My kids are ages 6 and 4 but we have been avoiding plastic cups, cutlery, plates and bowls at mealtimes for a long time in our house. I even pushed for this change at mealtimes at their kindergarten, which I can happily add they embraced. In addition to this, when we built them a cubby house made from salvaged materials, I filled the shelves with ‘real’ beautiful, eclectic homewares from op shops.
Here are 8 reasons why I have encouraged my kids to use glasses and ceramics instead of plastics from an early age:
1. It portrays to the child ‘you are trusted’ and builds confidence.
2. It helps build children’s sense of agency (I can do it!).
3. Children learn to be careful from handling fragile items.
4. Children learn about consequences and learn about community if a shared item such as a jug is broken.
5. Washing and drying in a dishwasher is more effective than with plastic tableware because of the inability of plastic to retain its heat.
6. Plastic has the potential to leach toxins.
7. Glass, china, bamboo, wood and stainless steel are more sustainable materials than plastic.
8. It encourages us to eat most meals at the table as a family.
I will admit that getting young children to stay seated at a table can be frustrating, but we persisted and now meals are a pleasant part of family life. My four year old even appointed herself as table setter. I love how every time we focus on doing something more sustainably, we see other positives like these come out of it.
It’s also worth noting that I have broken more glasses than the kids, who I can’t recall breaking anything inside the house, but I’m sure they did once or twice. The kindergarten educators report the same thing – only adults have broken a few dishes.
There have been some breaks in the backyard as heavy porcelain bowls filled with sand, dirt, sticks, water and gumnuts are carried from place to place. It is all part of their learning and understanding of risks. It is not a problem in our home if these things get broken accidently. If you are really worried about breaks, then stainless steel, bamboo or wood might be options for you instead of plastic.