Sunday, February 25, 2007
Plastic Elimination Campaign: Kid's Dishes
I'm fascinated by the idea that with fewer and nicer toys the kids will respect and treat them properly...and I'm wondering if that applies to dishes and tableware, as well. I liked your use of "Sunday Silver" and was wondering about your thoughts on this subject. I've seen families who use enamelware (which doesn't break, but chips and rusts), melamine (aka, plastic), fiestaware (sturdy but still breakable), and mismatched corelle (very breakable, but cheap to replace at garage sales and thrift stores). Others, like us, have plastic kid-sized stuff for the kids. I don't mind the colorful plates and bowls so much (they match our colorful fiesta dishes) but am ready to toss the plastic spoons, forks, and awful collection of sippy cups that I currently regard as a necessary evil.
Hi Stephannie! Sorry it took me so long to respond! I favor using a combination of enamelware, which (as you said) chips and rusts, but which has recently become more and more available inexpensively, and breakable dishes for kids.
Using breakable dishes is the Montessori approach, which reasons: children need to know that some things break. Letting them use breakable dishes quickly teaches them this, and they learn to handle china carefully. I have found that the Montessori approach has worked with *most* of my kids. (I'll explain the asteriks in a moment.) The key is having a supply of small breakable dishes and being willing to spend some time monitoring the child who is using the dishes. I collect mismatched china, and I've frequently found stacks of saucers and dessert plates at flea markets for about 25 cents a plate. I pick ones that match our existing china (usually plain white) and try to practice detachment towards their continued existence. You can see the stack of red and white restaurantware above that has survived the last three children. What I used to do was use these dishes for the current baby or toddler when setting the table and model holding and setting down the plate carefully. Inevitably, the baby would drop one, and I would react with consternation (not anger, just polite sadness). "Oh no! The plate broke. See what happened?" Then I would carefully sweep up the pieces and throw them away, shaking my head sadly. "You have to handle dishes carefully or they break."
For my first four babies, this worked like a charm. They would watch in wide-eyed dismay as I threw out the dish and from then on, they would move their plates carefully (it was really something to watch a nine-month-old child set a plate down carefully). Then God, in His wisdom, bestowed on me two strong-willed children who found that destruction was interesting and awe-inspiring. After sweeping up the fourth or fifth plate that Joan had hurled to the floor, my husband said wearily, "Look, I know you're trying to do this Montessori thingy, but could you please not do it at the supper table?"
So for Christmas this year, Joan received her very own enamelware set from my favorite toy catalog Nova Natural. I love this set, which consists of the green-and-beige cup, bowl, and plate, trimmed in dark blue, made in Poland :) ( I'm married to a man who's half Polish). (note: I see they're out of the green set (temporarily?), but check out this one.) I've noticed the enamel on the green set is particularly durable, and despite Joan's daily dashing them to the ground, they're barely dented. We had gotten our previous baby another one of Nova Natural's set three years ago (white with blue dots) which is a bit chipped but still in circulation.
An alternative to enamelware are sterling silver or stainless steel baby cups, which I happily receive as baptismal gifts or pick up at flea markets (you can see one above). For older kids, you can sometimes find those neat stainless steel tumblers in various colors, if you like that look.
As for sippy cups -- I'll leave that to another post.