How to Build a Kids Capsule Wardrobe

Back in early 2017 I was very pregnant with C (our now two year old son) and nesting like crazy.

Nothing was off limits, including my daughter’s drawers. They were jammed with clothes - we had been the very lucky recipient of hand me downs and gifts, and at almost two years old, had never really had to buy her anything.

But with all these clothes, we typically went for a few favorite outfits. It was overwhelming to weed through everything in order to find what we wanted. Prior to P (my daughter) coming along, I had been a big fan of a capsule wardrobe for myself (side note: I’m currently rebuilding mine!), so I figured why not try it for her.

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My main reason for creating and continuing with a capsule for two years is to spend less time dealing with her clothes. I only shop twice a year (I rarely buy anything outside of refreshes but it does happen occasionally), which saves me time. And she has way less clothing than she had before I did this so there is less time spent organizing / dealing with her drawers.

A side bonus is that my daughter also has been able to select her own clothes and dress herself since she was interested in doing so, starting around 2.5. This saves me time in the morning. After breakfast she usually heads upstairs and gets herself completely dressed, which allows me to finish whatever I need to in the kitchen. All I do is her hair (sometimes) and supervise her teeth brushing. Plus, I think kid picked outfits are the best and I love the autonomy this gives her. With the capsule she (mostly) looks coordinated and when she doesn’t, it’s fun.

My intention isn’t necessarily to spend less, but I’m guessing that I end up doing so because I’ve cut out almost all impulse and one-off purchases.

Six Steps to a Capsule Wardrobe

This is the process I used to create her capsule and how I go about twice yearly updates, typically March and September.

You can start this process at any time. I generally refresh for spring/summer and then fall/winter, but do what best fits your weather and lifestyle.

  1. Pile and sort. Take all your kids' clothes and dump them in a pile in the middle of a room. Make sure to grab everything - coats, swimwear, etc. I like to do this on the same day I do their laundry so that the only clothes that aren’t piled are the ones they are wearing. Now sort the clothes into smaller piles - the number of piles will depend on your situation, but here’s what my sorting looked like for my daughter’s refresh this month:

    • Still fits / good for next season

    • Still fits / store for next year

    • Pass on to friend

    • Save for little brother

    • Recycle with Goodwill (super stained/ripped clothes)

    • Not part of capsule (dress up clothes that had migrated upstairs, bathrobes, etc)

  2. Review future clothes. If you purchase and store clothes in larger sizes or receive hand me downs in larger sizes, review what you have and add in the pieces that fit and are seasonally appropriate. Pretty much the only shopping ahead I do now is when our favorite Hanna Andersson pajamas go on sale - I’ve bought too many things in the past that just don’t end up working out as I thought they would.

  3. Take inventory of what you have. Make a list by clothing type and write down how many you have of each. Doesn’t need to be fancy, but I find writing it down helps me quickly see if I have a good mix of clothes based on the season (i.e. for spring/summer I may have plenty of leggings that still fit, but we’re also going to need a few pairs of shorts and a skirt or two).
    I had high hopes of creating a template for you to use, but if I did that who knows when this post might be published. So it may come at some point, but for now just make a list and next to each item type write how many you have.

  4. Decide how much you need. How much clothing you have is your preference. What really works for me is to have two weeks worth of clothes, or 14 outfits. I do laundry once per week, so with two weeks worth we have enough for accidents of all varieties, skipping laundry day here and there, clothes that get torn/stained, constant outfit changes, etc.

    In general (there is a lot of art in this process, don’t get caught up in the science), I consider a top/bottom combo one outfit. Dresses are one outfit in the spring/summer but need a pair of pants to be a full outfit in the fall/winter (my kid doesn’t love tights but if yours does dresses could probably be stand alone).

    For all the additional items, like sweaters, hoodies, shoes, underwear, etc., I started with my best judgement and have adjusted as we go. We typically have a hoodie or two and three cardigans (we do a lot of layering in the Pacific Northwest), four pairs of pajamas works great (we tend to wear one set two nights in a row), and for shoes we’ve stuck with rainboots, sneakers, sandals, and one pair of “fancy” shoes (100% not necessarily for our lifestyle, but my daughter enjoys them). Again, try something and then adjust the next season.

    If you have more clothing than you want to keep, before passing along keep a few outfits aside for things like extra outfits at school or in the car.

  5. Pick colors and strategically choose patterns. Having a color scheme is what allows all the clothes to mix and match with each other. The first time you do this, it’s not going to be perfect since you are working with what you already have and hopefully only needing to fill in a few missing pieces. But as you collect more over time, you can streamline to a color theme. I suggest picking a base (gray, black, brown, navy), two main colors, and a third accent color. My daughter’s capsule is gray, blue, pink, and has pops of yellow.

    While a completely solid wardrobe would make coordination super simple, it would be boring. Plus, I love stripes too much to give them up in my kids’ clothes. What I’ve done to make it easy for her to mix and match her clothes is leave patterns to pants and dresses only and then keep the patterns to stripes and small florals. When I haven’t been able to find small florals, I choose small prints that match our colors - right now she has a pair of leggings with fruit. Whatever works! Thinking ahead to my son and what I see in the stores, I will probably keep his bottoms mostly solid and look for print tops, favoring stripes and maybe small animals.

  6. Shop! I like to do this entire process, from organizing to shopping at one time and in about an hour. So I will immediately take my list, usually with my laptop right in my daughter’s room, and complete the shopping. Because I keep her wardrobe minimal and don’t shop often, I don’t worry too much about hitting sales. You could definitely keep your list on hand and wait for sales before filling in missing pieces.

    I start by shopping for solid color basics at Primary then I add on patterns from usually Hanna Andersson, Old Navy, and/or Target. I keep things very simple by not straying from these stores. I know how the clothes fit my kid and the return policies so it’s easier for me not to stray. But if you enjoy shopping, I can see this being a fun project that takes more time.

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Here are a few of my favorite items that consistently make our capsule each season:

the dress

“The Dress” from Primary is probably our favorite item of clothing. We have it in sleeveless, short sleeves, and long sleeves depending on the season, but really they work year round with a cardigan.

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cat + jack leggings

These leggings are $5 each at Target, last through at least a season with kids, and come in great solid, stripe, and often small patterns that fit well with our capsule. My son is now wearing my daughter’s hand-me-downs so the price per wear can’t be beat. I find the selection is better in store than what I see online.

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the cardi sweater

We do a lot of layering in the PNW and these cardigans are perfect. We usually have pink, blue, yellow and gray (and they ALL get worn weekly). They are great as a light jacket in spring, to take a summer dress into fall, or to wear all day in winter.

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short + long johns

When it comes to pajamas, my kids pretty much only wear the Hanna Andersson short johns and long johns. The quality is so great that a pair lasts both my kids wearing them every week for one to two years. I grab whatever I think I’ll need for the next year when they go on sale for $20.

If you use any of these tips to streamline your kid’s wardrobe, I would love to know!

Mini Muffin Round Up

We are big fans of mini muffins over here and have been for quite some time. Why mini?

Mostly because my kids don’t need a full size muffin nor will they eat the whole thing most of the time. So rather than making a dozen full size muffins and composting half each time we eat them, I get 24-30 mini muffins that all get eaten.

If they want more than one, great, I just give them two. Or three. I’m not cutting back on muffin eating, just on my baking efforts going to waste.

We go through a lot of muffins. They are a great carb for breakfast (I’ll usually add eggs or sausage and a fresh fruit), a super portable snack, and only take a few seconds to go from freezer to eating, so work great in a Kid Needs Food Immediately emergency. I try to make one batch a week so that we always have a good selection in the freezer.

Baking and Storage Tips

  • To make mini muffins, all you need is a mini muffin pan. There is nothing else different about minis than regular muffins. I currently have this silicon mold (it needs to be placed on a baking sheet - it’s not firm itself) and a non stick mini muffin pan I’ve been meaning to swap out for a while. I’m thinking about replacing it with this ceramic one. I suggest having two as most recipes will make more than 24 mini muffins, especially if the original recipe makes 18 regular sized muffins, like a few of our favorites do.

  • I use normal size muffin recipes and bake for just a few minutes less than the given baking time. I’ve been making them for so long I just eyeball doneness now, but when getting started maybe try 2 minutes less than the bake time, or start with the lower end if they give a range. The cook time is not all that different.

  • Once cooled, place muffins on a baking sheet and pop in the freezer for 30 minutes or so. Then store them in an airtight container for the freezer. The pre-freeze keeps them from sticking together. I have one large Stasher Bag that fits about 20 mini muffins and I also reuse ziplocks for muffin storage.

  • Muffins only last in our freezer for about a month at most with how fast we eat them, but I’ve never had issues with freezer burn using the method above.

  • To defrost, place in the microwave for 15-30 seconds. Or add them to a lunch bag frozen and they should be defrosted by lunch time.

  • Because the muffins end up in the freezer and I don’t want to keep track of exact ingredients, I never use nuts in our mini muffins. Our preschool is nut-free, as are many of the play spaces we frequent, so just not using nuts makes it much more simple when it comes to packing snacks and lunches.

  • To add protein, I’ll often add a few scoops of collagen peptides to the dry mix. I haven’t ever had it change the consistency of the muffin and anything to keep my kids full for just a few more minutes is worth it.

  • I make all of the recipes below gluten free by replacing with a one for one flour (our favorite is Namaste, which is also at Costco) and dairy free by subbing coconut milk, either from a can, homemade, or carton.

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Favorite Recipes

You’ll notice that most of these come from Super Healthy Kids. The site is a great place to find kid-friendly recipe ideas and so far we’ve yet to try a muffin we don’t like from them. Rather than finding more recipe sources, I just keep going back, because if it’s not broken…

  • Sweet Spinach Muffins - we call these “frog muffins” in our house and the kids love them. They won’t touch spinach on it’s own, but they know it’s in these muffins and still eat them. I’m sure the honey helps.

  • Whole Wheat Applesauce Muffins - we skip the nut crumble on top (see above) and the kids still love these. They are also super simple to make and my daughter can now do most of it herself, with some help on picking the right measuring spoons and cups. And obviously the oven.

  • Healthy Zucchini Oat Muffins - we just tried this one because I had a few zucchini that needed to be used. I wasn’t sure how it would go over - my kids are not big on oats. Which is why I also had oats that needed to be used. But they loved them! I do find that these need to be fulled cooled before you remove them from the pan. Maybe because the zucchini makes them extra moist?

  • Healthy Lemon Blueberry Muffins - I made these for the first time when I had extra blueberries that had to be frozen, now that my 4 year old is no longer willing to eat frozen blueberries. I mix a little lemon juice in with coconut milk for a buttermilk replacement. And I’ll probably try swapping the sugar for honey or maple syrup in the future.

  • Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins - these are really tasty, but I don’t make them often anymore as I’ve been trying to simplify and only keep one type of flour around. These call for cassava flour, but I think I’ll try them with our regular GF flour and see what happens. They are the most dessert-like of the muffins listed… so sweet and tasty.

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    Favorite Kitchen Tools for Cooking with Kiddos

    This post was originally published on my old nutrition-based blog. A rough afternoon this week trying to bake with my kids reminded me of the post, and I thought I’d republish to share again.

    When I was pregnant with my now preschooler, I fantasized about the gourmet meals I’d make for dinner once I was no longer working full time in an office. My reality is pretty much the opposite of that, and I’m guessing I’m not alone. Dinnertime is chaos. But I’ve found that my best shot at succeeding is keeping things crazy simple and involving my kids in the process.

    (For the simple part, check out my Instagram account  where I’m always sharing what super easy meal we’re having.)

    Some of you may find that it’s easier to distract a little one for meal prep, which I support 100% and sometimes that’s exactly what we do. God bless Daniel Tiger. But my daughter is a people person and does not need any alone time. As an extroverted introvert, I don’t understand this AT ALL, but I’m learning to work with it. And my son is currently in a stage where he must be within 3/4” of my body between 4pm and bedtime.

    Including them in my dinner prep speaks my daughter’s love language, keeps my son close by, and is the best way for me to get dinner on the table without opening a can of Pinot Gris (yes, it’s a thing – you can find it at Trader Joe’s). Plus, they tend to eat more when they are involved in making a meal. And a full kid is a much better sleeper than a hungry one. #amen

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    Favorite Kitchen Gadgets for Toddlers

    Over the last few year (my daughter is 4 and my son is almost 2), we’ve collected a few items that make our time together in the kitchen easier. The first two are specialty kid items, and I get if you don’t want that. The rest are normal kitchen tools that I find particularly useful when working with them in the kitchen.

    Learning Tower – A learning tower (or a kitchen helper) is an enclosed platform that raises a kiddo up to counter level. Also to fridge opening, sink turning on, etc level. You’ve been warned.

    Unlike a stool, kids can’t fall off this (or the chances are lower). It also helps as a place for wiggly toddlers to stand during meals as they can be active while still being contained and not tracking food everywhere. But most importantly, I think it’s the sense of ownership. It is THEIR tower, and they will (almost) always happily jump in for a kitchen activity. I’m not sure I’d get the same cooperation if we were just pulling out the old kitchen step stool.

    On the down side, a learning tower is large and takes up space. Even so, I recommend 100%. I’ve linked to the one we use above and this tower is the one I wanted but couldn’t justify the extra $50. There’s also a budget-friendly IKEA hack option that several friends use.

    Kid Safe Knives – My daughter was gifted these knives and we love them. She will happily work away at chopping long enough for me to get the basics of dinner ready. I set her up with a non-slip cutting board and a piece of produce that will go with our meal (or not if the fridge is slim pickings). The most usual suspects are carrots, celery, and fruit. The key is that I always incorporate her work in our meal somehow, which makes her task feel important. So long as you’re cool with serving mangled strawberries with your curry, it really doesn’t matter what your child is chopping as long as he is busy.

    The recommended age is 4+. We started using them around 2 and have had zero issues, but use your own discretion.

    Big Bowls – With little ones, the bigger the bowl the better and I love this 4 quart pyrex bowl. Some of the best times to include kids in the kitchen is when pouring ingredients and stirring. The larger the bowl they have to pour into, there’s a better chance most of the contents will make it in. And with stirring, I always use a bowl several times larger than needed. All that extra space is for when food goes flying around due to a vigorous toddler or preschooler stir.

    Spouted Measuring Cups – I have much better luck with ingredients landing in a bowl when the toddler uses a spouted measuring cup than when we use a regular set of measuring cups. I’m thinking it’s because with this sort of cup you’re not filling it all the way, so there’s a lot more room for error. I have two so we can do wet and dry ingredients without having to wash and dry.

    Spiralizer – My daughter loves to use the handle of our spiralizer when we’re making ‘noodles’. Of course, this requires that you are paying close attention until all sharp blades are out of reach. It’s a great way to get your kiddo to try more varieties of veggies, too. I’ve tried pretty much every spiralizer and this one is my favorite.

    Blender – Toddlers love buttons, and buttons on blenders are no exception. Blenders are great because they can first help put ingredients into the pitcher and then they can press the button(s) and watch the food become something. We currently have a Vitamix, though any blender will keep a toddler’s attention for a few minutes.

    Aside from other staples like wooden spoons and serving ware, I think that’s a wrap on what I use with my toddler in the kitchen.

    P.S. Grandparents, aunts and uncles: This makes a great gift list for little ones. But make sure to check with parents before purchasing a learning tower. Not everyone wants a castle in their kitchen.

    Any kitchen gadgets you love to have on hand when cooking with your little one?

    Instant Pot Stuffed Pepper Soup

    I’m not a huge fan of green peppers and a few months back I found myself with a handful of them in the fridge. I had forgotten to edit a previous Imperfect Product box and the peppers had been in the fridge for awhile and needed to be eaten quickly. Out of a desire to disguise them in something that would make them taste less green pepperish, I came up with an Instant Pot soup. It’s turned out to be delicious. I’ll caveat this one that my kids don’t really eat anything that combines food, so I usually make this for lunch for me to eat all week.

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    Ingredients

    • 4 bell peppers, diced

    • 1 onion, diced

    • 2 cloves garlic

    • 1 lb ground meat of choice

    • 1 tbsp Italian dressing

    • 1 tsp salt

    • 1/2 tsp pepper

    • 14oz can diced tomatoes

    • 3 cups broth

    • 1 bag frozen cauliflower rice OR 1 cup uncooked white rice

    Instructions

    1. Sauté onions and peppers in fat of choice until tender.

    2. Add garlic and let cook 30 seconds.

    3. Add beef and cook until mostly brown.

    4. Add spices, tomatoes, and broth.

    5. If using uncooked white rice, add now.

    6. Cook on high pressure for 10 minutes.

    7. If using cauliflower rice, add after cooking and give it a minute or two to heat through.

    Why I Believe in a Laundry Routine

    Seeing this title probably makes you think I’m a fairly boring person. Who creates a laundry routine, let alone shares about it on the internet?

    ME.

    Because I firmly believe that anything that reduces the number of decisions I have to make on a daily basis, no matter how mundane, frees up mental space.

    And freed up mental space means more time to dream and execute on bigger things in my life, from planning family adventures to working on my business to taking time to read a fiction book just for fun.

    Before I had a routine, I would spend more time than I wanted thinking about if I should do laundry. And if so, what laundry should I do. Often times I’d be forced into doing laundry at a non convenient time because we needed something cleaned immediately.

    I get that laundry decisions aren’t hard decisions to make and the questions around it are simple. But decision fatigue is very much a real thing, and having to make decisions, even very basic ones, adds up throughout the day.

    So, back to my laundry routine.

    One thing to remember about routines is that likely they will need to change over time as life changes. Trying to force a routine that no longer works is almost worse than not even having one. So here are two that have worked me over the past two years.

    When my youngest was a baby and napped several times a day, I did all the laundry on Saturday. I’d usually be home with him since we were nursing while my husband would take our toddler on Daddy adventures. It was easy for me to get it all washed, dried, and folded while he napped and I got work done in between loads.

    But eventually he moved to one nap midday and I felt like I was trapped at home doing laundry when we could be out having fun as a family or I could be going to yoga.

    Over the last few months I’ve settled into my current laundry routine, where I do one load of laundry every weekday. I LOVE not having laundry to do over the weekend. It’s hard as a mom with a small business, but I’m really trying to make weekends have that weekend feel again. Plus, one load split up throughout the day makes it feel like I’m never spending a huge chunk of my time on laundry, which makes me less overwhelmed by the mental load.

    Typically, I put the day’s load in the washing machine around breakfast and swap to the dryer before we leave the house for the day. If I miss that, I swap to the dryer as soon as we get home - our schedule has us home between 1 and 2pm every day to spend the afternoon at home. I fold and put away in the afternoon, usually while the kids are playing. Our laundry room and playroom are next to each other, which helps.

    If the kids are having a rough day I’ll postpone until after bedtime, but I try really hard to have the load completely done, including back in drawers, by dinner so that it’s not hanging over my head in the evening. If I’m going to work at night, I want it to be something that fills me up. And while finishing a load of laundry makes me feel accomplished, it does not fill me up.

    I also don’t leave what laundry to do up for debate. I follow this simple schedule so that I literally make no decisions around laundry:

    • Monday - Greg and I’s clothes

    • Tuesday - Kids’ clothes

    • Wednesday - Sheets from our beds/crib and towels from upstairs bathroom

    • Thursday - Towels from downstairs bathroom and kitchen

    • Friday - Anything that needs to be washed in cold or dried in any special way

    When I started a laundry routine I also changed how I sort loads. Rather than by color, I now do laundry loads based on where the items live in our house. This saves time when putting clothes away. Monday’s load is only in our bedroom while Thursday’s is all on the main floor (the bathroom the kids bathe in and the kitchen).

    So, laundry. Not the sexiest topic but if it’s something that you feel adds to your mental load, I recommend taking the decisions out of it and coming up with a routine that fits into your life.

    The Easiest Kid Birthday Party Formula

    Never in a million years would I have guessed that I would be a kid birthday party fanatic.

    I am not a big holiday person at all. It’s currently December 13th as I write this and we have a tree and stockings up, with zero plans to do any other Christmas decorating.

    Kids birthday parties though? I am ALL IN.

    While I will spend precious kid free hours on Pinterest and Etsy gathering ideas and finding the perfect item, I have a general formula that I follow for every birthday party. Because repeatable processes are one of my love languages.

    I love our parties to be festive but I don’t want to spend a ton of money and I absolutely don’t want to be left with anything that I need to store. Using the following for every party is affordable and just the right amount of decor to say HOORAY without saying BIRTHDAY VOMITED IN THE HOUSE.

    Wall Banner: I grab a banner from Etsy that matches our theme. Having something to hang across a wall is a cheap way (I go for paper ones) to make a big impact. Definitely look for ones that are already strung - made that mistake with the cactus wall hanging and it’s not a quick process to do it yourself.

    Balloons: A big bunch of balloons in the corner of the room adds color. I usually get about 10 in colors that match the theme and also grab a large gold number balloon. I like taking pictures of the kids with this balloon so we have a similar photo from each year.

    (We don’t have a gold 2 from Peanut’s second birthday because the woman who was blowing it up at the store burst it. I was 38 weeks pregnant and lucky for her my husband was the one out on balloon duty.)

    Table Confetti: I love table confetti - just toss it on the table and it instantly screams party! I look for card stock confetti now; I love the way the tissue paper confetti looks but if it gets wet at all it sticks and is hard to clean up.

    Dessert as decor: You’re likely already buying or making dessert for a birthday party, so why not use it as part of the decor. My go to is cupcake toppers that match the theme.

    While I love parties, I do try to make them about my kids. I’ve picked the theme for both kids’ first birthdays (since they don’t have a clue), but Peanut has helped with her second (she was really into octopi so I went with that) and her third (she wanted a donut themed party). So far we have done:

    Rainbow 1st Birthday

    Cactus 1st Birthday

    Octopus 2nd Birthday

    Donut 3rd Birthday

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