Throughout previous blog posts, we’ve discussed a lot on pollution and ways to reduce shopping waste as well as renewable energy. But, our main focus is on non-toxic dinnerware that is plastic-free for kids.
We haven’t touched on kid-friendly dinnerware in quite a while, so I wanted to do a post inspired by one of our emails we send out to our subscribers.
This is one of our most opened and clicked emails to date and is titled “4 Plastic-Free Alternatives FOR KIDS!”
I explained 4 different items that children might use for eating/ drinking and some great plastic-free alternatives to each!
So I figured I’d take that email, spice it up a bit more, and put it out here for everyone to reference!
So let’s first dive into the initial argument – WHY ditch plastic in the first place?
I mean it says it’s safe on the packaging right?
Well, let’s take a closer look.
Why all Kid Friendly Dinnerware Should Be Free of Plastic
Although we as adults have no issues with our steel silverware and dishware made from glass and ceramic, kids and toddlers are another story.
They like to test the outer boundaries of these items and then, we all know what happens…
Plate or glass drops….BOOM!… SHATTERS EVERYWHERE!!
Because of this, kids usually use plastic dinnerware.
Plastic is cheap, easy to mass-produce, easy to mold into fun designs, and has gone heavily mainstream.
Most kid’s sippy cups and dinnerware is made from plastic because of the above reasons.
Issues arise when we look into the studies behind plastic tableware and the potential health effects from plastic chemicals leaching into food and beverages.
More importantly than the fact alone, are what these chemicals are studied and shown to do.
Yet, have been tied to disturbing health issues.
The good news is there are many safer alternatives as well as things you can avoid.
Avoid plastic whenever possible when it comes to food and beverage.
Hard plastics can contain BPA, which is a developmental, neural, and reproductive toxin.
Scientists have linked very low doses of BPA exposure to cancers, impaired immune function, early onset of puberty, obesity, diabetes, and hyperactivity.
It can be transferred from plastic into food and drink.
A recent study found that even BPA-free plastics contain synthetic chemicals that can migrate into food.
These chemicals are mostly from additives used for giving the plastic it’s desired properties.
If you do choose to use plastic, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Choose BPA-Free, PVC-free plastic #2, #4, #5. See our post on plastic #s.
- Do not heat in the microwave (“microwave-safe” only means that the plastic won’t melt – the extreme heat of the oven will increase the transference of chemicals).
- Do not store fatty, greasy, or acidic foods in plastic.
- Do not use scratched, badly worn, or cloudy plastics for your food and beverages.
- Hand-wash plastics to avoid wear and tear. Don’t use roughly textured sponges or any steel wool which can scratch the plastic.
You should also avoid hard plastic melamine dishes around children.
They are made by combining the chemical melamine with formaldehyde (which is considered a known human carcinogen).
Studies have shown that formaldehyde can leach from dishware into food.
After reading all of this, you probably know by now that avoiding plastic is the better option.
Not only safer, but most of these alternatives will last much longer – saving you cash!
Let’s now dive into some great non-toxic dinnerware alternatives!
4 Plastic-Free Kids Dinnerware Alternatives
When it comes to non-toxic dinnerware and especially safe kid’s dinnerware alternatives, we need the materials to fit certain criteria.
They should be highly-durable (won’t break from play), free of plastic, and impart no nasty chemicals during heating and cooling.
For food storage, safer materials include glass, 304-grade stainless steel, food-grade silicone – all of which do not leach chemicals into your food.
When it comes to plates, cups, and straws, it depends on your needs and wants. Bamboo, Silicone, and Stainless Steel are my top three.
Let’s start with some great alternatives to plastic cups!
Non-Toxic Cups for Kids
For a good non-toxic cup, I’d recommend stainless steel cups or bamboo cups.
Both are amazing in the sense of being plastic-free and longevity, although stainless steel will still last a lot longer to serve it’s purpose than bamboo.
If your child is still very young and is especially abusive towards their respective drinkware, I’d go with stainless steel kids cups for their ruggedness and longevity!
Make sure the steel is 304 grade and electro-polished! And make sure the bamboo is from a credible company!
Refer back to your PDF guide to check the quality of these items.
As your child gets a little older and more careful, bamboo options and glass options will also serve your family well!
All in all, I still believe stainless steel cups are the best choice no matter your age.
Nothing can beat it.
These cups are a convenient 8 oz size, crafted from the best stainless steel, and include food-grade silicone lids which make our stainless sippy cups totally spill-proof!!
Non-Toxic Lunch Box for your Kids
When it comes to back to school for kids, or even anytime you are considering a new lunch box, re-evaluating your kid’s toxic exposure makes a lot of sense.
Think about it, their food will be spending several hours locked up inside this lunch box almost daily through different conditions and temperatures.
If there was any time where toxic chemicals can leach into foods, this is one of those times!
Take a look at any current lunch gear yourself or your child might be using.
You’ll want to make sure any of your child’s lunch gear is free of lead and PVC as well as BPA’s.
One way to do this is to be very particular in which kinds of plastic are used.
This can become very tricky and require some research on different forms of plastic.
Off the bat, PVC, recycling number 3, is one to avoid.
No. 3 plastics are at risk of releasing toxic breakdown products like phthalates into food and drinks.
Also, the manufacturing of PVC is known to release highly toxic dioxins into the environment.
Number 6 plastics, also known as polystyrene or Styrofoam can release potentially toxic breakdown products like styrene into your coffee or tea.
Number 6 plastics have also become notorious for being one of the most difficult plastics to recycle.
Plastic number 7, also known as “miscellaneous” plastic, is a catch-all for various types of plastics, including those found in baby bottles, three- and five-gallon water bottles, ‘bullet-proof’ materials, sunglasses, DVDs, iPod and computer cases, signs and displays, certain food containers and nylon.
Number 7 plastics are made up of various resins, which fit into no other categories; while some are safe, some are suspect.
Some contain Bisphenol A (BPA), a synthetic estrogen that could disrupt the human hormone system, causing various health effects.
Choosing which Safe Lunch Box is Right for Your Child
Arming your children with a safe lunch box that is sustainable and long-lasting is a very wise choice!
You can reduce your family’s exposure by avoiding plastics altogether and by choosing containers made of safer materials, like stainless steel or glass.
For this example, we’ll discuss our favorite option, the stainless steel lunch box!
Stainless Steel Lunch Containers
There are many benefits to using stainless steel lunch containers, the most obvious of which is that it’s plastic-free.
This makes it an obvious non-toxic dinnerware and food storage option!
Yourself and your family will not be exposed to any plastic chemicals (which we’ve discussed above).
Stainless steel is a very hygienic material because it is not hospitable to the growth or harboring of bacteria.
At the same time, odors cannot be transferred which is a common complaint with plastic and other types of containers.
One of the most important advantages of stainless steel is that it does not break, like glass or plastic even if dropped on a hard surface.
This is incredibly important in having a sustainable lunch box.
It must stand the test of time and the inevitable drops which will occur over time.
Stainless steel lunch boxes also will not stain and appear “worn out” over time which is another fantastic advantage, appearing still new – years later! (Only high-quality ones of course)
When shopping around for steel lunch containers, you’ll find plenty which have leak-proof and air-tight features – perfect for kids!
This is done with the help of locking clips and silicone seals similar to the ones found in plastic containers.
These are generally multi-functional lunch boxes that have several divided sections for holding various foods.
Many of these bento boxes exist in plastic, but now more than ever there are plenty of Eco-friendly steel options coming to market!
Some styles have simple snap-on lids while others latch down tightly and are leak-proof.
The style pictured above with the blue lid is a great leak-proof stainless steel bento lunch box option that latches closed for an airtight seal.
Other styles hold multiple levels of storage.
Once unlatched, they break down into several smaller trays, holding different portions.
Styles like this are amazing for travel!
This multi-level stainless steel lunch bento box is 3-in-1 and perfect for on the go! Check it out here! (on the left in the image above)
Another great and similar style for travel are these round tiffin style lunch boxes (on the right in the image above).
They latch together vertically tall and slim and can be slipped right into your backpack, or held by their handles!
These also usually have several sections that unlatch into a full dinner setting!
Stainless steel lunch containers truly are Eco-friendly and sustainable.
Their long service life, 100% recycling ability, and it’s valuable raw materials make it an excellent environmental performer.
Stainless steel objects rarely become waste at the end of their useful life.
Recycled stainless objects are systematically separated and recovered to go back into the production process through recycling.
As well as iron, stainless steel contains valuable raw materials like chromium and nickel which makes recycling stainless steel economically viable.
Stainless steel is actively recycled on a large scale around the world by recyclers who collect and process scrap (recycled stainless steel) for re-melting all around the world.
With all facts considered, it makes a lot of sense to consider a stainless steel lunch box for storing your family’s meals!
Non-Toxic Plates for Kids
To narrow down which non-toxic plates are best for your family, I’ll immediately reject all plastic plates due to the above-stated reasons for the sake of this section.
Because this article is on non-toxic dinnerware, we’ll also exclude a popular option you might’ve seen around: melamine plates.
During their creation process, formaldehyde is used to form the hard plastic.
Formaldehyde, you know… the same stuff used to embalm people?
Don’t just think plastic is the only thing to watch out for.
Something else to keep in mind is lead and cadmium.
Lead is used in the glazes or decorations on the surface of dishes to make dishes durable and to make colored glazes bright and shiny.
Cadmium is used to give dishes bright colors such as bright yellow or orange color to glazes.
Lead and cadmium are easily found in vintage China, Mexican Terra Cotta, decorated Asian plates, handcrafted or brightly colored dinnerware, or dinnerware with decals on the surface.
However, these are not the only kinds of dishes you can find lead or cadmium.
Whether dishes are plain white or colorfully decorated, they can contain lead or cadmium.
These dishes containing lead or cadmium can leach the chemicals into your food, just like those previously discussed plastic chemicals.
They will leach more so and faster if acidic food is being served.
Soy sauce, apples, citrus fruits, tomatoes, pasta dishes with tomato sauce, and salad dressing are considered to be acidic foods.
If a dish has a chip in it or its glaze is worn out due to frequent cycles in the dishwasher, it will leach more as well.
So this begs the question:
With all things considered, what are the best toddler plates for your family?
For starters, I always recommend three materials to choose from for your non-toxic plates.
Stainless steel, silicone, and bamboo kids plates are our favorites.
Let’s take a closer look at each.
Stainless Steel Plates for Kids
Stainless steel is a top choice for non-toxic dinnerware options. The family’s looking to live healthier and more sustainably love the cleanliness and durability of stainless steel plates for kids.
Kids are notorious for being extra rough with their tableware, and these ensure you won’t be picking up broken glass or shards of cracked cheap plastic any time soon!
Stainless steel does not readily harbor germs. It’s a very clean material due to it’s hard and smooth, non-porous surface.
This makes it highly beneficial for young toddlers whose immune systems aren’t yet at full strength.
The main things to keep in mind when choosing any stainless steel dinnerware, are the same ideas I discuss in our free Plastic-free Tableware Guide.
The short version, however, is that you should ALWAYS MAKE SURE the stainless steel is 304 grade, due to its corrosion resistance.
If that is not mentioned on the product listing, look in the comments to see if anyone is complaining of rust.
This is a sign either the steel is not 304 grade, or if the company says it is, they are probably lying to you.
To find more information on how to tell if the steel is safe or not, make sure to download our free guide above by clicking the highlighted text above!
Bamboo Plates for Kids
Real bamboo plates for kids are an amazing addition to your non-toxic dinnerware plan!
These plates are made from 100% bamboo and do not risk imparting chemicals into your child’s food.
Bamboo is a natural plant. The material is 100% biodegradable and will break down in our Eco-system.
Because of this, you can feel at peace knowing these won’t end up sitting in landfills for hundreds of years like other materials can! (cough.. cough.. plastic).
They can easily be microwaved or thrown in the dishwasher without worrying about wearing away the surface like plastic kids plates.
Over time as they become slightly worn, they will not lose their safety because there are no chemicals hidden away in the wood.
There’s nothing to hide – however…
Notice I said “real” bamboo plates for kids above.
Quality and trustworthiness online can be difficult to navigate.
Some key things to look for are if any paint is used or decals are printed on the bamboo plates.
It’s EXTREMELY important to make sure the paint does not contain lead or cadmium as we discussed above.
Another often overlooked criterion is where this bamboo is sourced.
Where does it come from and are the methods used for production actually sustainable and worthwhile?
Some companies who don’t pay enough attention to these details may not have your best interest in mind (i.e. safety and reliability).
Many are just looking to source the cheapest product for the highest profit margins.
It’s made of 100% organic bamboo, is free of any dyes and includes a silicone suction bottom to avoid accidents!
Silicone Plates for Kids
Silicone plates for kids are highly desired for really three main reasons: they are plastic-free yet nice and soft (safer), kids can’t break them and they’ll serve your family for a long time!
Many people are under a common misconception that silicone is a plastic or that it can be toxic. Let’s talk briefly on the difference.
Plastic is a material formed from polymers. What are these polymers?
They’re based on hydrocarbons that we get mostly from things like petroleum, natural gas, or coal.
Silicone is also a polymer but not made of the same base ingredients as plastic, which are polymers from crude oil distillation.
Silicone is typically made up of silicon, oxygen, and other elements, most typically carbon and hydrogen.
The main ingredient, silicon, is the second most abundant element in the Earth’s crust, after oxygen.
Silicon readily bonds with oxygen and is rarely found in nature in its pure form.
You’ve likely seen silicon as silicon dioxide or silica, better known as quartz, which is what sand is made of.
So long story short, plastic originates from petroleum – while silicone originates from silica (sand).
Silicone is also an inert material. Meaning it does not readily leach off hazardous chemicals into foods or drinks.
Plastic is not inert like this.
Its additives can leach and contaminate foods in very hot or cold environments like ovens, microwaves, freezers, etc.
This is why silicone plates are such a great non-toxic dinnerware alternative!
Not only safer substance wise, but silicone’s rubber-like feel is very child-proof.
If your toddler was to bite the silicone dinnerware or drop it, no harm would come.
Silicone dinner plates can also be molded into almost any design imaginable!
This means all different shapes, colors, and fun styles to choose from!
This is a silicone plate designed perfectly for the curious or mischievous kids out there.
Aside from all of the unique non-toxic benefits of silicone, this plate also has a molded silicone suction cup fixed to the bottom.
In other words, a plate that sticks to the table and can’t be thrown!
This is just one example of the vast array of unique silicone toddler plates and other dinnerware’s available to you!
You can enjoy the versatility that plastic provides – with the safety plastic cannot provide.
Choosing the Safest Toddler Cutlery for your Children
When deciding on the best and safest toddler cutlery for your decision, it mostly comes down to material safety and functionality.
With all the above material information considered, we’re left with two main types of flatware that are both safe and Eco-friendly:
Let’s discuss them both.
Stainless Steel Toddler Utensils
We all know and love stainless steel for its ease to clean and durability. Most of us can agree we have a drawer full of steel utensils at home. Why not get some stainless steel toddler utensils out of the deal?
Stainless steel is a perfect material for any kind of tableware, but especially for utensils.
The steel’s very high durability makes them the perfect toddler cutlery, although for a young child you might want a smaller, safer design and size.
Plenty of “kid-friendly” sizes are available and some even have silicone handles for a softer grip, like the bottom left in our picture above for example!
Always make sure whatever you choose for your children’s cutlery is safe. So high quality is a must!
Another very safe and unique design is this children’s fork, spoon, and knife set with rounded edges that will reduce the likelihood of painful pokes.
These are definitely some of the best toddler utensils!
Now let’s jump into bamboo cutlery for kids and check out that option.
Bamboo Cutlery for Kids
Bamboo Cutlery for kids is a perfect single-use alternative to plastic and is softer than stainless steel if the steel option seems a bit too risky for you.
Speaking on sustainability, bamboo is all-natural and vastly grown at a rapid rate.
Bamboo is one of the fastest-growing plants on the planet, with some species able to reach full maturity in just 90 days and most just taking a couple of years.
One species of bamboo can grow a massive 35 inches per day or (1.5 inches per hour).
This makes bamboo a highly sustainable option and very Eco-friendly as it is biodegradable.
Because bamboo is a natural plant, it’s free of any nasty chemicals that might leach into your child’s or your own meals.
Stainless steel offers the same benefit!
Although it’s not grown from the ground, it is extremely sanitary because it’s non-porous and does not allow bacteria to easily cultivate.
When choosing bamboo or any other wooden cutlery or dinnerware, it’s important to look out for a few things.
If the bamboo or wood is painted then it’s a good idea to make sure, either from reading the description/ reviews or by asking the seller, that the paint is lead and cadmium free.
If this sounds like too much of a hassle, you can just opt for natural bamboo dinnerware with no paint!
Conclusion on Non-Toxic Dinnerware for Kids
We’ve covered a lot of information in this article so try not to feel overwhelmed.
Let’s quickly recap what we’ve covered here.
First, we discussed the potential dangers of plastic dinnerware and some key ways to avoid those risks.
Then we dove into several plastic-free and non-toxic dinnerware alternatives which are perfect for young children.
These items are in replace of the traditional plastic versions ourselves and our children may frequently be using.
So here are the four non-toxic tableware alternatives…
Non-Toxic Cups for your Kids:
After a short discussion, it was easy to choose stainless steel cups and bamboo cups as the best alternative for kids.
You can learn much more about these types of drinking cups and how to choose the safest online purchasing option possible – by downloading our free PDF guide. Grab that here!
Non-toxic Lunch Box for your Kids:
When steering clear of traditional plastic lunch boxes and keeping meals clear of chemicals – glass and stainless steel seem to be the best options for food storage.
Our favorites are the stainless steel lunch boxes including the Bento options as well as those awesome tiffin style boxes which stack and snap together for easy travel.
Best of all these are clear of chemicals and will last a long time.
Glass containers are also a great clean option, however, they won’t be able to withstand rough conditions.
Non-Toxic Plates for your Kids:
In this section, we discussed three main types of plates; Bamboo, Stainless steel, and Silicone Plates.
All of which are completely safe of those named chemicals and hazards discussed in the first section.
Which one you choose depends on your personal preferences and needs.
Bamboo plates are a great natural option and are also extremely Eco-friendly due to being biodegradable.
They tend to be pretty durable, however frequent dropping can result in some cracking so be careful.
Stainless steel plates, just as their lunch box and cup counterparts, are a very sustainable, durable, and clean choice for non-toxic dinnerware.
Stainless steel plates are highly durable and will last for as long as you keep them. (Again as long as they are of proper quality).
Silicone plates are another very popular children’s option due to their softness and chemically inert nature.
Meaning the silicone will not impart harmful chemicals into you or your child’s food.
Silicone plates will also not break as they are a rubber-like material and simply bend to absorb shock.
They can be microwaved, heated to very hot temperatures as well as very cold like your freezer without chemical leaching.
The last section, Choosing the Safest Toddler Cutlery:
In the section, we briefly discuss how your normal steel cutlery you have at home in your kitchen drawer, is generally sufficient.
It’s safe, durable, and gets the job done.
However it can also be hazardous and too large for small hands, so for children, we have other options.
We discussed some great stainless steel toddler utensils which are designed for small hands and some are even customized with silicone handles for comfort and added safety/ functions!
We also discussed some great bamboo cutlery for kids.
Just like the other bamboo products, you can see why this is a great option.
Once the bamboo utensils reach the end of their use, they’ll biodegrade in a landfill and can even be composted!
Bamboo is also softer than stainless steel and can be a safer option if you’re concerned about the hardness of steel.
Make sure whichever you choose, to ensure it is high-quality and sustainably sourced.
Generally, any stainless steel dinnerware should be made of corrosion-resistant steel – preferably 304-grade.
Bamboo should be sustainably sourced and contain no toxic chemicals or toxic coloring.
In our free guide, we deep dive into the specific indicators of quality.
This makes it easy for you while shopping on Amazon or other websites to identify the best possible options.
Thanks so much for reading this article!
My hope now is that you’ve gained some great insight and direction in choosing the best non-toxic dinnerware for your family!
Thanks for stopping by!
Disclosure: The products mentioned in this post were researched and discovered to be some of the best in their market. I did this as a resource for you in case you wanted to further explore that particular product/ brand, without doing the tedious research. I may receive a small commission if you purchase through those links at no cost to you.