The market is filled to the brim with bowls, plates, and cups specifically designed for kids. There are the trendy and stylish silicone ones, stainless steel varieties, ones in fun shapes and colors, and just about anything else you could imagine. It makes us all believe that kids need these when eating. The truth is? They don’t!

If you open up your cabinets and drawers, how many colorful plates, water bottles, cups, and little bowls are stacked up and almost overflowing? It can all add up pretty quickly! I refuse to fill up precious cabinet space with these items when kids can easily use what we already have.

Before I get into it, yes, there are caveats and exceptions. It is helpful to have some rimmed plates and bowls for babies to help with scooping, but after 12 months, kids actually don’t need special plates and bowls to eat from. I’m convinced it’s a marketing ploy. It’s also okay to continue using a kids’ plate if it’s working for your family. Or you may want to pull these plates out every now and then as a fun and novel way to introduce a new or previously disliked food. Use these plates to your advantage! I’ll sometimes fill muffin tins or popsicle molds for snack time to make it special and exciting.

For every day eating, though, starting kids early with plates and bowls the rest of the family is using helps in so many ways:

1) It prevents tantrums when they want a different color or style. If you’ve had a toddler in your house, I’m sure you’ve all been there. It’s partly why we quickly transitioned from colored plastic cups to the glassware the rest of the family uses for my 2-year-old daughter. Nerve-racking? A little, but kids learn pretty quickly and are capable of more than we give them credit for. When there’s no other option, it eliminates the opportunity for a tantrum.

2) It helps encourage food tolerance. Most kids’ plates have divisions to help separate foods. Kids naturally want to have food served separately and not mixed, but having the food in divided sections only reinforces and prolongs this desire. When food inevitably touches during the meal, kids can be even more resistant when they have divided plates. Having a regular plate (even if you keep everything separate at the beginning) helps kids become more comfortable when foods end up touching each other. 

If you are wanting to use a kids’ plate for babies or young toddlers, look for ones that are rimmed around the edges, but have no divisions. If you already have a plate with divisions, try to put most of the food in only one of the sections.

3) It makes kids feel so grown up and apart of the family to have the same plate everyone else is using. Kids see what we’re using and they want to be like us! Being a “big kid” is what they strive for. A simple change in dinnerware can help build confidence and have them take ownership and responsibility in other areas, too. 

We recently switched our daughter to the “big bowls” we use and she was so excited. She was just like mommy and daddy! Using the adult-sized bowls can sometimes feel pretty big for toddlers, so ramekins or small salad bowls are also great options—just look for something similar to what the rest of the family is using. Use a salad or dessert plate version of your dinner plates since the large plates can feel overwhelming or simply too big for the amount of food they’re eating.

One of the best parts for our family? It streamlines decisions for everyone in the house and also decreases the colorful clutter in our kitchen cabinets. I leave the fun plates for Grandma and Grandpa’s, which makes those fun, kids’ plates even more special and turns it into a win for everyone.

Kara Hoerr is a wife, mom to a 2-year-old, and a registered dietitian nutritionist who specializes in family and childhood nutrition. She’s originally from Iowa, but has called Madison home for the past 10 years. When she’s not helping families and individuals end mealtime battles or quit diets for good, she’s usually baking or cooking in her kitchen, running or biking on the Madison trails, or relaxing with a good book. She never expected to start her own business, but here she is with Kara Hoerr Nutrition. She offers nutrition coaching and online courses to help moms (and dads!) out at the dinner table. To learn more or to set up a free discovery call, email Kara at [email protected], or find her on Instagram.

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