Young children's cutlery

rootbeer277 says re toast soldiers: What's a "spoon and pusher"? Google reveals an oddly shaped pair of utensils shaped like a spoon with a funny handle and something like a solid rake.

That, dear rootbeer, is exactly what they are. The thing is, that along with those little "sippy cups", and bowls that can be stuck to the table, a spoon and pusher are designed to ease the transition to "grown-up" eating. Most kids are going to struggle with the concept of using regular cutlery in the form of knives and forks, but can emulate a grown-up method using these tools. Moving from the "pushing food up your nose with your fingers" to eating with sharp knives and forks can be tricky. The key word here is sharp - kids can and do miss their mouths and stab themselves - it's not for nothing that we call it cutlery. (Although you may know it better as flatware, or silverware if you're posh enough.)

This all came up as a result of a piece of nostalgia writing I did a while ago - I have clear memories of my sister using them (and also Bunnykins dishes) as she was growing up in the late 1960s, and I can still see them in the drawer, serviceable, if somewhat tarnished.. We were a posh household, ours were silver (although possibly not Sterling silver, they may have been silver plate).

They were generally designed with easy-to-grasp handles, either chunky enough for a tot's chubby fingers to grasp, or with loops that the little tyke could wrap its little fist around. The spoon was just that - a spoon. Perhaps it would be slightly longer in the bowl than is usual, and may also have been turned slightly, so the little nipper could get the correct angle of approach more easily. But the pusher? That's the "solid rake" that dear rootbeer saw in the pictures he'd located. And as its name suggests, it was used to push food onto the spoon, thence to the kiddie's open gob.

Good table manners were the thing in my childhood. After all, were children to be "seen, not heard"? Even if a child was fed in the nursery (really!) or the kitchen, messy eating was strongly discouraged. Take this extract from Emily Post's Etiquette from 1922, in which she discusses the training of children:

Since a very little child can not hold a spoon properly, and as neatness is the first requisite in table-manners, it should be allowed to hold its spoon as it might take hold of a bar in front of it, back of the hand up, thumb closed over fist. The pusher (a small flat piece of silver at right angles to a handle) is held in the same way, in the left hand. Also in the first eating lessons, a baby must be allowed to put a spoon in its mouth, pointed end foremost. Its first lessons must be to take small mouthfuls, to eat very slowly, to spill nothing, to keep the mouth shut while chewing and not smear its face over.

Born with a silver spoon in the mouth

I was once a small boy. Really, I was. I must have used a spoon and pusher at some time, but was too young to remember. But I digress. I remember meandering through a department store in Nottingham and being astonished at a particularly shiny display of silverware dedicated to christening gifts. Apostle spoons and spoon-and-pusher sets predominated, along with silver cups and teddybear trinkets.

They were a popular gift item, not just as practical gifts but as heirloom investments. A lucky child would have several silver gifts from parents, godparents and interested family, up to and including soild silver platters, gift sets consisting in "My First Curl" and "My First Tooth" memory boxes, and assorted items of tableware. Gah. I digress again. Another more recent shopping trip (to antique shops this time) turned up a dozen spoons and pusher sets, mostly silver (with some plate). From the hallmarks, they seem to have reached the peak of fashion in the 1930s - the earliest I have seen were Victorian, heavily patterned and certainly more admired by the adults than the children.

Nowadays they are harder to find. Neither Tommee Tippee nor Mothercare list them on their websites, and I rarely see them in the shops. Those I have seen are brightly coloured, plastic, disposable and hideous (if possibly easier to sterilise in the dishwasher, if you're germophobic). Be hesitant where you ask for them though - one of my colleagues assumed I was talking about drugs. "Pushers for kids?", was his astonished retort, "needles and spoons...?"

Oh, for those simpler days.

<Rancid_Pickle> I hate to say it, wertperch, but the first thing I thought of was some drug reference. Does make me sad, in a way.

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