Mealtimes can be challenging with young children – we’ve all witnessed a “but why is my spoon so pink?” meltdown or a tantrum set-off by what was their favourite meal last week now being dismissed as “disgusting”. But while these unpredictable moments can (and very often do) occur, you can take some steps to smooth the course of family dinners by investing in tableware that appeals to - and caters for the needs of - your child.


What plate your toddler eats their jam sandwich off might not be very high on your ever-growing list of priorities, but a little bit of time and care spent selecting the right one could help them look forward to meal times more and improve their skills when it comes to feeding themselves.

What to look for in your child's tableware

Do you have a variety? – Firstly, everybody eats a lot of meals so you are going to need a few different bowls and plates. Having a variety of designs, styles and colours might help diffuse those tricky “but I don’t want green today” situations – offering your child a choice, however small, can help them feel empowered.

What is it made of? – While many of us are trying to use less plastic, there is also a need to be practical – it is important that your tableware stands up to frequent use and washing. Good alternatives to plastic include melamine, bamboo and even glass.

Is it easy to wash? – Ideally you want plates that will go in the dishwasher for those days when you just want to clear the table and carry on. But don’t rule out hand wash items – if you’re buying a special set as a gift or getting an item personalised, you’ll want to take extra special care of it anyway.

Will it stand up to frequent use? – There is nothing worse than a cracked plate – not only could it be sharp and dangerous but it will likely leak and be very hard to clean inside. If a plate says it is not dishwasher or microwave safe, remember to obey these instructions. And try to avoid materials that stain or warp.

Will it appeal to my child? – While it can be tempting to pick out tableware that fit in with your own décor or preferences, letting your child pick a favourite character or colour could be the key to drama-free dining. You can get them excited about food by letting them help with simple cooking tasks or setting the table. It will boost their confidence and curiosity.

10 best plates and bowls for toddlers and pre-schoolers

1. Cath Kidston Dinosaur Jungle Food Tray, £8

– Best for fussy eaters

Cath Kidston dinosaur tray

Material: Melamine |Dishwasher safe: Yes | Microwave safe: No

If you’re struggling to get your toddler to try different foods, a tray-style plate with different compartments can really help. Small amounts of different things can be more exciting and less overwhelming than a plate full of food.

This design is particularly nice as there is space for a cup and cutlery too (matching ones sold separately or just slot your own in) that helps to reduce the mess made around the plate. Practical, durable and dishwasher-friendly, it’s also available in a unicorn design and comes in at a really reasonable price point. Buying alongside the matching cup (£5) makes for a lovely birthday gift too.

Available from: Cath Kidston

2. Sass & Belle Sibling Bamboo Plate, £8.50

– Best for new siblings

Sibling bamboo plate

Material: Bamboo | Dishwasher safe: No | Microwave safe: No

For parents looking to buy less plastic, these cute personalised bamboo plates are a great option. The simple yet attractive design has no sharp edges or fiddly shapes, reducing the risks of cracks or splinters that can be an issue with some bamboo products.

If you’re trying to steer away from garish colours or characters, this an ideal first “big boy/girl” plate that will help your child feel more grown up. Available in big/little brother/sister designs they also make great gifts if you’re trying to cushion the blow of a new arrival in the family. Though one slight downside is you can’t pop them in the dishwasher or microwave.

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Available from: Sass & Belle

3. Emma Bridgewater Personalised Dinosaurs 8 1/2" Plate, from £18.95

– Best first ceramic tableware

Emma Bridgewater dinosaur plate

Material: English earthenware | Dishwasher safe: Yes | Microwave safe: No

Let your little one feel like a true grown-up with these beautiful, personalised ceramic plates by master potter Emma Bridgewater. A great way to introduce them to “proper” tableware, they’re more likely to take extra care with the plate if it feels special to them so adding their name or nickname is a lovely touch. As the personalisation is done by hand, no 2 plates are ever the same. If dinosaurs are not their thing, alternative designs include stars, bumblebees or teddy bears.

One reviewer said, “We got this for our dinosaur obsessed nephew for his birthday. He just loves it – his name is written on it, making it so very special. And his mum loves that it can go in the dishwasher.”

Available from: Emma Bridgewater

4. Ikea KALAS bowls and plates, £1.25 for set of 6

– Best budget buy

Kalas ikea bowl

Material: Polypropylene plastic | Dishwaser safe? Yes | Microwave safe? Yes

A staple of nurseries, school kitchens and kids’ parties everywhere, the Ikea KALAS range offers brilliant value for money and is great to have in the cupboard for any unexpected young guests. Simple yet effective, the bowls are the perfect size for pre-schooler cereal or snacks while the plates are just right for a simple lunch of salad and crisps. Plus, the bowls and plates are stackable which is great for minimising storage space.

Recently revamped, the tableware is now available in a modern range of pastel colours. Having a variety of different colours is great for fussy eaters who “love” pink one day but will only eat off yellow the next. Matching cutlery is available too.

One reviewer praised their durability and said, “As a childminder I’ve had several of these over the years in varying styles. They are very robust and wash well.”

Available from: Ikea

5. Bunnykins Childrens Set: Plate, Cereal Bowl and one-handled Hug-a-Mug, £45

– Best keepsake

Royal Doulton Plate set

Material: bone china | Dishwasher safe: Yes | Microwave safe: Yes

Parents and grandparents alike will probably remember the Royal Doulton Bunnykins collection (first sold in 1934) from their own youth – making it a lovely gift to mark a special occasion or milestone. The design is sweet and enchanting while remaining gender neutral and the fine bone china will make your child feel like a grown-up with their own “proper” tableware, helping them to get excited about mealtimes.

The cup handle is just the right size for small hands and the bowl is an ideal depth for cereal. Even better, it's both microwave and dishwasher safe making it practical for parents too.

Available from: Royal Doulton and Amazon

6. Nuby Rice Husk Eco Section Plate, £6.99

– Best eco-friendly tableware

Nuby Rice Husk eco plate

Material: rice husk | Dishwasher safe: Yes | Microwave safe: Yes

This BPA and toxin-free plate is a real game-changer for parents trying to be more eco-friendly. Made from rice husk – a natural waste product of rice farming – it remains strong, durable and even dishwasher and microwave safe while also being 100% compostable. For parents trying to move away from plastics, it remains affordable too.

The cute frog design will appeal to kids, while the divided-up sections are a great way of letting them try a range of different foods at snack time. If you’re buying this as a gift, there is a whole range of matching products available too.

Available from: Amazon, Boots, Nuby

7. Tommee Tippee bamboo dinner set, £11.99

– Best for learning to feed yourself

Tommee Tippee bamboo plate

Material: Bamboo | Dishwasher safe: Yes (top shelf) | Microwave safe: No

For younger diners who might still be getting to grips with cutlery and self-feeding, this is a lovely half-way house between a baby weaning plate and proper tableware. The slightly sloped sides on the bamboo plate make it easier for little fingers to grab or spear food without it spilling over the sides, while the bowl is just the right depth for dipping.

The monster design has a real universal appeal and the matching cup and cutlery have been designed for small hands to grip easily. It’s dishwasher safe for quick clean-ups and the design isn’t babyish or cutsie which will appeal to growing children.

Available from: Amazon

8. Munchkin Lil' Apple Plates, £6.50 for 3

– Best for weaning

Material: BPA-free plastic | Dishwasher safe? Yes | Microwave safe? Yes
A great choice for those early on in their relationship with solid food, this light tray-style plate encourages children to try a range of different tastes and textures at a time. The slightly raised sides are designed to aid self-feeding while minimising mess and the brightly coloured apple design will stimulate young senses.

With 3 in a pack, these plates also offer great value for money and will help with fussy toddlers who suddenly have a (very) strong colour preference. They are ideal for weaning as they are so light you can take them out and about with you and they are very easy to wipe clean.
Available from: Amazon, Ocado and Boots

9. Skip Hop Eat Neat plate and bowl set, £9.99

– Best for mess-free meals

Eat neat skip hop plate

Material: Polypropylene plastic | Dishwasher safe: Yes (top rack) | Microwave safe: Yes

Designed to encourage toddler independence at mealtimes, this 3-piece plate and bowl set is quite unlike anything else on the market. While it fits together a bit like a lunchbox, it remains open like a bowl and can be altered to meet your child’s needs.

The removable training rim helps guide food onto your child’s cutlery so it stays in the bowl rather than spilling all over the table. The removable clear plastic bowl sits inside the main plate meaning it doesn’t move or slide around as your child scoops up their snacks or cereal. Without the bowl, it’s just a bigger plate than can be used either with or without the rim.

Not only does this reduce the amount of mess, but the product effectively grows with your child as their ability to eat unaided improves. Depending where you buy it too, there is a wide range of cute and appealing animal designs available.

Available from: Amazon and John Lewis

10. Beaba Glass meal set, £30

– Best for a plastic alternative

Beaba feeding meal set

Material: Glass | Dishwasher safe: Yes | Microwave safe: Yes

Made in partnership with the French brand Duralex, known for its hard-wearing glass products, this dinner set from Beaba is a must-buy for the fashion conscious parent. If you’d rather not have your kitchen cluttered up with dinosaurs or Disney princesses, this smart-looking yet child-friendly set is ideal.

Scratch and stain resistant, the glass bowl and plate also feature a silicone suction pad for improved safety, while the cup has a silicone safety handle for better grip. The glassware is another nice alternative to plastic and it washes really well – even in the dishwasher.

Available from: Amazon and John Lewis


About the author

Amy Burns is a journalist and mum-of-1. She is an expert parent and baby reviewer, writing for MadeForMums on everything from baby products to toys, weaning and more. 



Amy Burns is a senior journalist with more than 15 years’ experience in writing and editing lifestyle content including travel features. She is a mum of 1 and writes regular family travel reviews, days out guides and destination features for the national newspaper The i.