Here is my master guide of ALL the gear you need to feed your kid. From babyhood through toddlerhood, and beyond!
I’m sharing all my favorites- from high chairs to plates to utensils and more! I lay it out by age group so that you can easily scroll to whatever stage you’re in. If you’re wondering what are the best utensils for babies or toddlers, the best bibs, bowls, suction plates, high chairs- I’ve got a recommendation for you!!
This is also a helpful guide for a baby registry! If you know anyone welcoming a new baby soon, do them a solid and share this post with them. Looking at Amazon or Buy Buy Baby can be VERY overwhelming if you don’t have some guidance!
Feeding kids is an ever-evolving process. Let me take some of the work out of it for you by sharing all my tried and true products. As you can imagine, I’ve tested tons of products and am only recommending my favorites to you! I want to make feeding your kids as simple and efficient as possible. After all, it’s something you’ll be doing A LOT of for the next few years!
You can find all these items linked in my Amazon storefront. Shop away!
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This is the first stage for your baby! While you technically can start feeding baby sooner, I typically recommend waiting until closer to 6 months. That way, your child is likely more developmentally ready for solids.
We look for some signs of readiness. Those include:
- sitting up with minimal assistance
- head/trunk control
- coordination to bring items hand to mouth
- and a growing interest in watching you eat.
That being said, you absolutely can start including them at mealtime before they’re really eating. When they’re able, put them in the high chair during your meals so they can sit with you. Hand them a silicone spoon to play with. Or give them some small tastes of things if they are interested. Practicing bringing items to their mouth gets them ready for eating. When they watch you eat, they are likely to mirror you and practice this!
I’m sure it’s no surprise this stage is one of the messier ones. Therefore it requires a bit more gear than the toddler stages. But trust me, these products are going to help contain the mess as much as possible.
Starting solids gear you’ll need
First and foremost, you need a good high chair! I recommend this one if you want a great quality design that will grow with your child. It’s a great high chair for baby led weaning (if that’s your approach), but is also just as good if you’re starting with purees. (My 5 year old still sits in this chair, because it adapts with each age and stage!)
When choosing a high chair, ensure that it comes with (or has the ability to add) a footrest for baby. It’s easier and safer to eat when they are able to brace themselves against the footrest. I also like this one and this one– there are great high chairs at many different price points!
Underneath your high chair, use this splat mat! I would say this is optional. But after approximately one million spoonfuls of applesauce ended up on my dining room floor, I decided the splat mat would save me a little bit of effort during clean up. You can simply wipe it down or take it outside to spray it off. This is especially helpful if you’re trying to protect a rug or keep the mess contained to one area! Babies are notorious for throwing food- both accidentally and on purpose!
Next up is my selection of my favorite bibs! I’m putting my two favorite types here: silicone bibs and shirt bibs. Silicone bibs are unbeatable as far as clean up goes. You can spray them off, put them in the sink, and leave them to dry. They’re also dishwasher safe, easy to fold up and take on the go, and include no laundry like cloth bibs!
Shirt bibs are the best invention for messy eaters. They go on like a smock and cover the whole outfit. So you don’t have to change those adorable baby outfits 3 extra times a day! They get a little messy themselves, but they save the clothes and the cleanup is so easy! I just take it off, dump whatever it caught in the sink, and add it to my next load of laundry. You can also spray them off and hang them to dry. I recommend getting a couple to alternate between.
Utensils for this age group are tricky. Obviously 6-9 month olds won’t be able to use a fork or spoon very well. But introducing age-appropriate utensils at this stage is super important for developing those skills early on. They will only have what’s called the palmar grasp- meaning they can hold something tightly in their palm grip.
At this stage, you’ll want to opt for silicone utensils like these or these. They are easy to grab and have larger handles. They also can be easily pre-loaded by you. Then baby can practice bringing the utensil to their mouth, without scooping up the food themselves.
Plates and bowls
Finally, I recommend suction bowls like these and plates like these for starters. It’s common for babies to explore everything thoroughly with their hands. So if you stick a regular plate in front of them, it’s most likely going to end up on your floor.
The genius suction keeps the plate stuck to the tray. So they can still explore with their hands without making a big mess! (Okay, it’s going to be a big mess regardless, but this will at least keep the food on the tray!)
Sometimes you can put their foods directly on the high chair tray, but others do better with bowls/plates. So I find it most helpful to have both.
At this age, typical foods include purees, mashes, and anything steamed/prepared super soft. You should be able to squish the food in between your fingers to ensure it’s a safe texture. These textures also = MESS, so insulating your environment from the mess will be a big focus at this age. It’s also laying the foundation for good motor development.
9 months-1 year
In this age range, they’ll still be getting used to textures and foods just like 6-9 months old. And you’ll also want to start thinking about what you’ll introduce as they become more adept.
A BIG development around this age range is the development of the pincer grasp. Many parents observe that 6-9 months old don’t actually ingest a ton of solids. This is because they have a hard time feeding themselves. But from about 9 months on, you’ll notice they start to refine that pincer grasp that allows them to grab food between two fingers. Once they are able to successfully grab food like that, foods can be served in smaller pieces. And you might find that they are eating more at each occasion.
Utensils are still really important for this age group (linking a few more I like for this age group here and here). You can offer them pre-loaded, or try to help them understand how to dip them on their own.
It may seem insane and impossible for your baby to drink from an open cup. They’ll surprise you! With a little practice they really can get the hang of it.
I think this is the best open cup for babies, and I also like this open cup/straw cup system for straw practice. Drinking from a straw cup is a good oral motor skill! Technically these are great to use even from 6 months on, but your 9+ month old should definitely be getting guided practice in drinking from an open cup and and straw cup. They won’t master this for a long time. But it’s really important for oral motor development and it helps them use many of the muscles that are useful for speech!
At this stage, you might find yourself prepping more foods as your child begins to actually consume more volume. I wanted to link some of my favorite food storage items for baby foods, purees, etc. I like these glass containers because the lids have a nice fit and they’re a good size for portions you might prepare/save for a baby. I also love these pouches because you can make your own smoothies or purees and load them right into the pouches so baby can begin to get the hang of self-feeding. And I can never get enough Stasher bags– they’re easy, reusable, and can be heated or frozen!
What if they can’t (or won’t) really use their utensils?
A common question I get for this age range: is my kid delayed if they aren’t using utensils properly? The answer is NO! It takes many months, even years, of practice for kids to master fine motor skills, but that’s no reason to wait to introduce them.
They’ll get the basics by using preloaded spoons from you and eventually by learning how to dip easy-to-grasp utensils into foods that easily cling on to them. As they get older, they’ll get more into picking up pieces of food with forks, etc, but I certainly wouldn’t expect a child in this age range to self-feed with utensils already!
1 year old
Here’s where things turn a corner a little bit! We’re diving into the world of how to feed a toddler. And a whole new world it is! (Without the magic carpet rides unfortunately.)
Sure, your one year old will still be messy, but they will also likely be gaining and refining the skills to feed themselves a little more adeptly. The year between 1-2 is huge for development, and you’ll see big strides in their eating skills! Their food may start to look more like adult food, or a deconstructed version of what you’re eating.
Keep in mind that choking hazards still definitely apply here. Read this post to learn more about which foods to avoid. But you may find that around 18 months, you can ease up on the preparation of some foods. For example, you may not need to squish your blueberries anymore once you are confident that your 1.5 year old can navigate them safely, etc.
Some kids will transition out of high chairs into booster chairs like this one or this one. You definitely don’t need to do this right away at age one. But if you find that they are routinely climbing out of their high chair, or want to feel like a “big kid” at the table, you can switch. No worries if they still prefer their high chair, but if you’re looking to part ways with it, there are several good booster seat options!
If you end up choosing this ergonomic high chair that I have, it adapts with each age. You can remove the high chair tray and scoot it right up to the table.
I also love this table chair I mentioned earlier. I always kept it in the trunk of my car for whenever we went out to eat at a restaurant or a friend’s house and needed an extra high chair. It was one of my most used baby items! And a big bonus is that you can easily remove the fabric part and throw it in the washing machine! It’s also a great option if your family eats at a kitchen counter instead of a table.
Speaking of dining out (or switching to the dining room table instead of the high chair), I absolutely love these silicone mats. Silicone is the easiest to wipe down, throw in the dishwasher, and also easy to roll up in your diaper bag and take on the go. Keep a couple on hand to throw down wherever you’re eating and it’ll make cleanup that much easier.
At this age, I also like to serve food on these divider plates. Some people wonder if divider plates reinforce picky eating, but in my experience, I think it makes it more approachable (even for picky eaters) to have their food in compartments. Also, if you’re serving things you wouldn’t necessarily enjoy eating together- like mac and cheese and applesauce- its nice to have the option to separate them. Kids- especially picky eaters- can get easily overwhelmed by quantity, and these divider plates can help make it a little more manageable.
Snack cups! Here you are, entering the world of snacks. You’ve graduated from eating once per day, twice per day, up to three times per day, and now you’re getting into snack territory. A good goal for eating rhythm is to offer 3 meals and 2 snacks per day. (This post gives more info on a good one year old schedule.)
I love these (silicone, again!) snack cups because they keep things contained and are very easy for babies/toddlers to navigate themselves!
During this year, you may want to upgrade to more substantial utensils. As their skill increases, they will be able to use utensils that look a little more like ours and a little less like the 6-month old ones. I like these!
I have an entire post dedicated to my favorite toddler cups, and they’re all linked here), but I do want to mention again that if you’re not already using one, I recommend practicing with an open cup (these have training lids!) and also a straw cup. Sippy cups aren’t the best idea as they don’t really help promote the skills and musculature needed for oral motor development.
2-4 year old
At this age, eating can become really fun! You may start to see your child really gain interest in food, develop their preferences and favorites, and even get involved in meal prep. This age range can also be where we see picky eating tendencies creep up.
At this age, I like to lean into what interests them. If they love a particular cartoon or book character, get them dinnerware with that character on it. I love these because my kids were big fans of Bluey.
I also think buying them a fun water bottle of their choice can help get them excited and keep them hydrated. I like this leakproof one and it comes in so many different colors and patterns. Also, these stainless steel smoothie cups are a staple for us; my favorite feature is there’s a bumper on the straw so they can’t pull them out and fling their purple smoothie all over the place!
Some other ideas to make mealtime fun at this age are these silicone baking cups, which are ideal for holding sauces and dips or serving a charcuterie-style meal, and these tongs which make picking up food a lot more fun! I also like these utensils because in this age range they’re getting closer to being able to use utensils correctly, so their cutlery will start to look more like an adult’s!
And finally, if you don’t already have one, probably my biggest must-have for this age group is a toddler tower like this one. Getting kids involved in the kitchen is such a great practice to get into, and you might find that mealtimes go much easier when they have been able to be involved themselves. As they get older, they can also use this tower to be able to accomplish some meal tasks themselves, like pouring their own milk and cereal, etc.
5 year old+
At this age, I like to upgrade them to stainless steel cutlery like this. They can totally handle it at this age. And it’s helpful to get them acquainted with all the normal kitchen tools (in a kid-friendly way of course!).
Kitchen tools that include age-appropriate knives and easy-to-operate things like potato peelers should be introduced. I know it may seem crazy that I’m telling you to give them knives, but it really is a way to get them excited and involved with food preparation. They often can handle a lot more than we think they can! Plus, these are kid-safe knives, but you should still always use them with supervision.
We still want mealtimes to be fun- so here are a few other ideas for this age group. I love these sandwich cutters that can make sandwiches into fun shapes. These are especially useful if your kids aren’t crazy about crust. I also love these food shape cutters to make things like veggies more fun to try. (Cutting flowers into cucumbers somehow magically makes them more appetizing to kids!) And these food picks are a lot more fun than your average fork. You could also use these for younger kids, but I saved most anything sharp for the 5+ crowd because I’m more confident they can handle it!
A note on silicone items
Silicone is a fantastic non-plastic material that works really well for baby and toddler feeding supplies. However, it can end up with a soapy taste without proper cleaning. Unscented dish soap is the best option when washing by hand. Make sure to thoroughly rinse after the soap, too. You can also put most silicone items in the dishwasher on the top rack. Warm water, not hot, is preferred. And, dishwashing liquid vs. powder also tends to do better with these items.
You got this!
You’ll be amazed at how much your child grows and develops as an eater throughout these age ranges. Having the right stuff on hand to support that growth and development is key. Trust me, I’m not here trying to get you to buy things you don’t need. There are PLENTY of those items in the feeding world.
But after raising two kids of my own and helping countless other families feed their kids, I have narrowed down this list to my real-life favorite products that I really do believe will make your life easier. Hopefully these items will make meal prep and clean-up a cinch! (And help ward off any picky eating tendencies that creep in!)
If you’ve got the gear, but you want help with the meals themselves, grab a copy of my Meal and Snack Survival Guide! It’s packed with meal and snack ideas to make your life easier!