Meal times at nursery are never going to be the cleanest of events, but choosing the right tableware can help to minimise the mess and if you are clever in what you choose, meal times can be fun, colourful and safe!
Here are 7 things to consider:
1. Safety and Durability - Safety is one of your top priorities. Encouraging children to eat independently could lead to dropped plates and cups, so you need to make sure they are virtually unbreakable and will withstand the daily abuse from toddlers. Crockery and glass are great and will certainly give the children a more grown up eating experience, but consider the implications of broken glass or crockery in the nursery environment. Tableware that bounces when dropped means that only the food and drink need to be cleaned up. Likewise, be careful if you choose melamine as it can be sharp if it gets broken.
2. Colour - Fun, colourful products for babies and toddlers is one of the best ways to entice even the fussiest of eaters to eat more. Why not try using different colours for different rooms, for different diets or simply to learn colours?
3. Budget - The old saying buy cheap, buy twice is relevant to tableware purchases too. Cheap products will not withstand regular dishwashing as they will warp, their colour will fade and they will not stand the test of time. A good investment will mean your tableware should not let you down and will end up saving you money in the long term.
4. Independent Feeding - Meal times would be even more hectic if the nursery staff had to help each child feed themselves, so encouraging independent feeding is a must. Look out for cutlery with a slight grip which is easier to hold and feed with. Generally, a fork and spoon are sufficient, but a blunt knife can be introduced as the children get older. Cups without spouts lead to many accidents, but this is the only way the children will learn. Introducing a plastic open cup, perhaps initially with two handles, is the way forward.
5. Range of Products - Do you want all your tableware to be the same? If so, look for ranges that have all the products you need. Sourcing from one supplier can often save you money as well as time.
6. Meal Time Service - Some nurseries will plate up the meals in the kitchen, in which case you will need to consider whether a tray would be suitable. Other nurseries like to offer self-service within the individual rooms especially as the children get older. You might like to look at the option of larger, although not too deep, serving bowls and dishes for the children to help themselves from.
7. Housekeeping - Time is of the essence when it comes to meal times with children. You need products that are easy to handle and likewise quick and easy to clear away. For this reason, make sure you choose tableware that is dishwasher safe. Cleanliness is also something that is important. Opt for tableware that is made from a non-porous material so if it gets scratched or chipped then bacteria will not be absorbed into the scratches and staining will be minimised.