A few months ago, I was having dinner with some friends, and we were talking about dishes - more specifically, the never-ending cycle of washing them. Unbelievably, the minute you’ve gotten every dish clean and sorted out, a fresh batch awaits in the sink. Our conversation started out as an innocent, mild Mom-rant, but then we got into dish safety. Before that moment, it had never occurred to me that the plastic dishes we used three meals a day could be unsafe. I had a feeling there were “greener” options, but I didn’t think plastic could be harmful to my children.
Why was I worried? The concern is that the chemicals found in plastics can be leached into the food or drink it’s containing. Now, I’m not a scientist, and if you do a quick internet search of “plastic leaching” you’ll see all the same scary articles that I did, but regardless of the particulars, I didn’t want my family ingesting chemicals every time we ate or drank. Truthfully, I felt horrified and worried that I'd already poisoned my family, but you don’t know what you don’t know, and I had NO idea. Immediately, I got all of those plastic dishes (melamine, in particular, is pretty freaky) out of the house and started using paper plates. I hated to do it, but I needed a little time to look into other options, and this was going to be a big decision.
I can get deep into super research-mode, and those first few days I ended up reading upwards of 30 different product websites and blog reviews on the subject of “safe dishes for kids." Every company offers significant benefits, but the reviews I found were generally about just one product, and I was searching for someone out there, like me, who said, “I looked at everything I could find on the market, and here’s why I decided on ‘this.'” So, I decided to just that, and below you’ll find a mini-recap of what I found to be the top products out there for kids dinnerware, what I chose, and how I like it.
In my searching, I came up with three different materials typically used for safer kid dishes: glass, stainless steel, and silicone.
Pro: Eco-friendly tempered glass is very durable, budget-friendly, and one of the few options that are both microwave and dishwasher safe.
Con: They’re still glass, and glass can break.
My Top Choices: Brinware & Duralex
Pro: Stainless steel is durable, shatterproof and dishwasher safe.
Con: Since it's metal there’s no microwaving this one, and metal utensils will probably scratch it.
My Top Choices: Caveman Cups, HumanCentric & Innobaby Din Din (school bus divided tray)
Now my crew is pretty good with their table manners, but they’re still very young kids. Inevitably, someone is going to knock a glass of milk on the floor or drop a bowl while trying to “help” me clean up. Initially, I felt drawn to the glass options but, even though they really are durable, I didn’t want to run the risk of shattering a glass dish with our dogs so close by (like literally under the table). Stainless steel is another A+ option, but I worried about how loud stainless could be with forks and spoons. I started to imagine the kids “making music,” and said “oh no… no no no!” With that said, it didn’t take long for me to decide on silicone, and I came up with a “Top 3” list of things that were important to me after that:
- Having a divided plate - I struggle with portion sizes, for myself and my kids. It’s all too easy for me to give way too much food, so I like that a divided plate helps me stay a little bit honest with their portion sizes. I also like that I’m forced to fill up all of the sections. Sometimes I get a little lazy, and without sections for fruit and vegetables, I might forget about them.
- Bright colors - This is a personal decision, but I like color. My house has fuchsia drapes, and I think the bold colors of their dishes help make the meal time more fun.
- Easy for children to carry - This was a BIG thing for me. I ask both my five-year-old and my two-year-old to help bring things to the table all the time. I’ve found that the more I involve them in the grocery shopping and dinner prep, the more they want to eat it, so I wanted to make sure our new dishes were nice and easy for those little helping hands.
*Normally I would consider the $ factor as an important qualifier, but, honestly, these options are all on the pricier side. With that said, I committed to making this investment, and “you get what you pay for,” right?
Once I realized what was most important to me, I quickly landed on Kinderville.
Like so many companies that offer baby, toddler and kid products, Kinderville is a family-run company whose mission is to provide “innovative, functional and safe products for your little ones,” AMEN! I knew immediately they were speaking my language, and I had a blast looking around their website. Their products met my “Top 3” entirely - divided plate.. check! bright colors… check! easy for children to carry… check! I felt so confident that I ordered almost every product, in every color (really).
Once our shipment arrived, in the most adorable packaging, we wasted no time getting everything washed and ready to use. Since the dishes are made of high-grade silicone, it's all dishwasher safe (even bottom rack). So, we filled it up and just washed a few small pieces by hand (like the tops to the Jars and Eazy Squeeze Food Pouches). I had so much fun fixing dinner that first night, and the kids were pretty excited about their new dishes too. After I had their plates ready, I called Parker and Charlotte over to help me set the table, and this is where all of my hard research work came together. These plates are sturdy, and the handles on either side made it ALL too easy for even sweet little two-year-old Charlotte to carry her plate to the table. She was able to hold it without issue, AND she felt like such a big girl in the process - 100% a win.
Since that first night, we’ve used these dishes exclusively for about two months, and I still love them. At the risk of going a little long, I’m going to break down my product love for you…
Divided Plate - There are lots of ways to make a divided plate, but I love the simplicity of this one - three compartments with one large section and two others of equal size. Having three sections is plenty, and I’m glad that there’s one larger portion. It works very well for sandwiches or roll-ups especially, but I have some smaller silicone dishes that I’ll add if I need to (or want to) set it up a little differently.
Bowls - Personally, I love the size. I think Kinderville was paying particular attention to the sizing of their products, and it’s something I notice every day. These bowls are a bit on the shallow side (i.e.: not a traditional soup bowl), but their width compliments it well well. Most of the time, I’m using these as snack bowls, and it prevents me from over-stuffing a kid at 3:45 in the afternoon. Also, if I did have something hot, like soup, to feed them, the temperature would even out more quickly, which works perfectly for me because my kids will NOT eat anything “hot.”
Jars - What’s not to love about these? They are beyond ideal for baby food, and I love that they have a semi-clear lid allowing you to have a clue on what’s inside, and how much of it is left. What so wonderfully functional about it is that you can easily mix it up, freeze it up, and then serve it up all from this ONE jar. I also use it for snack time, lunch boxes or even for small craft bits (aka: “treasures” in our house).
Cups - They’re functional and beautiful. The design on the cups make it super-easy for little hands to grip, and they hold just the right amount (7.25 fl oz). Sippy and straw cups absolutely have their place in the world, but this is a great “adult-like” option and SO much easier to clean. We’ve put everything from hot chocolate to smoothies in these cups, and this may be one thing I need more of.
Eazy Squeeze Food Pouch - You might be thinking “I could probably get away without this one,” and I thought so too. I’ve tried other similar options many times, and never fell in love with any of them. Mainly they were precarious to fill up, and cleaning was difficult. However, I LOVE using squeeze pouches. I can’t get enough of them, and my only hesitation is that I feel like I’m killing the environment every time I buy them. So I took a deep breath and pulled the trigger on the Kinderville version. WOW… I mean, WOW! They are fantastic! Charlotte loves to sit on the counter and be the pouch holder while I fill ‘em on up, and they’ve been phenomenal. Most recently I’ve taking to filling them full of yogurt and leaving them in the fridge. They’re a total hit, and I think if I had another 4, or 8, or 12, they’d be in use all day long.
Now, of course, nothing is perfect. Truth be told I really wish there were pink and purple options, but I still love the vibrancy of their red, blue, green and orange. Also, I'll note that you want to be careful with utensils you give your kiddos. Kinderville recommends bamboo utensils so that the dishes don't get scratched or damaged. We have been using the OXO Tot utensils, and, while they haven't cut into the dishes, they have left some indentions. This isn't a deal breaker for me (and I'm pretty crazy about scratches), and it's also totally avoidable.
Hopefully, this was helpful and I haven’t lost you all in the midst of this very thorough dish journey. I’m a detail-oriented person, and I think it’s the specifics of a product that will pull you one way or the other, which make them valuable to share. Kinderville products are fun, functional, well-made, and I feel very fortunate to have them in our home. For us, they were the perfect toddler mealtime solution, and I feel utterly at peace having a safer option for our children.