If there is one area of the kitchen that is the most difficult to keep organized, it’s all the plastic cups, plates, bowls, and silverware that belong to the littlest inhabitants in our homes. Kid dishes tend to accumulate over time, so once your kids are toddlers you are swimming in a sea of mismatched plastic.
The cupboard or drawer holding these items can get junky real quick.
But there is a way to fight disorganization and keep this cupboard in check. After 7+ years of motherhood, I feel like I’ve cracked the code on organizing kid dishes and it’s time to share my secrets.
Keep reading for my best tips (and hard-earned wisdom) for taming the plastic.
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Gather every single item on the counter and put like things together
You can’t organize something if you don’t know the full extent of the problem. Even though kid dishes are brightly colored plastic, they tend to end up everywhere: mixed with the adult glasses, hiding in the Tupperware, and thrown in with the silverware.
The most important step is to gather all of it and place it on the counter. Only now can you actually SEE what you have. From here you can group like things together.
Make some decisions
Now that you can see everything you own, it’s time to make some decisions about what to keep and what to toss. I always go group by group and pick out the items I know we like, use, and can easily wash. Everything else is donated.
Sometimes it helps to ask yourself probing questions to help identify which items you can let go of:
- Do you have 10 different sippy cup types from desperately searching for one your child will drink from? It’s time to pick the one or two styles they like and donate the rest.
- Are any of your plates scratched up, stained, or warped? Don’t feel bad placing those in the donate pile. Plastic is sensitive to heat and pressure and easily damaged. It’s OK to replace as needed.
- Do you have too many cups or water bottles? Consider reducing the number to something that will still satisfy your needs, but will also save space in your kitchen for other items.
We had over 8 water bottles for 2 kids. That seemed excessive to me so I decided to pare that down to the minimum that would work for our family. That worked out to 3 water bottles – one for each kid plus a spare.
Don’t be afraid to replace or adjust as kids age
Kids will outgrow items as they get older. At some point, baby spoons become rarely used as you reach for the larger toddler spoons. Sippy cups give way to real cups. It’s OK for your collection of dishes to change over time.
Consider packing up items that aren’t being used anymore to save for future kids. Sometimes creating space for items you currently use is better than holding space for items you don’t.
Select a low drawer or cupboard for organizing your kid’s dishes
While it may seem counterintuitive to put cups and plates in a drawer, this is one of the best hacks for organizing dinnerware for kids. Not only is it one of the few safe items in a kitchen (hello, it’s not breakable!) but it puts the items at their level.
It encourages independence when kids are able to grab a cup or bowl for themselves. As they get older they can help prepare snacks or set the table as a way to gain responsibility. We have started asking our 7 and 3-year-old to help unload the plastic items from the dishwasher and both are able to do this task.
Use smaller bins to divide the space
Plastic is light and easily knocks over or slides around. In order to keep the space organized, use smaller bins to divide up the drawer or cupboard.
I love love love IKEA and pick up a few of these Variera bins each time I go. I find so many uses for them, but in particular, they work well in my deep IKEA cabinet drawers.
I used two large and two small bins to divide my drawer into compartments for plates, water bottles, cups, bowls, and bibs. Each item has a home and the bins keep the items together so they don’t slide around.
I even use smaller flexible plastic organizers inside the larger bins to corral loose items like sippy cup lids, plastic silverware, and straws.
Even if you don’t have a deep drawer, the same concept can apply to cabinets. All kid items can go in a bin and then be placed on a shelf that is easily accessed.
Stack plates and cups vertically
If you need to maximize space in a small kitchen, vertical stacking can help. Just like with organizing baking pans and food storage containers, if you stack and flip vertically you can fit a lot more in a drawer.
Plates can be flipped on their side and stored in a smaller bin to keep them vertical. This is especially helpful if you have different types of plates, like divided and regular.
For sippy cups that can stack, like our Take n’ Toss cups, I like to separate the lids from the bases and store them in small dividers. This makes it easy to grab a cup and a lid and know they will work together.
Let’s take a look at this drawer in action:
Remember, you don’t have to put up with unorganized cabinets overflowing with plastic kid dishes. The trick is to minimize your collection to what you actually use and vertically organize what you keep.
This is guaranteed to bring a new sense of calm to something chaotic. And couldn’t we all use a bit of that in our lives?
Happy organizing, friends!