One of my priorities over the past year has been introducing D to the kitchen. When I'm doing my mise en place, I encourage him to chop next to me with his own play set. When it's time to drop pasta, I pick him up so that he can put a fistful in the pot. He's not quite tall enough to reach the table yet, but he is old enough to grab napkins and placemats, and to pick out which plates we'll use.
Although he doesn't always eat the food we make (his favorite recipe is popcorn + oil + salt), he has been sitting with us for an average of 10 minutes a meal. That seems absolutely luxurious after months of yelling to get down about 30 seconds after I'd filled my plate. One reason for this change, I think, is that we've largely given up on "kid" dishes. We have a few plastic plates and bowls around for those moments when D seems most likely to throw his meal across the kitchen, but in general, we've been giving him the same dishes we use. Read on for ideas about how to invite your kids to the table with grown up dishes.
I previously posted about our go-to Picardie tumblers. They're small and virtually indestructible. But if all of your kid-friendly cups are in the dishwasher, a straw can turn almost any glass into a sippy cup.
You might have a spill or two, but you'll have a proud kid toasting with a real glass.
I am not a fan of plastic kids' silverware. It's unpleasant to hold, it can't spear peas, and it's difficult to clean. But most adult-sized flatware is difficult for small children to hold. There may be an easy solution to this problem hiding in the back of your silverware drawer. If you've purchased silverware settings, you probably have some demitasse spoons and dessert forks, both perfectly sized for little hands.
Of course, a little whimsy never hurt anyone. We used these great Boon spoons to feed D as a baby, but find that we like them even better as toddler spoons. The bright colored ends are fun to use, while the metal ends keep the spoons well balanced and easy-to-hold.
I have spent years collecting lots of white everyday dishes from places like Crate and Barrel, CB2, and Target. That way, no matter which shapes of dishes I use, the whole table pulls together nicely. The same goes for D's dishes. We usually give him tiny versions of our own plates so that they'll fit on the high chair but look just like ours.
We store all of the dishes in a low cabinet so that it's easy for D to pick our place settings. If a few break in the process, they're cheap and easily replaced.
Maybe D's just a bit older, more interested in eating, and more patient. But perhaps in some small way, these dishes make him feel like he belongs at the table with us.
A note about food photography: I used to be firmly in the "eat your food, don't photograph it" camp. But then I had a small child who would fail the marshmallow test even if those marshmallows were molten hot. I've found that asking him to take photos of the food gives us a moment for it to cool off while we talk about what's on the plate. He'll be a champion Instagrammer once he comes of age. And maybe he'll become a marshmallow success story after all.