Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Cookware >
Jul 9, 2012 08:29 PM

Family Dinnerware

I am searching for dinnerware that I can use for everyday use. I have a 3 year old in the house and want to get him involved in helping to set the table and clean up. I really want to avoid the plastic since it's known to leach into food. I also want to avoid anything heavy that he could drop and break (stoneware, earthenware). We've looked at the Corelle, but the quality is lacking in my opinion. The designs are stickered on and poorly done. I would consider white, but even then when you stack them together, they have a horrible nails on chalkboard rub against each other. So Correlle is out. Is there dinnerware that I could be comfortable putting into a kids hands that is lightweight, durable, microwave and dishwasher safe without spending too much?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I think the key point here is lightweight.

    You can get restaurant china that is pretty and durable - but it is heavy. (I know, I have Coors China in my house and I am THRILLED, but it is heavy.)

    Corelle is your best bet for light AND durable. And as you don't like the patterns - don't get them. Go for white.

    I can't think of any non-plastic china that is as light AND as durable. It is taken from the materials of the space shuttle, for goodness sake!

    As I mentioned, it is not what I have. But if I had kids (or seniors with arthritis) I would consider Corelle for my everyday.

    BTW. Onieda has their version of Fiestaware - well priced enough in sets, you might not mind breakage.

    2 Replies
    1. re: happybaker

      I like the Oneida dinnerware you linked to. Thank you for the advice!

      1. re: happybaker

        I am also looking for replacement dishes. We got Pfaltzcraf for our wedding and it looks TERRIBLE. The white parts of the plates and bowls all have silver marks on them, and several pieces have chipped.
        I have a few pieces of 20-30 yo Corelle, but as mentioned below I believe they've changed their manufacturing processes and I'm not happy with the appearance or apparent quality of their current lines. I'm going to check out the Oneida dinnerware, it's simple and nice looking. :)

      2. I'm going to chime in here as a mother of several (10, 8, 2 and 6 months) that corelle is NOT that durable. I had a nice set last year and they've broken several pieces and when they do, it SHATTERS. Those shards are sharp.
        Restaurant supply is the place to look!

        2 Replies
        1. re: emmekin

          I'll take a look at a restaurant supply company. Thank you!

          1. re: emmekin

            Same experience with Corelle; we use them everyday, and they are pretty resistant to breaking, but when they do break... wow! They break into a million sharp little pieces that are a nightmare to clean up.

          2. I agree with happybaker. I think your best bet actually is not earthware but glassware. Corelle dinnerware, although, looks like earthware but is really glassware. It is light weight, break-resistance, microwave safe...etc. And when they do break, they shattered into large and relatively un-sharp pieces (due to being tempered glass). I have indeed broken one or two cornelle diningware, and they are relatively un-sharp. I think people forget what really sharp is. I went to Canada for a conference, and I broke a crystal glass into pieces. My gosh. There were big pieces, very tiny pieces, and they were sharp as hell.

            If you really do not like Cornelle, then try Zenix.


            <We've looked at the Corelle, but the quality is lacking in my opinion>

            What do you mean by quality is lacking?

            3 Replies
            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              Yeah, I'm curious about that as well - I have 30+ year old Corelle ware that's been used every day, no chipping, no breakage, looks virtually brand new. I'm not sure just how much quality you want ...

              1. re: KitchenBarbarian

                Corelle may have changed their manufacturing process in recent years. People who have Corelle from 20+ years ago always say they love it, including my mother-in-law. So I'm not sure what happened.

                We bought some a few weeks ago and tried it out. Here's what I noticed about it:
                1) It's like they used many different molds to make the pieces and the molds don't match, so as you stack them, they don't fit inside each other correctly.
                2) The sticker designs look as if they were printed on a low quality pixelated printer then stickered on. In some places, there's a gap between the designs as it goes over the rim. In addition, some of the stickers colors "run." I wish I would have taken a photo, but didn't think about it.
                3) As you stack them, there is a very rough feeling between the pieces like there's sand rubbing against glass.

                I have no doubt to they're lightweight and durable, and would be perfect otherwise. I'd settle with all of it if it weren't for the scratching between them when they're stacked. Like I said above, it's like nails on a chalkboard to me and we had to return them.

              2. These aren't ceramic, they're melamine, but thought I'd mention them anyway. I am a huge fan of Dallas Ware ( - lightweight, but still quite substantial. Even my husband, who has managed to chip several pieces of pyrex hasn't been able to do any damage to them. The only issue I have with them is that they can get a little warm in the microwave - but the pieces I have are pretty old (possibly from the 60s or 50s), and the new ones might not have this issue.

                5 Replies
                1. re: LVLisa

                  You can't microwave melamine....

                  1. re: Astur

                    Well you can....

                    The results are just not pretty!

                    1. re: happybaker

                      I almost responded the same way. I used to tell people that "Of course, you can eat poison food.... You simply may not like the result"

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        : )

                        I'll never forget going to a neighbors and she handed me what looked like a shard of brittle foam. It was a piece of melamine she'd accidentally put in the microwave.

                        1. re: happybaker

                          Well I guess that explains why they get warm...never done any damage though.

                2. Jace, the last sentence of your original post (OP) is the killer. Everything you're asking depends entirely on whether you want to consider short term or long term. Short term thinking can often be the most expensive way to choose "family dinnerware" (I like that term) simply because it very often means patterns and brands of dinnerware that are not "open stock." In other words, if you break a cup or a saucer or a cereal bowl, can you buy just one of what you broke WITHOUT resorting to It's a very expensive way to go if you end up eventually having to replace an entire set of dishes because you can't replace the broken pieces. Something to think about.

                  As for your three year old, if s/he is like most three year olds, they are quite flexible and learn to live (gracefully is a real possibility here) with whatever is their family's norm. My kids are now in their early-ish forties, but they learned to eat on the same "fine china" pattern I eat off of today.

                  And I'm going to segue into a little philosophical discussion of child rearing here, so bear with me. I have a lifetime interest in psychology, and my youngest was born when I was 34, and fresh from a career in psychiatry, where I was an occupational therapist. So when my kids, who are only 11 months apart, were reaching the experimental stage of feeding themselves, I looked around and realized that (imo) many parents and manufacturers of "things for babies" were making life MUCH more difficult for little bitty humans to learn to live with gravity! "Sippy Cups" are evil, because they teach infants and toddlers that THEIR drink can't spill. I let my kids learn to drink from a glass as soon as they were ready to give up the bottle. And they learned to hold a glass made out of glass with two hands, keep it level so it didn't spill, and sip from the edge. Yes. There were a few times -- well, actually only one time each -- when they tried to tip the glass faster than they could drink and ended up nearly drowning themselves, but when they were through sputtering, they had learned something, we shared a good laugh together, and they never did that again!

                  I bought my "everyday" china when my son was one month old, and while I have replaced some of the broken pieces through the years, many of the pieces I eat breakfast or lunch off of are the same dishes my forty three year old son ate his breakfast from when he was a toddler. Neither child ever had a plastic cup or bowl or plate because it was "child proof." But they both had near-vertical learning curves, and I don't think more than one or two pieces of china were broken when they were toddlers, and those may or may not have been their fault.

                  However, there was some major breakage when my son and step son were ages six and five, respectively. One day realized that suddenly my count of cereal bowls had dropped from twelve to four in very short order! None of the 4 kids could account for the short fall. The next morning the boys were in the kitchen nuking their own instant oatmeal when there was a sudden eruption of gleeful laughs and a crowing, "I won! I won!" When I went to see who had won what, I discovered two porcelain cereal bowls cracked in half from the thermal shock of having instant oatmeal boiled in them in the microwave, then having ice cold milk poured into the bowl. They both LOVED oatmeal, but they had to go without it for two weeks, and were required to promise not to pour ice cold milk into the bowls, but to either nuke the milk in a measuring cup OR allow the cereal AND bowl to cool before adding milk. I never bothered replacing the cereal bowls, even though they are still available to this day. Having just four bowls for four kids somehow seemed to help as a conservation program.

                  So basically, what I am saying is that "catering" to toddlers by presenting them with sippy cups and plastic bowls and unspillable dishes is really only postponing the inevitability of the child having to eventually learn to live with gravity and the absolute that a glass full of water will spill if not kept level or that china and glass will break. When you consider the long history of mankind, it appears that children may well be meant to learn these things at the earliest possible age.

                  So now, to my point. You might want to consider open stock fine china because it can prove to be cheaper in the long run, and your three year old is quite capable of learning to live with what you like and want to live with. Have fun...!

                  And if you're curious about what china pattern I chose when my now forty something year old son was only a month old and still an "only" child, you can see it here:
                  As you will see, after 61 years they have discontinued the pattern, BUT many of us are hopeful that demand will encourage them to retool and start offering it again.
                  These are things for you to think about.... Good luck!

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: Caroline1

                    I really want to thank you for this perspective! Extremely intriguing!

                      1. re: Caroline1

                        You''re both very welcome! Remember, ALWAYS watch out for the guys trying to sell you something. Even when it's Sippy Cups! And plastic baby dishes. '-)

                        1. re: Caroline1

                          I'm with Caroline on this one. "Lightweight" isn't needed; your child will simply learn to handle one plate at a time, rather than a stack. I started helping out in the kitchen from a young age...and I broke my first plate at 31. As a child, I didn't work as fast as my mother, or as neat...but I got the job done.

                          Plain white bone china is on the lightweight side, is oven, microwave, and DW safe, and very strong.

                          The moral of MY story is, things break in a kitchen, and in my experience, it isn't related to the person's age. Sigh. After all, it was my mother who broke a crystal glass. Dad who dropped a bowl. And child ever dropped anything. Maybe we were just more careful. :)

                          1. re: E_M

                            I'll share an amusing story about my daughter learning to live with gravity. When she was somewhere between 1 and 2, she decided she wanted to take her milk and cookies to the table all by herself. So I would hand her her half-full glass of milk and 3 vanilla wafers, which just barely fit in her hands. But the rounded surface of vanilla wafers and their flat bottoms meant that it was really easy for one cookie to leap for the floor when being carried by tiny hands. So for about three days straight she would head from the kitchen counter to the breakfast area table with three cookies in one hand and the milk in the other. And three days in a row, half way there one of the cookies escaped. So she put the glass of milk against her body and held it in place with the arm of the cookie holding hand, then bent over to pick up the dropped cookie with the now-empty hand. AND THE MILK POURED ONTO THE FLOOR! She did not cry, but looked around to see why the milk spilled, looked at me, then put the empty glass and the two cookies on the table, retrieved the third, then got the dish towel and began wiping up the floor. I didn't interfere because she was learning! On the third day when she inevitably dropped the cookie, THIS TIME she put the glass of milk and the two remaining cookies on the table BEFORE she retrieved the dropped cookie. It's instinctive for parents to rush to the rescue, but sometimes that's denying a child a chance to learn. Eventually...! '-)

                            Oh, and yes... We observed the three second rule in our house. Most of the time anyway.