Just what are the best plates for babies? When you think of kid and baby plates, most of us think of divided plates. There’s no question in our brains, a kids’ plate is divided and full of bright colors or fun shapes. And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with this, what if there was something different we could use instead?
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Most of us don’t even think twice about the plates we use for our kids. They need a plate, of course we’re going to get a “kids” plate. The brighter and more divisions it has, the better! That’s just what we think of as normal, and as the best plate for babies.
But how about we turn that on its head? When it comes to babies, they only know what we teach them. We give them divided and bright plates suctioned to the table, then that is what they learn is normal. But if we give them all of their food on one open plate just like everyone else? Then that’s just how it is!
One of my main tenets for feeding our babies and kids is begin how we mean to go on. One way or another, at some point down the line, your child will have to transition to plates just like everyone else at the table. Why not prevent the need for that transition? And set ourselves up for success when it comes to foods being able to touch on plates in the process.
Now let’s talk specifically about those divided plates. If you couldn’t tell already, I don't believe that divided plates are the best plates for babies and toddlers.
If you’ve seen before how I recommend starting to serve foods to babies, I do recommend placing the different components of a meal on a plate separately.
But when you put them out to start a meal like that, inevitably they’re going to touch throughout the meal. And that’s a good thing! It introduces the concept to babies that it’s okay for our food to touch. We don’t need to serve it all in one lump together, we as adults don’t eat that way for most foods! But as you move through the meal, foods are going to touch. If you’re serving meals on a divided plate, foods will never touch. And that tells our kids that foods shouldn’t be touching, exactly the opposite of our long term goal.
When you first start feeding babies around 6 months, there are a few things that you can do to help minimize some issues with eating. I’m a big proponent of using plates right from the beginning, as it can help your child to scoop food into their hands, as well as contain the food instead of encouraging them to make big swiping motions and spread if everywhere all the time. But sometimes, plates can be distraction, even what I would consider to be the best plates for babies! If you have a child who likes to move things and pick things up a lot, plates that aren’t stuck down can be a distraction.
Not all kids will be distracted, though, so if you have a baby that you don’t think will have a problem with it, by all means start with a non-suction plate on top of one that is open. That is our end goal, and if you can start that way, even better.
But if you have a hunch it might be a distraction, then go for the suction plates! Stick with a non divided plate, and try to stick to using them for just the first few months. Aim to transition away from them once they have become a little bit more confident with eating.
Do your best to find plates that have one big compartment instead of ones that are divided. These really are arguably the best plates for babies! Some of the ones I prefer are these from EZPZ, and these bamboo ones from Avanchy.
At the beginning, we do want something that has some fairly deep sides, as you’ll notice these do. This helps your baby to use it to press food against and scoop it up as they are learning to grasp and use utensils. Some argue that that is why divided plates are good- they give more sides. I don’t buy the need for more sides, but do like to see one with an outside lip for the first several months.
If you are feeling brave with your baby, here is an example of a stainless steel deep sided plate that isn’t a suction plate. We do our best in our house to avoid plastic (head here for details on plastic and feeding supplies), but if that isn’t a priority for you at this point then check out these plates from IKEA, which are simple and classic, and incredibly cheap if you buy them in store.
If you do start with a suction plate, do it just until that easily distracted phase is over. By 1, (but try not to wait too long after that) transition to an actual plate like what you yourself use. I know this sounds crazy, but I really am suggesting using a ceramic plate for kids. They are the best plates for babies and toddlers! Here’s an example of what we have in our house, and they were our plates before we had kids.
They do have a bit of a curved edge on them, but nothing drastic. This is an 8" open stock plate from World Market. Really, most any normal small dinner plate will do!
We want our kids to know that they can eat just like the adults in their lives can. And it’s not too early at that age to subtly set up that expectation. There’s nothing that says your child can’t handle a plate just like you use.
Now if you have a food or plate thrower on your hands, you might really be shaking your head. Head here for some strategies to curb those behaviors before you make the transition. But it is truly remarkable to see how many babies and toddlers who are given what their parents have, and just eat at the same table with them like any other member of the family, will behave.
It might take some reminders to leave the plate on the table, of course, but by not making a big deal out of it, it really does usually curb itself pretty quickly. When you eat with them, and they see other people in the same situation NOT picking up their plate and throwing it, or doing anything else inappropriate, it really makes a huge difference.
I have actually found that with some kids, having a plate that weighs more, as opposed to less, actually curbs some temptation to throw it, too. It’s as if the lightness of a plastic or bamboo plate just invites them to figure out what will happen, but a heavier ceramic or glass plate gives them a pause at first. And if you give them a suction plate, it’s obviously begging to be explored as to how it comes off. Give them something just like you have, and the temptation goes away. Obviously this doesn’t work for for all kids, but it’s often worth a shot!
Already have some divided plates? So do I! And since those suction plates like the EZPZ mats can be pretty expensive, we want to still be able to use them. The best way to handle it is just to serve things all in the big compartment.
We’re only starting with a piece or two of each thing so there’s usually plenty of room. Then once they’re a few months older, if you transition to your regular family plates, there’s no need to go out and buy anything else one way or the other.
There are some kids, especially once they’re well into toddlerhood or preschool that just can’t deal with food touching. If you have one of those kids, know that it’s totally okay to use divided plates! There’s nothing inherently wrong with them, especially if they actually help your child to eat more. By avoiding them in the first place, we’re just trying to minimize the chance of it by exposing them early. But it won’t always work. And at the end of the day, if it get’s your child to be more comfortable with meals, then go for it!
When it comes down to it, plates are just plates. They might help to make some things with feeding easier, but they don't tend to be a deal breaker. Don't feel like serving in a divided plate has caused picky eating, or vice versa. Just keep in mind this recommendation to try using regular old plates for your baby or toddler as early as you can. And then incorporate them into your life when and if you can. The really are a great option, and the best plates for babies and toddlers!
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