Since I originally wrote this post, we’ve had one more addition to our family; she’s 18 months old now and flings plates (and bowls) like frisbees. She’s been on melamine but now, with courage plus a broom at the ready, we’re breaking out the good stuff. And breaking is probably just the right word. Wish us luck.
That’s why I decided to pack up the plastic dishes this week. The new ones are glass (gulp), porcelain (double gulp) and metal (actually, good for gulping). They’re designed to teach little kids good eating habits, without exposing them to chemicals along the way.
It’s pretty popular here in the US (and indeed all the Montessori preschools in our part of North Carolina are full), but the Montessori approach to eating involves giving even the littlest kids real glasses, plates and utensils so they can truly learn how to master them. The logic goes like this: If a plastic glass falls off the table and doesn’t break, the consequences are fewer than they would be with glass. I’ll say!
It’s not for the faint of heart though.
A friend of mine who lives in Amsterdam sent his daughter to a local Montessori preschool and cringed when he told us about visiting for lunch one day. “They all use glasses, real glasses, and set the table themselves. Everyone’s wearing a little apron. Sure enough, a cup crashes on the floor about five seconds after we get there, and there’s glass everywhere. But they just clean it right up and carry on.” He thought it was really stressful, and I don’t blame him.
But it’s also about trust. Audrey Butters says in her blog I heart Montessori, “Real plates, bowls and glasses portray to the child ‘You are trusted’ and build confidence.” Along those lines, our kids love doing everything that mom and dad do, even more than they like drinking out of a monkey sippy cup.
I actually love our new glasses, the tiniest (cutest) little juice glasses I’ve ever seen (and jelly jars would also work too) and best of all, they’re quite sturdy. We have 3 very small people (3 1/2, 2 and 9 months though he has help) drinking out of them, spilling them, and picking them up off the floor. So far, nary a break*.
*Update, baby George DID break 2 of these glasses. He banged them against the granite counter at just the right angle and kapow! It was not great and for a while he did have to use a less shatter-able cup. But now he’s back.
The plates are brand new so I have less to report on so far, though I do suspect they’re easier to shatter*. That’s okay though. They’re also less expensive (a set of 12 salad/dessert plates from Amazon who will politely send more if and when we need them) and that’s one of the tenants of the Montessori approach at home. Use real stuff, but buy it inexpensively, even from a garage sale, so replacements are easy on the wallet. I also like plain white because even replacements always match (at least well enough) and we can dress things up elsewhere with place mats, napkins and tablecloths. Also, no one has to cry over who has the pink bowl ever again.
*Update, they did shatter. But not much. I think we’ve lost 2 along the way. And over Christmas, we just bought an inexpensive set of white dishes from Target, with 4 salad plates, 4 dinner plates, mugs, the works. It’s easy to mix and match that set with these and we’re restocked for a new year.
Then there are hand-me-downs. The kids’ “new” bowls are dipping bowls purchased from Pier 1 about 10 years ago, for $2 each. (Or a set of small, sturdy ramekins also works perfectly. Bonus, you can cook with them when you want to. Mini mac & cheeses, custards…)
And last, we’ve stocked the kids’ drawer with a set of metal dessert spoons for things like cereal, oatmeal, soup and ice cream. They’re just the right size to balance on the sides of tiny bowls. Otherwise it’s the smaller salad forks from our regular utensil collection, the stainless steel set that we registered for in our wedding almost five years ago now. Those forks are so sturdy and there are so many of them that it’s a perfect way to actually USE our stuff.
Speaking of using everything, these aren’t just The Kids’ plates. My husband and I use the same white salad plates for our meals too. We haven’t used regular “dinner” plates in years–because they’re huge! Eating on plates this size suits our portion size, even for adults. I save the dinner plates to use as platters, or for when company comes.
Best of all, everything the kids–and the adults–are eating from now is totally toxin-free. Plastic gear is easy to clean and amazingly durable, but these news stories about how dangerous plastic is for kids just aren’t going away. So the dishes will have to.
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