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I remember when Eli first started eating solid foods and we had no idea what we needed or how much we needed or what was best. We went through 3 different kinds of spoons in the first month and bought a high chair at random one day. We basically just floundered our way through this new segment of parenting, and now, a year later, I can say that at the very least, we all survived it, even if in the least efficient manner possible. Now that Eli is self-feeding 100% of the time and (newly) sitting at the table with us, we’ve had to make major adjustments in the equipment we use both at home and when we eat out. Through some significant trial and error, these are our (current) favorite toddler feeding supplies.
Placemat for eating in a restaurant
When Eli first started self feeding, I bought some of the disposable sticky placemats and while they work well (and we still have a few), they seemed so pricey and like a waste, so when I stumbled on this washable/reusable placemat, with a bonus little trough for dropped food, I bought it immediately. We have been using this placemat for over 3 months now, and while it doesn’t stick to every surface (table cloths!), we’re able to make it work just about everywhere. It was a one time purchase that has been used so many times it’s more than paid for itself as compared to the disposable options.
Available now at Amazon, $5.99
Placemats for home
We very recently moved Eli from his high chair with an attached tray to a booster style chair at the table (hand-me-down chairs for the win!). Since Eli isn’t quite ready for all his foods on plates or bowls, we had to come up with some way to serve him messier things without plopping them right on the table. Which is where these silicone placemats came in. They stay on our table well without messing with the finish, they clean easily and they’re big enough to hold all of Eli’s food easily. And someday, when Eli won’t dump all his plates and bowls, we can still use them for accidental spills!
Available now at Amazon, $9.99
When Eli was being spoon fed, your standard cloth bibs worked wonderfully, but once it was time to self feed, we needed the big guns. These bibs are great because they’re easily cleaned (though tomato sauce will stain them!) and they have an awesome pocket to catch all the dropped food so it doesn’t land in toddler laps. We have 4 that we alternate for every meal and I think we’ll be using these for a while to come. Especially since the neck has 3 different sizes and we’re only on the smallest one at almost 16 months!
Available now at Amazon, $7.99
We quickly realized that in order for Eli to eat at restaurants with us, he’d need to learn to use a straw (since his mother cannot ever remember to bring a sippy), but all our attempts to teach him ended up in straw chewing and no drinking. Someone suggested these bear bottles and we’ve been fans ever since. If they look just like honey containers, it’s because they are! They have a cap that holds the straw snug and then you can help teach baby to suck the straw by gently squeezing the bear’s belly to draw the water up into the straw. It literally took Eli less than a day with these, where we had tried for over a week with others. It’s SO much easier than the other squeezing teaching straw cups (takes very little squeezing) and if you take the straw out and close the lid, they’re spill proof! Even though Eli is proficient with straws now, these are still among his favorite cups. (In the interest of full disclosure, we were sent these to try out. Since then, we’ve bought several more because we love them so much and I hate doing dishes.)
Available now at Amazon, $13.48
Nuby straw cup
Once Eli mastered straw cups, we started trying out others, and these Nuby straw cups are my current favorite. They have a clicking sound to let you know the cap is screwed on properly and they have a soft spout, that for us, never leaks. My only complaint is that Eli has learned that if he lays the cup down and squeezes the soft plastic at the top, they will squirt everywhere. It makes him so entirely happy that I can’t really complain too much, but it can be a bit of a mess.
Available now at Amazon, $6.99
We have slowly and only half-heartedly tried to move Eli from the bottle to a sippy cup for milk (he drinks water out of a straw cup only), and have had minimal success, until we tried these out. Now, they are not sippies like you’d imagine- they have a silicone spout, like a bottle, but the shape and flow is different. They’re not the longest term solution, but they’re slowly easing Eli off the bottle without a fight, so I’m a big fan right now. Even better because you can buy (and we have) the straw attachment so that when they’re off sippies all together, you can use this same bottle base as a straw cup.
Available at Amazon, $10.50
Eli has recently become nothing short of obsessed with eating with a fork. He prefers full sized silverware, but they get a little unwieldy for him at times, so we’ve been trying out some toddler silverware. They are the favorite because they have metal tines that can actually pierce food, but good toddler friendly grips. A ton of food ends up in the bibs still, but he’s gradually getting the hang of it!
Available now at Amazon, $3.19
When we first began packing Eli’s lunches for daycare, we sent either a million plastic baggies, which seemed so wasteful, or a million little tupperware containers, which required a lot of dish washing time (have I mentioned my hatred of dishwashing yet?) So when we had the opportunity to try these out (another disclosure, they were sent to me for free, I’ve since bought more and I can no longer imagine my life without them), I jumped at it. And I love them. They’re whimsical, they hold a ton of food and they keep everything nicely separated, even with sauces or juices. I regularly pack cut up watermelon and the juice never leaves it’s little nook. We have had absolutely no complaints in our several months of use, they’re the best!
Available now at Amazon, $18.82