It feels like I blinked and all of a sudden we have another little person at the dinner table – albeit a person with a penchant for throwing food on the floor or mashing it into her hair. Where did the time go? When we started Rose on solids around 6 months, the world of baby food seemed daunting and mystifying. As with most aspects of parenting, there are so many strong opinions on the best way to introduce solids to your baby. I will set aside my takeaways on the various approaches and what has worked for our family for another post. Ultimately, the philosophy to which we have tried to adhere since Rose started solids and especially as she entered toddlerhood is to incorporate her into family meals with as little fanfare as possible.
I try to follow that same approach when it comes to eating “gear.” I want Rose’s dishes and utensils to complement our existing decor and tableware to reinforce the idea that she is part of family meals (and selfishly so it doesn’t ruin the aesthetics of our kitchen). I also find, as with “adult food,” her food looks more appealing on neutral dishes – the naturally occurring rainbow of colors pops more on a white, gray, or natural colored plate, making the food all the more enticing to a toddler. A beautifully pink piece of salmon or a sunny egg yolk are all but lost on a hot pink plate adorned with a jarringly busy pattern of some cartoon character. This does not mean that her eating ware can’t be fun or cute, it’s just that in my opinion it shouldn’t outshine the food. The focus at meals should be on the food and company around you, and babies can learn this from an early age.
Of course not every meal (any meal, really) with Rose is a serene affair – far from it. At 14 months, she has entered the phase where she wants to assert her independence, make her preferences known, and feed herself. But viewing her as partaking in our meals – down to the food we serve and the dishes we serve it on – rather than catering to her whims, helps maintain a degree of control over the situation.
A fair question is do you even need all this baby gear to feed your baby? I am all about not overdoing the baby gear and keeping it simple. You could simply tie a dishtowel around your baby’s neck and use some small teaspoons and your current dish ware to feed baby; however, that will likely compete with your willingness to let baby explore feeding him or herself as the risk of shattered dishes or turmeric stained everything will run high.
I am always on the search for better eating essentials for Rose. Here are the things I look for:
- Quality, non-toxic materials
- Neutral, minimalist design
Below is a roundup of our favorite items:
Stokke Steps Highchair
We love this highchair for many reasons, chief among them being its ability to bring Rose to the table from birth. Paired with the Stokke steps bouncer, your baby can chill at eye level during family meals. It will also take her through her toddler years by converting into a toddler chair. Aesthetically, the Stokke blends in nicely with our decor.
For a less expensive alternative, I like the clean lines and sturdy design of this high chair from Ikea.
Oxo Tot Bib
This bib has a silicone trough that helps contain spills and stray pieces of food so that they don’t end up on your toddler or your floor. It is easy to clean, either by hand or in the washing machine, and comes in gray. As much as I love the chic muslin bibs I was gifted when Rose was born, this has saved us so much cleaning and laundry time. It is also great when eating out, wrapping into itself to throw into your bag.
Dishes and Utensils
These beautiful dishes from Bonnsu are made of durable and nontoxic bamboo. They come with a suction piece to adhere the bowls or plates to the table. While pricey, I like that they will last well beyond the toddler stage. The suction piece is removable, so when Rose has outgrown her tendency to throw dishes on the floor, we will be left with a beautiful, unbreakable dish. We also use the fork and spoon, although they are still a bit wide for Rose’s mouth at 14 months.
For a little cuteness, without going overboard, we also love the brand Love Mae. These bamboo dish sets come in adorable themed patterns. Rose loves her woodland themed set, and looks forward to finishing her food to see the little bird underneath. Their utensils are also my favorite, because I find that they are better-sized for smaller mouths in the early toddler stage.
We still use these bamboo infant spoons, and Rose does well using them herself, too.
I love Oyoy for its graphical, Scandi aesthetic. These silicone placemats protect our table and are easily wipeable and rinsable. I often bring one to restaurants and feed her right from the placemat, rather than worrying about her breaking glass dishes or making a mess of the table. It makes for a more relaxing meal. We have these and this cute one, that lends just the right amount of cuteness while still stylish.
Ezpz mini mat
Although this item will not serve us much beyond the toddler stage, this mat in grey is great when I am serving Rose a smorgasbord of sorts that she will feed herself. She likes seeing all of the components of her meal laid out neatly before her. She has never succeeded in throwing this mat on the floor.
As often as we can, we try to encourage Rose to drink from an open cup when we are at home. We started using these cups at around 8 months. They are not the easiest on the eye, but they are the best I found for this purpose. Their small size makes them easier for small hands to grip and small mouths to drink without spilling, which is an issue with a normal size cup. They are plastic, but they are free from BPA (bisphenol A), PVC (polyvinyl chloride), phthalate esters, cadmium, lead, and bromine.
Now that Rose is a little older and better able to handle a cup, we use these stainless steel cups.
Pura Kiki Straw Cup
When we are out and about and open cups are not practical, we use these completely plastic-free and spill-proof cups. They are actually bottles that convert to sippy or straw cups. We skipped the sippy stage entirely and went straight to straw, and Rose was fine with it, starting around 7 months. When drinking from a straw, a baby uses different muscles than those used for nursing or bottle-drinking – the same muscles she uses to transfer food within the mouth and form speech sounds, both important skills. Learning to drink from a straw helps a baby develop those muscles.
Tip: we found that the smaller size bottle is easiest for Rose to hold on her own. Pura Kiki doesn’t make straws to fit this size, but this problem is easily rectified by cutting the straw to fit. We purchased the small bottle and straw top separately.
What are your favorite feeding essentials for toddlers?