Children´s tableware should be fun. It ought to have colours and patterns to put a smile on your face. It needs to be inviting and inspirational, never fragile and always easy. How to combine these features in an everyday dining routine? Here are a few ideas to make your meals a little more pleasant.
One. Small courses on small plates for small people. Thanks to the life changer, Bringing up Bébe by Pamela Druckerman, we have gone French and now successfully serve vegetables first, followed by the main dish, then rice or another filler, and finally fruit for dessert. As the plates are so small, the amount of space in the dishwasher turns out to be about the same. (Grown ups get a large plate to keep throughout dinner.)
Two. Stoneware and pottery. I have finally found a use for all my market bought plates and bowls. These are perfect for kids as they are usually thick and less prone to breaking. And despite vendors’ insistence on their preciousness, all my items have survived the dishwasher. Kappabashi Kitchen Town is the Tokyo go to place for inexpensive tableware. Blue and white, multicoloured or black plates plates perfect together or as accents to your regular china.
Three. Wooden plates look great and are hard to break.
Four. Japanese moms use steel cutters for shaping vegetables to put into impressive looking bento boxes. This, however, does require a bit of time and effort. My son, unfortunately, loved his car shaped carrots so much, dinner turned into all play, no eat. For now, I’m saving my cutters for when he gets older.
Five. Norwegian brand Blafre makes the coolest lunch boxes. Our toddler son loves his tractor version. Their steel bottle keeps his water cold on hot summer days, and lukewarm in the winter. Almost everything they make is dishwasher friendly
Six. Bring out your tablecloth. Having a two and a half year old however, means a lot of spills. I solve this by giving the grown ups a nice placemat and my toddler a large cloth napkin under his plate. This keeps things cleaner than you would expect. The exception is anything tomato based. We have succumbed to covering the whole dining area, including our toddler´s clothes and the floor, in plastic for these yummy occasions.
Seven. Stain pen, I use one by Dr.Beckmann. It works both on clothes and tablecloths when applied shortly after the meal. With these tricks, I only wash my tablecloth about once a week.
Eight. Always use an underlay underneath the tablecloth. This protects the table, and it looks much nicer. After our son starting eating on his own, our thick enamelled oilcloth underlay has become virtually indispensable. We don’t have to worry about the table getting ruined by fork stabs, spills or hot plates. I have invested in one by Georg Jensen Damask. The cheaper alternative is to buy a plain, preferably thick enamelled/oilcloth/American cloth. This also seconds as a tablecloth on those impossibly messy flying spaghetti days.
Finally, life with kids isn’t meant to be perfect. I take a lot of shortcuts and have realised there is a thirty minute limit to how long a little boy can stay in one place. However, since graduating from mom of baby, to mother of a toddler, I have aimed to achieve a new long-term normal. The ambition is to have a meal, and not a chaotic session which success is measured by the amount of vegetables swallowed. Setting a nice, yet simple table brings an atmosphere of calm to our home. But, all families are different, some enjoy a social countertop meal, others love a bit of of hustle and bustle where plate settings couldn’t matter less. In the end, what is important is to enjoy the family time and the food whether this is the weekday dinner, weekly get together or a just simple daily breakfast.
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