Confused about which cups, plates and cutlery to give your children? Carol Moodie has seven pointers to help you make up your mind…
Mealtimes at nursery are never going to be the cleanest of events, but choosing the right tableware can help to minimise mess and breakages, and even add some welcome colour and fun to proceedings. Here’s what you need to keep in mind when purchasing your next set…
1. Safety & durability
Safety is one of your top priorities but encouraging children to eat independently will obviously lead to dropped plates and cups. So finding tableware that is virtually unbreakable and thus capable of withstanding daily abuse from toddlers makes sense.
Crockery and glass are great, and will certainly give the children a more grown-up eating experience, but consider the implications if they get broken. Tableware that bounces when dropped means that only food and drink will need to be cleaned up after an accident. Likewise, be careful if you choose melamine as it can be sharp if it gets broken. Tableware needs to be durable to ensure value for money and safety.
Using fun, colourful tableware can entice even the fussiest babies and toddlers to try something new. Why not use different colours for different rooms, for different diets or simply to help children learn the colours?
The old saying ‘buy cheap, buy twice’ is relevant to tableware purchases too. Cheap products won’t withstand regular dishwashing as they will warp and their colour will fade. A good investment will mean your tableware shouldn’t let you down, saving you money in the long term.
4. Independent feeding
Mealtimes would be even more hectic if your staff had to help each child feed themselves, so encouraging independent feeding is a must. Look out for cutlery with a slight grip, which is easier to hold and feed with. Generally a fork and spoon are sufficient, but a blunt knife can be introduced as the children get older. Cups without spouts lead to many accidents, but this is the only way the children will learn – introducing a plastic open cup (perhaps initially with two handles) is definitely the way forward.
Why not try a bowl with high sides and even handles to hold, or a plate with a slight rim to help the children?
5. Range of products
Do you want all your tableware to be the same? If so, look for a range that has all the products you need. Sourcing from one supplier can often save you money as well as time.
6. Mealtime service
Some nurseries will plate up meals in the kitchen, in which case you will need to consider whether a tray would be suitable. Others like to offer self-service within the individual rooms, especially as the children get older. You might like to look at the option of larger – but not too deep – serving bowls and dishes for the children to help themselves from.
Time is of the essence when it comes to mealtimes with children. You need tableware that is easy to handle and likewise quick and easy to clear away. For this reason, make sure you choose products that are dishwasher safe. Cleanliness is also important. Opt for tableware that is made from a non-porous material, so if it gets scratched or chipped then bacteria will not be absorbed into the scratches and staining will be minimised.