If there's one part of human-rearing that requires a lot of equipment, it's feeding. I have a whole huge drawer in my kitchen devoted to cups, bottles, bibs, bowls, plates, bibs, random plastic items that tiny man has put there.. And that's lucky because that drawer is the only reason I'm ever allowed to do any cooking - because tiny man is next to me diligently removing entire contents of said drawer, and spreading it around the kitchen to leave it looking like the opening scene of Holby City.. (you know, where man walks up wonky ladder.. WHATEVER COULD HAPPEN NEXT?)
Anyway, we've tried out more plastic crockery, drinking mechanisms, on-the-go snacks and bibs and bottles and food-making devices than, well, fit in that drawer. Some were amazing for the early weaning days - if you're just starting to Spread Food Around Your Baby's Mouth (aka Weaning), check out my guide to what to buy here. And some were brilliantly useful for when they got a bit bigger, and you need slightly larger freezer pots as those ice-cube trays aren't cutting it anymore - my Weaning Part 2 equpment guide is here.
But then they keep on growing, and want to feed themselves all the time, and are hungry for snacks, and you need car food because otherwise there's whaling non-stop in the car seat and so that's why I wrote this post: your toddler eating armoury. Here's what we're using most, in an order that doesn't match the pictures because I didn't think ahead...
8 and 4. Once you're done with sucky teat bottles (which should be around 1, apparently, as they're no longer good for babes' teeth after that) these miracle cups are brilliant: Tommee Tippee's Meal Trainer and Munchkin's Miracle 360 cup. I don't really understand the physics, but when your babe sucks either cup, at any place on the rim, water comes out, and when they don't suck (when said cup is tossed around your handbag, for example), water doesn't come out. Teaches them to drink from a beaker with no mess: amazing.
5. We're that family who still like going to hipster/cool/nice places to eat even when they don't have highchairs. The ones everyone else in the restaurant stares at; the ones who call to book and in response to the 'no we don't have highchairs' say, 'oh never mind we'll bring our own.' The Oxo Nest Booster seat isn't absolutely tiny, but it fits in our buggy basket and is far more comfy than the usual travel high chairs - it firmly clips onto nearly any chair with a back (rounded backs don't work) and usually gets tiny man level with the table, where he's super-happy. My mum's bought one too now as it's great for her house - can easily put it away when not being used.
9. and 1. When out in restaurants, we use the Oxo Nest in combo with Bibetta's amazing place mat with pockets- in fact, I take this everywhere even when they do have a highchair, because inevitably it doesn't come with a tray, or the tray isn't the cleanest, and if I can give my boy his own finger food it means I can eat my meal (for a whole two minutes). The pocket catches stray food, it folds up small and I love not having to rely on cafe's dodgy table-wiping... We're also big fans of Bibetta's Ultra Bib with Sleeves- it's waterproof (made of wet suit material) and even that killer tomato sauce doesn't stain it: amazing.
2. and 6. On the crockery front, we only eat from white porcelain because it's so much more... Yeah, whatever. Meal times mean tossed plates and plastic all the way - so Tommee Tippee's Magic Mat is fantastic: keeps the plate on the high-chair tray. It's not pictured but I like to use the same brand's section plates to try new foods and old ones alongside each other. Oxo's tot-training tablewear is great too: the plates and bowls are slightly weighted via a removeable ring, so help them learn how to use cutlery as the plate doesn't jump around when it's tapped. In fact, Oxo is one of my favourite brands for weaning - not least because the stuff actually looks really nice and Scandi-style (if you squint) so your table doesn't look like a brand of Toys R Us. Its Flippy Snack Pot and Small & Large bowl set are perfect for storing food and snacks for a day out.
1. and 3. I used to have a parenting theory about not giving too many snacks because they're bad for your teeth and ruin meals. But then I had a baby. Snacks mean you can go shopping, do things that a toddler wouldn't normally put up with, go out... etc. My favourite at the moment are Kiddilicious' couldn't-be-more-middle-class Quinoa and Lentil super snacks - awkwardly these crisps really are my favourite, tiny man usually only gets half the pack. They do have a little salt in though, so are only for older babes. Piccolo's organic pouches, meanwhile, are the best for hands-free snacking: we love the cherry yogurt ones for dessert, and the banana blueberry ones are delicious on their own or use them to make really easy sugar-free fairy cakes for the tots. Dare I say it, but these are yummier, to my mind, than a certain baby pouch giant's versions...
* Some items were sent to Run Out of Womb for review - but rest assured we're seriously gobby and only rave about what we really love.