Learning how to self-feed is one of the first, and biggest, milestones that our little ones overcome. It is also one of the milestones that we, as their parents, look forward to, for the most part, because it is so visually obvious. While our children are constantly growing and constantly learning from the moment that they are born, most of their early development is subtle and gradual. Making that transition from bottles and breastfeeding to eating at the table can be a very exciting time in your family’s life.
That excitement, however, is often tempered by frustration. Eating at the table and mess-making seem to go hand in hand. This is partially due to your little one’s lack of fine-motor control. For them, trying to pick up and use a spoon would be like asking an adult to put on oven mitts and do the same thing. Your little one is also exploring textures at this time as well so smearing spaghetti all over her face or squashing peas in both his hands might just feel nice to them!
Once your toddler has progressed from basic finger food, it’s time to get them their own dinnerware. Flipping plates is a pretty common toddler behavior so finding a plate that is made of a sturdy and safe material like plastic or silicone is ideal. Non-metallic silverware is also recommended once its time to began learning how to use utensils. Metal forks and spoons can damage your child’s delicate gumline and can lead to more tears than eating!
Teaching your child to feed themselves can be one of the most challenging…and one of the most rewarding moments in your parenting life. Providing them the proper tools to learn self-care is one of the best ways that you can prepare them for the future. Whether your baby is just starting on Cheerios for the first time or you’re looking for something to stop your toddler from throwing their plate against the wall, we hope that one of our 10 Best Kids Plates and Dishes will become their new favorite. Bon appetite!
Criteria Used in Evaluation of the Best Kids’ Plates & Dishes
Plates and dishes have been around since at least 600 AD when the Chinese discovered the process for making porcelain. They are an essential part of the household and teaching kids how to use them is an essential adventure in parenting.
Kids usually begin with finger feeding, just using their hands to experience getting food to their mouths all on their own. This process actually helps them with practicing their hand and finger coordination and hand-eye coordination. They develop tactile processing skills when they learn that feeling sticky, warm or slimy on their hands and face is okay. Having a fun plate to eat from is a good motivation for them to practice. They have to discover where their mouths are and how to maneuver the food there without looking. It develops muscle memory and can make for some great photo ops.
Finding the perfect dishes may depend on your child’s age but there are definitely a few features to keep in mind. These dishes for kids are made out of a lot of different materials including plastic, silicone, natural bamboo fiber, melamine, or stainless steel. Your choice may depend on if you are focused on eco-friendly option. You will want to note if the material is dishwasher-safe, microwave-safe, or if it can be used in the oven or freezer. Some materials are more porous. Some are more durable, and some might just match your kitchen better.
You will want a design that encourages your child to be happy participating in meal time. If they get the chance to do it themselves, this helps them gain self-confidence and independence. It will help avoid power struggles and bad behaviors. You can also let them control how much they eat and let them stop when they are full.
Having a plate that has the dividers in it will help with picky eaters who don’t like their food touching each other. You can be encouraged to offer them a complete diet from the different food groups and offer them choices of what they like to eat. It is a good idea to put at least one choice you know they will like and possibly introduce another choice for them to discover.
Once your child gets a little older, they will start practicing with utensils. This is when having non-skid or suction on the bottom of the plate is handy. Having good suction on the plate helps to keep a younger child from picking it up and throwing it off his tray, creating wonderful new kitchen decor. For an older child, it keeps the plate steady while they are learning to scoop food. Rounded edges and deep compartments also help in this process, making it easier for them to capture the bites.
Younger children will love eating with their favorite characters, favorite animal or some other fun design. Older children may enjoy having their own kid-sized dishes which resemble the classic style their parents use. You can even have fun with letting them help choose.
Meal time is such an important time in a child’s day. It is a learning experience for them as they learn how to feed themselves. They also learn about good nutrition and the importance of eating a balanced diet. We hope that they can also learn that meals can be a wonderful bonding experience and a time for families to communicate and spend quality time together. Here is to hoping you enjoy the adventure.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is melamine?
A: It is a type of plastic resin (to simplify the chemistry involved) which is used to make anything from dinnerware to floor coverings. It is popular because it is light and durable. The downside is that it should not be used in a microwave.
Q: How can I get rid of the silicone smell on dinnerware?
A: Soak the dishes in a mixture of one part white vinegar and two parts water. Let it soak for 30 minutes and then wash it thoroughly with a sponge. That should help.
Q: What do BPA stand for?
A: BPA stands for bisphenol A. It is an industrial chemical they use in making resins and plastics. They are doing a lot of studies on it, but it is believed that it may seep into foods and cause health problems with the brain.
Q: What is PVC and is it dangerous?
A: PVC stands for polyvinyl chloride. It is durable and lightweight. There are arguments on both sides as to whether PVC is dangerous or not, so it would be wise to do some research. Most, if not all the dishes we have listed, do not contain PVC.
Q: What is the phthalate we are supposed to watch for?
A: Phthalates are a group of chemicals added to some plastics to make them softer, transparent and more flexible. New research has documented their negative health effects.
Q: At what age should kids start learning to feed themselves?
A: Your child may try to start using utensils as early as 13 months and most have figured it out by about 18 months. Around this age is probably a good time to let them start experiment using their fingers to explore and try out new foods on their own and start introducing them to using a spoon.