I spent two days at the Calgary Baby & Tot show this fall, stationed at my local natural parenting store’s kiosk. It was a slow year, and the effects of Alberta’s economic downturn were obvious to the exhibitors. Yet one sucky brand was flying off the shelves: ezpz. Don’t get me wrong—I mean sucky in the best sense of the word. These colourful silicone dishes are designed to suction to the table or high chair tray, promising a solution to overturned bowls and plates-turned-Frisbees. In case you’re not familiar with ezpz’s lineup of dishes, it includes the three-sectioned Happy Mat, the Mini Mat—which is a smaller, portable version of the Happy Mat—and the Happy Bowl.
These dishes are promoted as an all-in-one feeding solution: a combined placemat and plate to capture “most of your kid’s mess.” Other selling points include being “dishwasher, microwave and oven safe, easy to clean with warm soapy water (silicone doesn’t support the growth of fungus, mold or bacteria), easy to store (place in utensil drawer or cabinet) [and] built to last (silicone is bendable and flexible and doesn’t fade, corrode or deteriorate).”When my mother-in-law sent money to buy the kids their Christmas gifts, I decided to get a Mini Mat for Little Miss Cub. If you give her a regular dish, she knocks it over or picks it up, often nonchalantly tossing it over the side of her high chair tray. Serving her meal directly on her high chair tray is a perfectly decent alternative unless I’m serving yogurt or soup or cereal. A dish that stays suctioned to her tray seemed like the ideal solution, since she really really likes to feed herself. (And I much prefer her learning to feed herself over spoon-feeding her!)
When I first placed the Mini Mat on our kitchen table to test it out, I was impressed with how firmly it held in place when I tugged at rim of the feeding section. The mat doesn’t budge if you grip the edges of the dish and pull up. To release the mat, you just peel the corners of the mat to release the seal. NEAT! I eagerly served Little Miss some yogurt.Thirty seconds later, she had figured out how to peel the edges of the mat up and had her Mini Mat proudly in her hands above her head. NOT NEAT.
At first I wondered if I was doing something wrong … but alas, unless it never occurs to your child to peel at the edges of the mat and they only ever tug upwards on the rim of the dish, they will be able to pick up their ezpz mat and do whatever they want with it.
So that’s why it sucks, figuratively: I thought it would allow me to run to the bathroom while Little Miss is enjoying some yogurt without returning to question if the five-second rule applies to semi-solids. It will not stop your child from dropping, throwing or wearing their meal if they want to. But as long as what Little Miss wants to do with her mat is eat off it, it’s actually really useful. So this is why I love it: she wants to use cutlery, but when she tries to use a spoon in a regular bowl or plate, the bowl or plate moves around as she is trying to move her utensil. Because the Mini Mat stays firmly in place as she navigates with her spoon, she’s able to get yogurt onto her spoon and then concentrate on the critical spoon-to-mouth component of food consumption rather than becoming frustrated with chasing a bowl from side to side on her tray. However, just like any dish I place in front of her, I need to move quickly once she’s decided she’s done. The suction gives me an extra split-second to react to her decision to pick up and toss her dish … so I suppose it doesn’t completely suck that it doesn’t perfectly suck?
Now that we have a Guzzie & Guss Banquet High Chair that allows her to sit right at the dinner table, Little Miss gets all her meals in her Mini Mat. We almost never eat out (unless you count Drive-Thru), but if we were going to a restaurant for a meal, I’d definitely pack the Mini Mat for her to use at the table.
Despite my initial disappointment with our Mini Mat, I actually bought a second ezpz product for my son. Cub is four, so this might seem kind of old for an ezpz mat. If his little sister figured out how to peel it off her tray, I didn’t expect him to be fooled either. Thankfully, I’m not trying to prevent my preschooler from picking up and tossing his bowl of cereal. I’m trying to avoid him accidentally knocking it over. The kid is just like me: all flailing arms and misplaced elbows and zero sense of where objects are in relation to his appendages. He’s also working on his independence. We’ve got a new routine set up for him to get his own breakfast in the morning while I’m still in bed with his sister. Every night we leave an old breastmilk bottle in the fridge filled with enough (cow’s) milk for his cereal. There’s a little container with one portion of cereal in the pantry, and his ezpz Happy Bowl is either in the dishrack or on the counter waiting for him to find it. (I learned the hard way that he does not appreciate us leaving the bowl out and ready for him at his spot at the kitchen table … he MUST put it there himself.) There’s no chance of him knocking his Happy Bowl off the table or accidentally nudging it out of the way as he pours out his own milk and cereal in the morning.Now, arguably the best part of cereal in the morning is slurping up the milk that’s left at the bottom of your bowl. This is really not an option with the Happy Bowl, but Cub and I have come up with a simple solution. When he grabs his cereal spoon from the cutlery drawer, he also grabs on of our stainless steel drinking straws. He uses the straw to slurp up the milk from the bottom of his Happy Bowl! And since, as already established, the mat is not truly childproof, when he’s done he can peel it off the table to bring it to the sink. (We’re still working on this step … most of the time when I come down, the bowl and cutlery and containers are still on the kitchen table.)Overall I find our two ezpz mats live up to most of the hype. My toddler doesn’t throw her plate or “drop” it unless she’s done eating or doesn’t want to eat (we’re working on a better way to communicate that …), so the fact that she can peel up the mat isn’t a deal breaker. I think some parents will buy this in hopes that their child will not be able to unstick the mat at all … and perhaps this would be true of a six-month-old, but really, any toddler will figure out how to peel it up within seconds.Compared to our divided feeding dishes and bowls made of melamine or plastic, I much prefer the Mini Mat and Happy Bowl. They are definitely more durable and are not going to crack or shatter when dropped. They’re also much easier to clean: there are no little nooks and crannies for food (or mold) to hide. I know my husband doesn’t like how they fit into our cupboards … mainly because they don’t. If the only dishes you own are ezpz then sure, you can stack them up in a drawer or cupboard. But if you’re like us and have a mishmash of different kiddie dishes, then you’ll just have to settle for flopping them in where you can.It’s not often that I write a review for items I didn’t specifically receive for review purposes, but there’s been a lot of curiosity about these mats. The main thing to know is that YES, your kid will be able to peel their mat off their tray or table. However, if the issue is accidental spills rather than intentional ones, then this doesn’t matter. Since they’re so easy to clean, we just use the same ones for every meal. The Happy Bowl is $24.99, the Mini Mat is $27.99 and the Happy Mat is $29.99. I’m waiting for a sale before I add a couple more to our cupboard! They’re pricey, but if they’re the only feeding dishes you buy until your kids graduate to grown up plates and bowls, it’s not so bad. Once they no longer use them for eating, ezpz mats are awesome for crafting!
These mats will NOT prevent 99.9% of children from throwing their plate if that’s what they feel like doing. They will, however, prevent accidental spills and help children learn to use their cutlery. Little Miss enjoys feeding herself soups and yogurts in her Mini Mat, and Cub is able to serve himself his morning cereal thanks to his Happy Bowl.