The traditional aluminum mess kit is not as practical as it looks. Every summer, some parents add an old-fashioned “clam shell” mess kit to their kids' gear before shipping them off to summer camp. And every year campers burn their hands on hot metal plates, lose screws or handles and end up eating on paper plates. Unless you find a metal mess kit fun to use because of the nostalgia factor, you can build a more practical one from items found around the house or at a discount store.
Search the toy box for a Frisbee, which makes an excellent "mess kit" plate. Frisbees are the right size for a dinner plate and have a raised edge to keep saucy foods from spilling. If you're recycling a Frisbee that has been played with, give it a good washing before use. Or, buy one new. As a bonus, a Frisbee can be cleaned up after dinner and played with -- just don't lose your plate in a tree.
Search a local dollar or discount store to find an inexpensive, unbreakable bowl and cup to add to the mess kit. The ideal bowl would be large enough for a serving of cold cereal or a salad. Select a plastic mug if the camper might drink hot beverages, such as coffee or hot chocolate.
Find durable plastic picnic utensils to stand in for the standard interlocking mess kit utensils. Choose heavyweight plastic utensils rather than cheap, flimsy utensils. You can wash or reuse these during the camping trip and discard them after the last meal.
Purchase -- or repurpose -- a small mesh laundry bag to hold the mess kit parts. You can find these types of mesh bags in the laundry section of a discount store. They are sized to hold single, fine washable garments. Laundry bags are handy for storing mess kits; after you wash the kit at camp, you can place the parts in the bag and hang the bag on a line to dry, avoiding the need to hand-dry or waste towels.
Sporting goods stores and camping departments sell a multi-use plastic "spork" with a serrated edge that can be used for camping. This practical item can serve as a fork, spoon and knife.
Don't camp with regular ceramic or breakable dishes -- camp gear should be durable and lightweight.