Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Transitioning Away From Plastic Children's Dishes

When my first child started eating solids, I purposely didn't buy any plastic dishes or cups, preferring instead to use glass dishes and metal sippy cups. As time went on and another baby came, some plastic dishes started turning up in our house as gifts and we bought some plastic cups that came with straws and lids for the convenience of letting the kids have drinks that wouldn't spill easily.

When we recently moved to our new home, I realized that I hated the plastic dishes because they seemed to create more work for me.  I never wanted to put them in the dishwasher, so they all had to hand-washed, and the plastic cups had a lip that would always remain full of water even in the drying rack, so they would never dry properly.  So I decided to take the plunge and get rid of all the plastic dishes.

Reasons Why Glass is Better

  • Smell: One of the things that always bothered me about plastic dishes was their propensity to grab onto the smell of foods. I could wash a plastic dish over and over in hot soapy water, yet there would still be a residual smell. Glass dishes never have this problem. 
  • Cleaning Ease: Glass is so much easier to clean than plastic.  If something is stuck on glass, I can use a scrubby pad, whereas with plastic I would worry about scratching up the surface.  And I love that glass can be washed in the dishwasher with no issues.

Won't Glass Break Too Easily?

Back when I was still working outside the home and pumping breastmilk for my infant daughter, I used glass baby bottles.  Frequently, people would express concern that the glass bottles would break too easily.  This was something I was concerned about too when we first started using bottles, but my fears were quickly alleviated by one experience: one of the glass baby bottles was accidentally knocked out of the dish drainer and fell down onto our ceramic tile floor; the bottle did not break or even crack. So I realized early on that some glass dishes are very strong and somewhat break-resistant.

Besides baby bottles, there are plenty of other break-resistant glass dishes as well.  At the dinner table, I don't worry too much about using our typical glass plates and cups. Early on, we taught both of our kids to be gentle with glass dishes.  But I do also have other break-resistant glass dishes that the kids use whenever they will be eating away from the table, such as when they want to take snacks out into the back yard.  

What About Non-Spillable Drinks?

For road trips or lengthy park days, my kids use stainless steel Thermos Funtainers, which have an integrated straw. These work great because they keep milk cold even in the summer heat.

Around the house, though, I don't let my kids use the Thermoses because I find them cumbersome to clean. The one type of plastic dish I was tempted to keep around was a plastic cup with tight-fitting lid. My kids used these cups frequently when they wanted to take a drink outside, and I liked not having to worry about them spilling their drinks. However, I have come up with a solution that works really well (although not perfectly spill-proof): glass mason jars with screw-on plastic lids. A 1/4-inch drill bit works perfectly for making a straw hole in the plastic lids. 

Glass Dishes for Kids

The glass dishes I have found to be the best and most durable for kid-use are:
  • Porcelain ramekins - My kids use porcelain ramekins every day for most meals, along with kid-sized Oneida silverware.  Ramekins are perfectly sized for kid-size portions of food and, since they are intended for oven use, they are very durable and chip-resistant. My kids also use these bowls when they want to take a snack outside.
  • Mason jars with drilled plastic lids and metal straws - When a cup with a lid is desired (such as for drinking smoothies or when my kids will be taking a drink outside), I like to use 8-ounce mason jars.  Since they are intended for canning, mason jars are rather durable. For lids, I drill 1/4-inch holes in plastic lids (and the drinks won't really be touching the lids anyway unless the cup gets tipped over).  Since my kids like to use straws, we have a set of reuseable dishwasher-safe metal straws that fit into the drilled holes in the lids. If you prefer to buy a lid instead of drilling your own, there is also a Cuppow lid that can be used with Mason jars.
  • Pampered Chef or Corelle dishes - Having some break-resistant dishes on-hand can really help ease the worries over whether the kids will break the dishes.  We have some Pampered Chef Simple Additions plates and bowls that are very durable and chip-resistant.  Corelle also makes lightweight, chip- and break-resistant glass dishes that are great for kids.
  • Glass baby bottles - For babies, glass baby bottles work wonderfully. I pumped milk directly into these bottles and stored them in the freezer as well. We used glass baby bottles for 15 months, and none of the bottles were ever broken or cracked. 
  • Glass sippy cups - Once they were toddlers, my kids used this glass sippy cup which includes a silicone sleeve to prevent breakage. Most often, we just used the lid from this which would fit onto any standard mason jar. A newer, more affordable solution is the Cuppow lid, although I haven't tried it myself.
My kids have never broken any of these dishes.  Of course, you should use common sense to decide whether or not glass dishes would work well for your own kids, given their personalities and temperaments.  I love knowing that my kids are using healthy dishes with the convenience of being able to wash them all in the dishwasher. 

Do you use glass dishes for your kids? Please share any tips you have!


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Unknown said...

You can buy some fun lids for mason jars like the reCap which has a seal and a flip top lid, expensive but worth it. There is also something called the cuppow (sp) that fits on a mason jar with a standard ring and makes it like a sippy. I think that same company also has an insert for mason jars to make them a bento. I bought stainless sectioned plates from ECO Lunchboxes as well as other containers great for storage, lunch and travel. There are a few other companies that also make great stainless containers like LunchBots. The pyrex storage containers are good but heavy for really little kids. Natural Value makes wax paper bags that are a good replacement for plastic sandwich bags.
We are still working on eliminating all of the plastic here but the only hold outs are some very large storage containers that hold a couple dozen muffins and a few smaller ones that I hold on to for delivering meals to folks with the instruction that I do not want them back :)
Thank you for the great ideas!

Sarah Smith said...

Thanks for sharing your tips, Mary!