Enabling Environments: Tried and Tested - Eat and drink

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Childcarers put chairs and baby and toddler feeding equipment to the test for Nicole Weinstein.

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A high standard of feeding equipment is essential in all childcare settings. Not only should tableware and seating be safe and age-appropriate, it should also be practical for staff to clean and store. Babies and toddlers benefit from cups and cutlery that enable them to grasp the skills to feed themselves, thereby developing co-ordination, dexterity and self-esteem. When bottle-feeding, chairs that provide comfort for the staff will result in pleasurable feeding routines all round.

NURSERY HIGH-LOW CHAIR

NES ARNOLD

AGE: 0-2

PRICE: £99.95

CONTACT: 0845 1204525, www.nesarnold.co.uk

Manufactured from lacquered birch plywood incorporating a plastic tray and safety harness. Seat height: 290mm.

Tested by Mayfield Kindergarten, Ilfracombe, Devon

'This is an easy-to-clean, secure chair, which looks good in the nursery. The main positive is that the children felt part of the group, as they were at the same level as others during mealtimes. The staff were able to sit on the chair on the floor and have good eye contact with children while feeding them. However, we had to leave the chair up, as it does not fold and stay folded. The tray lifts but does not go right over the back of the chair. The only way to keep it folded is to wedge it into a gap. This is very difficult, as the chair is sturdy and has large wooden legs and a solid wooden seat. We would consider buying it. It's good value for money, as it is made of wood and will last a long time.'

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DOIDY CUP 

BICKIEPEGS

AGE: 6 MONTHS PLUS

PRICE: £3.70

CONTACT: 01224 790626, www.bickiepegs.co.uk/acatalog/index.html

This cup, which has a unique slant, has been designed to teach children to drink from a rim. Babies as young as six months find the two-handled cup easy to hold and use, while with adult help it can be used from birth.

Tested by Kids Allowed, Manchester

'We used the cups at mealtimes only because the babies needed support to hold them and could not be left unsupervised. The children loved looking inside the cup and watching the milk move. We currently use Tommee Tippee cups as they are easy for the children to pick up and drink from independently. The Doidy Cup was good for the babies who are moving up to our 'Woddlers' class, aged 20 months, supporting them with their self-feeding. They gained a sense of achievement when they drank from the open cup. They were also great for the babies, as they gave them an understanding of how much milk they drink, with adult support. The cups are good value for money and we would definitely consider buying them.'

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ADULT ARMCHAIR WITH ARMRESTS 

WESCO

PRICE: £149.50

CONTACT: 0115 9899765

Designed for bottle feeding, this chair is made from high-density memory foam with vinyl cover and it can be combined with the range to create larger seating arrangements. Height 40cm.

Tested by Dulverton Children's Centre, Somerset

'Initially, the staff were not keen on the look of the chair; the seating position looks like you're going to sit in a bucket. But they quickly became impressed. It's very comfortable to sit in and easy to move, as it is weightless. Babies seemed to take the bottles quicker and looked happier when being fed due to the adult feeling more comfortable. The armrest is in the correct position. We would definitely consider buying it. We have been unable to find anything that is practical, durable, and easy to clean and suits the purpose of feeding babies; this meets all our needs. It is good value for money because you could comfortably sit two adults on the chair to feed at the same time. It is good for your posture and we think it will help relieve backache. The only comment is that it lacked a place to put a bottle while winding.'

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GRACO DUO DINER HIGHCHAIR IN BELLEVILLE 

BABIES 'R' US

AGE: 6 MONTHS PLUS

PRICE: £129.99

CONTACT: 0800 1387777, www.babiesrus.co.uk

A 2-in-1 highchair and booster seat with height and recline adjustment, infant body support for smaller babies and a removable tray.

Tested by Sally Clarkson, childminder, Basingstoke

'At first glance, it seems to be the answer to many childminders' needs as a highchair. The main selling feature is that the seat comes off the legs and can be attached to a standard dining room chair using belted clips. The clips are cleverly stored under the chair, and I managed to connect and disconnect the booster section easily, and reposition it back on the legs without any effort. The chair has a detachable tray, with an additional tray that is dishwasher-safe for easy cleaning. My only complaint is storage. The chair comes with an easy-fold capability but once folded, due to the top-heavy design, it is incredibly unstable. I have managed to get it to lean against a wall for storage but it is not freestanding. The legs, once separated from the chair, are equally unstable when folded, and need to be stored on their side or in a cupboard. For this alone, I would wait until Graco irons out the storage issues before I bought a version.'

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STEADY-CO CLASS PACK 

HOPE EDUCATION

AGE: 12 MONTHS +

PRICE: £89.95 SET OF 8

CONTACT: 08451 202224, www.hope-education.co.uk 

A set of tableware consisting of booster cup and lid, booster snack pot and lid, booster bowl, booster snack plate, booster plate and booster cutlery set. Four colours. All microwave, dishwasher and freezer proof.

Tested by Giant Steps Horden, Peterlee, Co Durham

'The dinner set was easy for the children to use and manipulate. It was a relevant size to ensure that the children received appropriate portions. The snack pots and cups in particular were the most beneficial product. The lids ensured the food items remained covered, with high levels of hygiene. Older children found the cups easier to manipulate than a two-handled cup. The plates and cutlery were a little more difficult to handle. Our regular cutlery is shorter; the longer length and wider scoop of the spoons were more difficult for the children to grasp. Although the older children adapted well to the large plates, the less able children showed a preference for our regular plates. Some practitioners felt the cutlery was too big for the age and stage of the children they are aimed at. For the older age ranges - two to three years - the set is good value for money. For the younger age, I think the snack pots and cups are excellent value for money. I would feel confident using these products alongside our existing feeding equipment, but do not have the space to store the entire set.'

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GREEN TOYS FEEDING RANGE 

LEARNING RESOURCES

AGE: 6 MONTHS PLUS

PRICE: Range from £5.50 for 8 spoons to £6.50 for 4 plates

CONTACT: 0845 2410484, www.learning-resources.co.uk

An eco-friendly feeding range, made from recycled milk jugs. Spoons measure 10cm, bowls 10.5cm, and the plates 15cm.

Tested by Red Hen Day Nursery, Lincolnshire

'The spoons and forks looked very much like something for the role-play area. They were too small for the practitioners to feed the weaning babies. Given a choice, the younger toddlers preferred to use the more traditional spoons and forks that we already had. However, despite our initial doubts, when they were given the new spoons they found them easy to hold. There was no differentiation between the use of the spoons and forks. Everyone loved the bowls but the plates were not popular with practitioners, as they were very flat. All the equipment was used at breakfast, lunch and tea. The packaging was well-designed and we liked the fact that it was fully recyclable. Considering the points about role play, I would not choose to buy these. It's a great eco idea, but we felt the product needs designing further to better suit the needs of a wider age range of toddlers.'

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BEST BUY                                          

For Ann Ross, childminder, Kent

'Wonder Bib is an excellent range of bibs made from super-absorbent velour towelling. I usually use a clean bib at each mealtime, but I'm able to use the Wonder Bib all day. They come in vibrant colours, in multipacks and they wash up like new - even the Velcro. They can also be tumble dried even though they have a nylon water-resistant backing. They are thicker than normal bibs and there is a bandana style bib for teething babies. I've found that foods like curry and bolognaise, that would normally stain another bib, easily clean off.' Prices range from £3 to £7.50. Visit www.babyandmore.co.uk or call 0844 824 6685.

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