Learning activities might keep your little one busy and out of time-out.

Muffin Tin Activities for Children

by Kathryn Rateliff Barr

Keeping toddlers or preschoolers busy can challenge the most experienced parent. It seems your little one hangs on so tightly you can’t go to the bathroom alone or is so quiet and scarce that you know he’s getting into trouble. Activities such as those that can be done in muffin tins can keep him happily busy. You might even sneak away for two minutes in the bathroom alone.

Sort and Match

Your muffin tins can provide containers for your little one to sort toys. Toddlers can sort paper circles by colors or different animal crackers into each cup. With preschoolers, she might sort different shapes, colors or types of buttons into each of the muffin cups. Alternatively, you might hide a small item in each cup and cover it with tag board covers and have your child find the matching pairs. Always supervise activities with small items.


Use a muffin tin to explore color blending. Add 2 tablespoons of red, blue or yellow paint in three of the muffin cups, so that you have 9 cups that contain paint. In cups holding red paint, add a drop of white paint in one, a drop of black paint in the second cup and a drop of blue paint in the third cup. Repeat the white and black drops in two of the blue cups and add a drop of yellow paint to the third cup. In the yellow paint cups, add a drop of white, black or red paint, respectively. Give your child a craft stick for each cup and have him mix the paint in each cup together to discover how different colors are formed. He can paint a picture with the blended colors. Alternatively, fold coffee filters into pie-shaped wedges and dip the center points into the colors to create interesting patterns as the filter wicks the paint up and spreads it.

Growing Plants

Fill five cups in an old muffin tin with dirt, clay, paper towel, peat moss, water or gravel. Have your child drop one or two seeds into six cups and add water to each cup. She can place the muffin tin in a window where it will get sunlight. Make sure she waters each cup every third day. Examine the cups each day to see which cups allow the seeds to sprout. Toddlers can fill each cup with play dough and plant paper flowers on craft sticks into each cup.

Capillary Action

Your toddler or preschooler can change the color of a celery stick with water and food coloring. Have him place 1/4 cup of water in each of three muffin tin cups. Instruct him to add one drop of red, yellow or blue food coloring to each muffin cup. Cut 2-inch segments of fresh, crisp celery in each cup and watch the celery change color. Use 6-inch segments of celery stalk and split the stalk half way up, placing each split segment into a different cup of colored water to see the celery sprout more than one color. Your little one can do the same experiment using small carnations, but the color change takes longer.


  • Little Hands Art Book; Judy Press
  • The Ultimate Everything Kids’ Activity Book; Beth Blair et. al

About the Author

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.

Photo Credits

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