I was inspired by a friend’s recent roundup of Cheerio Balls recipes. But, when I searched through them, I found that most of them used honey as their sweetener.
Don’t get me wrong! I’m all for purchasing and eating local honey for the health benefits. However, because I have to share many snacks with my toddler, who isn’t quite a year and a half old, honey isn’t an option yet.
Try as I might, I couldn’t find a recipe that didn’t have honey. And, I needed to use certified gluten free products for my own dietary needs. So, I came up with my own recipe.
Now that my son is down to one nap a day, I’m also limited to the time I have available to do my own thing. Having him in the kitchen with me can be downright painful! But, it’s a necessity more than ever because I have to get things done.
Unfortunately, he’s a wild man and can’t be trusted to roam freely either. Instances like turning the dog’s water bowl into his own private splash pad have happened more often than I’d like to admit. So, I normally set him up in his bouncer as he “watches” me from a distance. This usually entails him crying because he a) thinks he needs to eat and b) gets bored in the seat.
My attention is constantly divided in an effort to make him happy. But, there’s only so much I could do to keep him entertained without completely losing my train of thought on the task at hand.
Enter Little Partners and the Original Learning Tower! Now, I can have my kids right beside me, at the counter. Food is there and I can get them involved in what I’m doing versus breaking away constantly. And, many of my safety concerns are alleviated.
*Disclaimer: I have received The Original Learning Tower from Little Partners in exchange for my honest opinions of this product. No other compensation was received. Affiliate links are included in this post.
Having Little Partners in the Kitchen
Getting my oldest in the kitchen to help has always been pretty easy. S was eager to help mommy cook dinner or bake cookies with me as a toddler.
My biggest problem was that safety was always a concern. I’d put her on the counter or set her up on a chair with two measly side arms. I knew the dangers of both scenarios, but I didn’t know I had other options. Maybe at the time there wasn’t … I couldn’t tell you honestly. But, I also trusted her … she wasn’t crazy and she was really good about sitting still. So, it was a calculated risk I took with her, and thankfully panned out fine.
My son, on the other hand … well, no chance at all would I trust him to sit on the counter patiently. He’s too wild and busy! If he can’t be trusted to roam the kitchen or house, he certainly isn’t capable of sitting on the counter. I can picture him smashing food, trying to eat it, and trying to stand up and walk away on me.
The Little Partners provides The Original Learning Tower which helps me keep my kids safely off the counters, but still right in the action!
Now, I’m able to safely build in quality time with my children while I spend necessary time in the kitchen. But, bonding over time spent making recipes together (especially the fun chocolatey ones) is a bonus experience. And, they’re getting to learn valuable lessons about cooking and measuring at a really early age!
The Little Partners Original Learning Tower is designed to adjust for ages 18 months to 6 years. This means I can raise or lower the platform for either of my little partners to help in the kitchen. Plus, the tower will grow with my youngest. What’s great is that it has 4 railings on the sides to contain the wild ones and give them support as they maneuver around the large platform. This gives me some peace of mind that the littlest won’t go toppling off the side, unless he gets adventurous and tries to escape… because that’s a toddler boy for ya.
And, if I’m in a pinch, I can feel comfortable setting both kids in the tower, as it’s rated for up to 500 pounds. The wide platform would be great for this purpose, but also allows lots of moving around for an active tot.
Of course, something to be warned about when including your little partners in the kitchen with The Original Learning Tower … you’ll need to account for more ingredients in your recipe for snacking!
Finally, The Original Learning Tower is a beautifully constructed piece of furniture built with solid wood and available in several color options to fit most any home.
No-Bake Chocolatey Trail Mix Cereal Bars
So, this is a fun treat your children can get involved in making. My suggestion for the younger tots is to gather your ingredients first. Place them into plastic containers in anticipation of drops and spills. Then, corral the crazy one into the Learning Tower.
For the older, more patient kids, feel free to have them stand in the tower while you gather and help them measure and pour the ingredients.
Either way, your little partners in the kitchen will be able to safely and easily work on this recipe with you.
While you’re heating up the nut butter and maple syrup, get your little partner to help you measure and dump the dry ingredients.
No-Bake Chocolatey Trail Mix Cereal Bars (Gluten and Dairy Free)
I was inspired by a recent batch of trail mix cookies and some cheerios bars recipes I'd come across. When I searched for bars or bites, I noticed most recipes included honey as the sticky sweetener. But, with a toddler who refuses to be left out of the treat share, I knew I needed to find a treat that he could eat too. So, I got to work and came up with this chocolately trail mix cereal bar that is free of gluten, dairy, and honey, yet perfectly delicious for the whole family!
- 1.5 C O's cereal of choice I use Nature's Path Gluten Free Whole O's
- 1/4 C dried cranberries
- 1/4 C Sunflower seeds
- 1/4 C chocolate chips I use Enjoy Life semi-sweet chocolate chips mini-morsels
- 1/3 C Maple Syrup
- 1/3 C Nut butter of choice I prefer peanut butter for the extra flavor, but any will do
- coconut flakes Optional. Dried, unsweetened was my choice
Dump the first 4 ingredients in a bowl
Heat maple syrup and nut butter over high heat and stir until it begins to bubble
Turn to low (or off if you want to use residual heat) and stir until well blended and nice and hot
Immediately pour this into your bowl of dry ingredients and stir. It will melt the chocolate morsels.
Cut parchment paper at the corners to fit into an 8x8 baking pan
Pour the mixture into the parchment-lined pan.
Press the mixture with some pressure to completely cover the bottom of the pan. I use a spoon, but you could use your hands if you don't mind getting them messy.
Sprinkle the top with coconut flakes if desired.
Place baking dish into freezer for at least 30 minutes (I usually leave it about an hour)
Once chilled, I pull out the pan, removing the parchment paper and cereal bars, then cut into individual squares or rectangles. I do about 1/2 inch to 1 inch squares. The smaller the better for tiny tots.
Place the food on the parchment paper back into the pan. Keep in the refrigerator for storage.
Final Thoughts on The Original Learning Tower by Little Partners
The Original Learning Tower was easy to build. I have almost zero engineering skills, but was able to follow the build instructions quickly and easily on my own. Using some of my husbands better tools, I was able to put the tower together in just under an hour, by myself.
You can purchase directly from the Little Partners website or from Amazon. The Original Learning Tower comes in various finishes to suit most homes.
Finally, there are some playful add-ons for your Original Learning Tower! You can choose from two Playhouse Kits, which each feature two different playhouses, depending on the side you’re looking at. They slip right over the learning tower.