects with a box of crayons/markers/colored pencils. Toss in a Valentine's themed coloring book for any extra-special friends.

Monster Valentines.

This would be such a hit with young girls, tweens, and fellow mom friends alike! Print these printables from The Idea Room with an EOS lip balm. You can buy a big pack at Costco to cover all the special ladies in your kids life!

I love you a latte.

For all those who love yon our littles (think teachers, bus drivers, Childrens ministry staff, etc.), give this free printable from Simply Noted with a gift card to Starbucks or your favorite local coffee shop. For the extra crafty type, this DIY cozy tutorial (also from Simply Notable) is a super cute added touch!.

 

Here's to helping all little ones go home with a bag of Valentine's Day loot that both parents and kids can love. Please share in the comments below any other non-candy Valentine's Day ideas you and your kid have or plan to hand out this holiday.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Top 5 Gifts on My 2016 Christmas Wish List

Last year, I wrote this post on what the Top 5 Gifts to Encourage Healthy Eating in Your Home were. Each were items I knew we had loved and gotten a good ROI on. This year, instead of looking back on what items we already love, I am changing it up to be the items I most have my eye on in the upcoming holiday season. With deals from Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday still running on some, now is the time to take a look into these products.

While last year I emphasized a very practical approach to what made my recommended wish list (Longevity for use; Potential Use; and Actual Use), this year my focus is on something seemingly simple and yet hugely complex:

Encouraging kids to play with their food.

In the year ahead, I see so many new opportunities for how to engage our toddler in the kitchen; many of which will be shared with you. From ongoing use of our kid-safe kitchen stool (my favorite kitchen product EVER) to new tools I want to incorporate into meal time, there are a lot of ways I plan to encourage "playing with your food" in 2017. I am a firm believer in teaching table manners and fostering good etiquette at an early age, but also I know there is a dynamic we too quickly turn the page on.

Allowing kids to experience their food through play.

Whether it be sensory tables with raw (or cooked!) ingredients or allowing kids to explore new food without the pressure to eat them, I am looking forward to how our daughters will get to engage with food in the upcoming year. Our 10-month old is becoming increasingly tactile and enjoys being into EVERYTHING, so some of these will quickly be age-appropriate for even her. More so, I am eager for the applications to use the following products with the apprehensive eater in our almost three year old.

 

So without further ado, here are the Top 5 Gifts on My 2016 Christmas Wish List:

 

Dylbug: Shortly after starting Veggies & Virtue, I saw these adorable plates from Dylbug (on Instagram). In getting to know the owner of the company a bit better, I have been even more impressed with how Dylbug products seek to make eating so fun again. Beyond the possible assumption that parents are the ones behind the scenes making these plates so cute and clever, I see so many opportunities to use Dylbug as the flagship plate in a new series of Veggies & Virtue posts, #learningitplate. I am so eager for see our toddler initiate play with these adorable plates.and products. Our personalized order is  already on its way, and I suggest you get yours ordered this week as well so it can arrive in time for Christmas!

Meals with MiltonOne of my most favorite people to have connected with through Instagram is @chikidsfeeding. Catherine Callahan (M.S., CCC-SLP/CLC) is the speech-language pathologist, pediatric feeding specialist, and mother of two behind Meals with Milton. With insightful ideas about feeding kids from an angle other than just nutrition, let's just say Catherine's approach to pediatric feeding has opened my eyes to new areas of pediatric nutrition -- including how to get my own apprehensive eater to try new foods. Milton is on his way to our home and I know will make a fun addition and lessen the apprehension towards repeated food exposure.

 
 
$17.50 $22.00
 

Yumbox MiniSnackIt should come as no surprise that I am a pretty big fan of Yumbox lunchboxes. With our youngest being 10 months old though, I don't really need a full sized bentobox for her when making #bentosforbabies. I know she could grow into the Yumbox Panino (which we have for our #loveitlikeitlearningit lunchbox), but that still seems a bit overkill for now. Enter Yumbox's new(er) product: the MiniSnack. With the large food well fitting 3/4 cup of food and the smaller food well fitting 1/3 cup (plus the dip well), this is a good alternative to a full-size bentobox.  I feel like I could justify the price a bit more too with knowing that once our youngest "outgrows it" for a larger bento, the MiniSnack would be the perfect size for me to toss into my work bag during those rare few hours I get to sneak away to work at a coffee shop!

 
 
$19.99
 

Ezpz: I have had my eye on this product since even before I saw it launch on Shark Tank. I teetered between if it was a necessary kitchen item or not, but now with round two of Baby-Led Weaning, this seems like a no-brainer to add to our arsenal. I delight in the day our infant can officially pull up to the table with us and not have the tray attached to her space-saver high chair, but rather can use this item without my worry of when the plate may take a spill. When I realized the applications to also use this Ezpz minimat while eating out, it made the little disposable Mickey table toppers seem like such a last resort. This keeps the food on the mat and welcomes our little one to the table in a sanitary and yet simple way - when at home or eating out. 

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Sensory Table: Although this isn't an Amazon link nor one to a website for purchase, What's Up Moms has so many clever ideas I couldn't help but include this one. With a quick trip to Home Depot, this is the perfect gift to put Dad on this year. The What's Up Mom video and printable gives you all the info to make your own DIY sensory table. With so many associations between sensory play and kid's increased willingness to try (or at least touch!) new foods, we will most definitely have this in cue at Santa's workshop.

So that's a wrap! The Top 5 Gifts on My 2016 Christmas Wish List have been sent in to Santa!

What items are on your wishlist this year?

 

Disclaimer

Veggies & Virtue received no compensation for writing this review. However, some of the links on this page are affiliate links, which means Veggies & Virtue will earn a small commission when purchases are made using those links. For more info, please visit the Veggies & Virtue disclosure page.

 

Little Partners Learning Tower Review

Features of the Learning Tower

If you have ever wanted a better way to get your kiddo up to the counter than standing on an unsturdy chair or insufficient stool, the Learning Partners Learning Tower is your golden ticket. By offering a safe, stable, and yet adjustable platform, the Learning Tower is intended to help get children ages 18 months to 6 years old right up in the action. The Learning Tower has foot holes on two of the four sides for your child to help themselves up and down (as able). When standing on the large platform (measures 15" x 18"), you can rest assured that they are safely enclosed from falling while standing with four railings. It adjusts to any counter and child height combo, so your child will not outgrow the Learning Tower until they hit the age when they can be involved standing on their own two feet. Your little one can also invite their very own sous chef to be by their side since the Learning Tower can accommodate up to 500 pounds.

Target Group for the Learning Tower

For families who embrace having their toddlers and kids involved in cooking and activities in the kitchen, the Learning Tower will become an everyday item in your household.

The Main Benefit of the Learning Tower

When my daughter was an infant, I loved having her in the Inglesina Fast Table Chair any time I was in the kitchen and wanted her safely up at the counter with me. As she grew and became more independent, I had yet to find a good solution between any "high-chair equivalent" and a traditional kitchen step stool. I tried sitting on the floor with my daughter or moving everything from the kitchen counter to the dinner table when trying to engage her in cooking or kitchen play. Neither were ideal or sustainable options though as we began spending more and more time in the kitchen together.

When we finally purchased the Learning Tower, an immediate opportunity presented itself. Areas where my daughter had been limited exploring food, engaging in food prep, eating what was being exposed in front of her, and enjoying the sensory play aspect of food and cooking were abolished. By utilizing the Learning Tower, she and I now get to participate in everything from preparing meals to playing with our food on a daily basis. I can't imagine being a pediatric dietitian turned stay-at-home mom without this item in our kitchen!

Practical Details about the Learning Tower

Price: $199.99

Where to buyAmazon or the Little Partners website

The warranty: Little Partners offers a 1 year manufacturers warranty on all Step Stools and Learning Towers.

Delivery time: Usually ~1 week through both Amazon and the Little Partners website

Customer Service: The Little Partners website has several ways to reach customer service. However from personal experience, I spent over a month trying to call, email, and complete online requests forms for a replacement piece with no avail until I reached out to Little Partners on social media. Once my need was addressed, the process to get a replacement piece was quickly tended to.

The Pros and Cons to the Learning Tower

Pros:

  • Safer alternative to having child(ren) stand on a stool, chair, or learning tower alternative
  • High quality product for anyone looking to invest in a long-term learning tower option
  • Engages child(ren) in learning about food, cooking, their senses, and responsibilities in the kitchen
  • Entertains child(ren) when mom/dad need a few minutes to get a meal ready

Cons:

  • If space is an issue in your kitchen, tape out what the footprint for the Learning Tower would be. While it is a mobile item that can be moved around as needed, it will take up some space wherever it stands.
  • If you have multiple children who are different heights, they may not both be well-accommodated by the same Learning Tower. While the adjustable platform serves one or two child(ren) of the same age and height range well, it may be too high or too low for young kids who are growing and unable to reach the counter at a universally set platform height. We only have one child so far, so we will see when our next daughter arrives and is old enough how much of an "issue" this really is.

Alternative Products to the Learning Tower

GuideCraft Kitchen Helper ($119): I researched the Little Partners Learning Tower against alternatives at length and most often found it compared against the GuideCraft Kitchen Helper. While the Kitchen Helper is less-expensive than the Learning Tower ($119 vs $199), I felt that the quality of the product was slightly compromised with the lower price-point.
DIY (cost of goods): Neither my husband nor I are especially handy with a hammer nor do we dominate the DIY space, so this option was never highly considered for our home. Initially, I discussed the idea of building a Learning Tower with some friends who do a knack for DIY projects, but realistically it was too large of an undertaking to ask as a semi-immediate favor (ie. to be completed before my daughter turned five). I looked into what it would cost to hire someone to build this item, but the minimal cost savings did not seem financially-advantageous enough to merit the time and energy to secure someone and safety measures sacrificed in the process to make a DIY Learning Tower.

Why I Chose the Learning Tower

My main reasons for choosing the Little Partners Learning Tower boiled down to improved safety, quality of the product, overall reviews and impressions from others, and ability for young kids to use independently (as young kids appear to have a more difficult step and climb up on the Kitchen Helper and DIY alternatives compared to the Learning Tower).

My Final Opinion about the Learning Tower

It took me several months of comparing reviews and heavily considering the value of the Little Partners Learning Tower prior to making the purchase. I have not once regretted the decision, however.

As a mom and wife, I would encourage you to evaluate how this product fits the desires you have for your family with the space demands of your home. If it seems like something that would "fit" (both figuratively and literally), consider asking family members for the Learning Tower on your children's behalf this holiday season. It makes a wonderful gift that your child may be too young to ask for on their own!

As a pediatric dietitian, I would strongly urge anyone interested in getting their young kids more involved in the kitchen to make this product a much-loved addition to their kitchen! If you follow me on Instagram, you will see our Learning Tower is put to use daily and documented often for the "can-do" ability it affords my daughter in the kitchen.

 

Disclaimer

Veggies & Virtue received no compensation for writing this review. However, some of the links on this page are affiliate links, which means Veggies & Virtue will earn a small commission when purchases are made using those links. For more info, please visit the Veggies & Virtue disclosure page.

Curious Chef Kids Kitchen Knives Review

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Features of Curious Chef Kids Kitchen Knives

According to the product website, “The Curious Chef® 3 Piece Nylon Knife Set was created specifically with kids' cooking and kitchen safety in mind. Curious Chef® kids kitchen knives feature a unique nylon serrated blade with a blunt tip that will cut through tough fruits and vegetables but is much safer on skin than a traditional metal blade. Additional safety features include ergonomically designed handles with soft button grips to ensure your little chef will have a firm hold on his or her kids cooking tool.”

This 3 piece kids knife set from Curious Chef® includes a large (10.8" L x 2" W x 0.5" H), medium (9.8" L x 1.8" W x 0.5" H), and small knife (8.8" L x 1.5" W x 0.5" H), all made in the smaller dimensions of a child. All knives are dishwasher safe and BPA Free.

Target Group for Curious Chef Kids Kitchen Knives

According to the product website, these knives are intended for children over the age of 4. From personal experience however, I have seen our daughter begin to safely use the smallest knife on soft foods as early as 2.5 years old. Depending on your child’s age and ability, it is important to note that these knives are intended for skill building rather than literal “help” in the kitchen. Parents should always offer adult supervision, guidance, and assistance when these knives are used.

The Main Benefit of Curious Chef Kids Kitchen Knives

If you desire to get your child(ren) engaged in the kitchen with age-appropriate tools, this set of kids kitchen knives is a great addition. With a competitive edge over other “miniature” kitchen tools, Curious Chef is intentional about making products for kids to use that are both safe and functional. These knives are designed as part of an overall company mission that Curious Chef has to encourage culinary learning, collaboration, and confidence with kids in the kitchen. Younger kids may begin exploring how to cut soft foods (like bananas) with supervision, guidance, and assistance. As children get older, these knives allow them to demonstrate more independence and autonomy in the meal prep process while assuming their own role and responsibilities with family meals! These knives are a good investment that have several years’ worth of use within family’s who enjoy time spent in the kitchen and the act of cooking together.

Practical Details about Curious Chef Kids Kitchen Knives

Price: $8.99

Where to buyAmazon or the Curious Chef website

The warranty: According to the product website, you may return unused products in its original packaging within 30 days of delivery for a full refund on the final purchase price. You may return defective product any time with proof of purchase.

Delivery time: Usually ~2-8 days (with Amazon Prime or the Curious Chef website)

The Pros and Cons to Curious Chef Kids Kitchen Knives

Pros:

  • Promotes culinary learning, collaboration, and confidence with kids in the kitchen
  • Safe and educational way to engage child(ren) in getting ready for meal times
  • More effective alternative to “pretend” kid knives
  • Greater learning applications than child using a standard butter knife

 Cons:

  • White silicone may stain with use
  • Do not produce a clean, smooth cut when used as part of child’s practice

Alternative Products to Curious Chef Kids Kitchen Knives

Kai Little Chef Club Children's Stainless Steel Knife ($14.35): This option is a more advanced alternative to the Curious Chef Kids Kitchen Knives. With a blade made of stainless steel, this knife is sharp enough to cut. The edges are blunted so children are less likely to be injured by rolling easily off the hand as "cutting edge" and "chin". The blade is about five inches in length with a handle that has been designed smaller for easier maneuverability by kids. 

Opinel Le Petit Chef Knife and Fingers Guard ($49.95): With a total size similar to the smallest of the three Curious Chef Knives, the Opinel Le Petit Chef Knife has ~4 inch stainless steel blade. This knife kit includes a finger guard as well as a knife with a rounded tip and educational ring to help position the fingers and prevent the hand from slipping onto the blade. This knife affords kids the opportunity to learn knife skills and how to take proper safety precautions while cutting. This knife is sharp however, and thus would not be appropriate for younger, less experienced kid chefs or in any circumstance when supervision is limited.

Brisa Bonita Child Knife ($22.62): Closer in size to the largest Curious Chef Knife, the Brisa Bonita Child Knife has a stainless steel blade with a rounded tip. Reviews on this knife boasts the ability to cut like a real knife while also being designed to help beginner chefs gain experience with knife skills and safety. This knife’s blade is sharp enough to cut skin however, so this option is intended for older children and/or those with more supervision and advanced knife experience.

StarPack Nylon Kitchen Knife Set ($8.95): As a price-competitive alternative to the similar set by Curious Chef, StarPack knives sell themselves as a nylon knife option. Built in size to be used by smaller hands, this set includes three sizes similar to the Curious Chef set. The nylon blade has a serrated edge to help cut food without the safety concern of how stainless steel blades may cut than skin.

Kuhn Rikon Kinderkitchen Dog Knife ($10.00): The Kinderkitchen Dog Knife is a safe option for younger chefs with less experience in the kitchen. The blade is sharp enough to cut soft food but not small fingers. With the body designed to look like a dog, this is a cute and yet effective option when first introducing your young child to how to cut food. The blade may lack the ability to cut through more firm foods however, so this product does not specifically teach children knife safety nor allow them to grow with the item to advance their skills, as able.

Why I Chose Curious Chef Kids Kitchen Knives

Given the age of my child (now almost 3), stainless steel kids knives were far beyond her ability. I bought the Curious Chef Kids Knife Set so that she would be able to use them immediately while maintaining a safer learning experience (to stainless). While I like the introductory ability of Kuhn Rikon knives for young kids, I like how Curious Chef affords more opportunity for advancing with a child’s age and budding knife abilities. I think the StarPack Nylon knives would offer similar advantages and incentives to those we purchased.

My Final Opinion about Curious Chef Kids Kitchen Knives

As a mom and dietitian, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. I enjoy the opportunity to have a safe way to engage my daughter in the experience of meal times by preparing foods alongside me. Starting her just after the age of two, there are obvious limitations in skill at this young of an age. That to say, the interest in food and cooking and the eagerness to learn is present and not to be postponed. For this reason, the Curious Chef Kids Kitchen Knife set has been an opportunistic investment for our kitchen. With many ways to begin knife skill development at an early age, these knives also afford open dialogue about knife and kitchen safety. I would recommend this product to any family who spends time in the kitchen and values the opportunity to supervise, encourage, and guide such skill development as that of knife skills.

 

Disclaimer

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The 15 Best Stocking Stuffers for Preschool-Aged Chefs

There are a million lists out there for what to stuff a toddler's stocking with. These range from the basics of bubbles to endless amounts of sugar in the form of festive Christmas sprinkled foods. However, if you have a preschool-aged chef who you are stuffing a stocking for, you may be hoping for a few more creative ideas that your kid could use in the kitchen. Perhaps ones that are fun, functional, AND give your toddler permission to "play with their food."

Read through this list where I share:

best stocking stuffers for preschool-aged chefs

1. Minis Silicone and Stainless Steel Tongs: While scanning the aisles for wrapping paper and Christmas decorations at Hobby Lobby, I stumbled upon the PERFECT sized cooking tongs for kids. There were four types to choose from in red or green for what worked out to be about $1 a piece (with Hobby Lobby's always-awesome sales), but I have linked some others here since the ones I found weren't on Hobby Lobby's website.

2. Small Strainers: Here is another itemI scored to find at the Dollar Tree. With short handles that fit perfectly in little hands, these are fun for my two-year old to play with when baking and exploring the textures of different foods. From sifting flour to straining water off of freshly washed fruit, these are an easy addition to your sous chef's stock of kitchen tools.

3. Small Rolling PinYou may have already thought to get one of these for your preschooler's play-doh, but having one that your kid can use in the kitchen too is a great way to get them involved in age-appropriate kitchen play.

4. Curious Chef Kids KnivesThese nylon knives don't need to worry you! Specifically designed for your young sous chef, these knives are sharp enough to cut through your kid's soft favorites like bananas, cheese, and PB&J sandwiches without chopping their fingers off. I am excited to introduce these to our two year old to encourage a bit more independence to cut some foods herself (versus always being told to keep her hands back).

5. Crinkle CutterI bought one of these after seeing it being used for tot school. I am determined to see how many more things my daughter is willing to taste when presented in a crinkle cut...I mean seriously, even if she hates all things potato - who doesn't want a crinkle-cut french fry every once in a while?!

6. Mini Whisk: This whisk is the perfect option for an eager egg-scrambler. With the opportunity to eager your little one in everything from mixing up morning pancakes to homemade ranch dip, this whisk is sure to be a favorite for any age and stage. 

7. Turkey BasterBefore you think I have gone too far with this one, hear me out. These things are awesome for sensory play in and out of the kitchen, as well as developing fine motor skills and hand strength when squeezing. Turkey basters are also a fun way for kids to squirt milk on their cereal with fewer spills. If you decide to get one of these, check your dollar store first (as that's where I found ours for much less than those sold on Amazon!).

8. Cookie cutters: Do you follow me on Instagram? If not, you should. Because then you would have seen all of my attempts to cookie-cut my way through exposing unfamiliar foods to my very own particular eater of a preschooler.

9. Food Picks: I haven't bought any of these yet because to be honest, I've been cheap and I felt these were a bit of a novelty item we could avoid introducing without majorly "missing out" on something amazing. If I am going to spend money on filling my preschoolers stocking with random, useless items she may/may not enjoy though, now is the ideal time to try these little sticks. I am curious to see if she enjoys them as much as others claim their kids do.

10. Silicone Cups: Would you believe these are actually one of my daughter's favorite items for independent play? She makes SEVERAL batches of "shape (link shape sorter) cupcakes" daily! These also get used in her muffin tin meals and for easy little cups for finger foods at meals and snacks.

11. Silverware: Has your kid's cutlery gone missing this school year? Now is the perfect time to replenish with your kid's favorite colors or characters! It is a simple would-have-to-buy-anyways items that then becomes a bit more "special."

12. Toddler Straw Cups: Is it time to replace a dingy straw from your kid's sippy cup? Lessen the number of leaks in your life with an awesome new cup like this one? Replace a reusable water bottle that went missing school in 2015? Stuff one of these cups down into the toe of your preschooler's stocking and you have an easy win.

13. Reusable Squeeze Pouches: While we have long-used the Infantino squeeze system and disposable pouches, 2016 is a new year and I am ready to test out new items - like these reusable squeeze pouches. Plus, with my daughter's growing appetite these days, I went ahead and bought these in the 7-ounce size to pack a bit more food into each pouch.

14. Board books about food: While classics like Blueberries for Sal are too big of books to stuff in a stock, here are some of my other favorites: The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Vegetables, Eating the Alphabet, My Very First Book of Food, and Yummy Yucky.

15. Satsumas or Clementines: Surely I wasn't the only one who grew up with a satsuma in the toe of every stocking, right? I totally plan to keep these tradition alive with a healthy, simple food item that fits perfectly insider my daughter's stocking.

What fun AND functional finds did you get to fill your preschooler's stocking with this year?

Disclaimer

Please note that I have not received any compensation for this post. However some of the links on this page are affiliate links, which means I will earn a commission if you purchase through those links. I have used all of the products listed and recommend them because they are helpful and from companies that I trust, not because of the commissions that I may earn from you using these products.