I've written on this before, but can't find the old post--if I can't find it, odds are good that other readers can't find it either. So, I'm rewriting it with some new "stuff" thrown in.
Let me say up front that I use plastic because it's practically essential with a houseful of wee folk. However, I'm also a fan of moving them on to real dinnerware ASAP. With that in mind, my kids have been eating on "real" (china) plates since they were about a year old--sitting at the table with us. They most definitely have been using youth-sized METAL utensils. Have you ever successfully pierced a piece of anything except a soft potato with plastic forks? I rest my case.
Give you your ones every chance to succeed at the table with you:
1. Metal Utensils: you can find stainless steel utensils that are child-sized, even silver-plate! Department stores and places like TJMaxx, Ross, and Marshall's are good places to start. Put these items on your child's first birthday wish list. My grandmother has taken care of helping my kids start out on a civilized note. Pay attention to how deep the bowl is on the spoons you choose--the deeper, the better. These will be much easier to use in the long run than any plastic counterpart.
2. Real China Mugs: Kids love cups with handles. There are lots of small china mugs available; these are also good soup containers--little ones can pick up the mug and drink their soup when it's too thin for them to manage on a spoon. You can also find enameled mugs like those used for camping.
3. Real China Bowls/Plates: You probably already own a selection of small bread-and-butter plates with your regular dishes. If you have fruit bowls, even better. Both are these are perfect sizes for little children. Salad plates are another good idea.
If you don't have any of the above, check out your local import store; Asian stores, in particular, seem to have a large selection of dishes and cups in small sizes. It doesn't matter if the 3-sectioned little plate is supposed to hold dips and sauces. It will work perfectly for a snack tray for your child. Small rice bowls are perfect soup/cereal bowls.