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The table was set. The food was ready. Drinks were chilling. Friends started arriving for my daughter’s birthday tea party. Everyone was excited and ready to celebrate.
One young lady walked into the dining room and just stared. She saw my best china at every place setting with cloth napkins, silverware, and crystal glasses. She came over to where I was finishing food preparations in the kitchen and said with awe in her voice, “Wow! You’re brave!” She just couldn’t believe that I had set out my best dishes for this group of eight to twelve-year-olds to use.
I wouldn’t think of doing anything else. I decided long ago that things are just that…things. I prefer to use and enjoy what we have rather than look at it in a cabinet or wait until my children are “old enough.”
We have used china on special occasions and several times a month since my girls were about six years old. Now we use china daily. It makes our meal time special and communicates that I trust my children. It also sets a higher standard and they rise to the occasion.
Why We Use China
China to a child, especially a young girl, is like an item in a locked cabinet. She longs for the day she can hold the key to that cabinet and unlock it. My daughters are delighted when they ask to set the table with china dishes and I say, “Yes!”
Here are some of the reasons we use china.
- China is just a possession. Granted, I don’t use heirloom china with young children, but my china can be replaced.
- Using china communicates to my children that I trust them and think they are important.
- We actually have fewer spills with non-plastic dishes and glasses. Generally, they are heavier and less prone to tipping.
- Using ceramic dishes is a great way to teach table manners and the importance of the dining experience.
- Children feel grown-up when they are allowed to use fragile dishes. My experience has been that when they feel grown-up, they usually act more grown-up.
How To Use China With Children
Making the switch to china, especially with a younger child, does require a little training. Here are a few tips I used when transitioning my children to using ceramic dishes.
- Teach proper table manners early. When a child is old enough to use a fork and spoon with ease, they should learn that it is not appropriate to throw dishes.
- Switch to glass cups as soon as your child is able to do so safely. Generally, this is once they are capable of drinking from a non-sippy cup without assistance and setting it back down without spilling. They also need to understand that glass is breakable.
- Introduce ceramic dishes and glasses by teaching your child how to handle it differently including not biting on the glass, setting plates and glasses down gently, and keeping cups at the top of the place setting so they are less likely to be knocked over.
- Don’t use heirloom pieces. This should be an enjoyable experience for you and your child. Don’t add stress by using china you would be distraught over breaking. A good place to begin is an inexpensive set of ceramic dishes that can easily be replaced.
Even if you decide not to use china for dinner tonight, how could you make your dining experience special so you can deepen your relationships and make the most of your time together? Don’t make it complicated. Heaven knows we don’t need one more thing on our to-do list! You could place a vase of flowers or scented candle in the middle of the table. Or you could play some classical music in the background. If the weather is nice, you could have a picnic on a blanket in the yard (obviously not on china dishes).