Dealing with Messy EatersFebruary 12, 2020
As children learn about food, taste, texture, eating, and table manners, they will often create a mess along the way. Read below for tips on how to deal with messy eaters and encourage good habits.
1. Expect Mess with Toddlers
Playing with food is how toddlers explore the world of food and eating. To understand how food feels and tastes, they will often throw it, squash it, smear it over themselves, chew it and spit it out… the possibilities are endless! When they are first starting to feed themselves, kids also have to learn how to use and hold their utensils. Their motor skills are still developing, so expect a mess.
2. Model Behavior
Teach your child the phrases, words, or hand signs you would like them to use. These could include “All done”, “More please”, “No thank you”, or anything else your family uses. Encourage these phrases by using them yourself and praising the child every time they repeat it.
3. Stay Calm
Especially once children are no longer toddlers, it can be frustrating when they make a mess with their food. But try to stay calm, instead of growing agitated or angry. Don’t engage in a game where your child throws food on the floor and you repeatedly pick it up and put it back on the plate. If they receive lots of attention for the behavior, even if it’s negative attention, they will be inclined to repeat it.
4. Explain Why
Older children can understand some reasoning and consequences. Even though your child might not be sympathetic that you have to clean up after him, he might understand “If you drop food on the floor, we will get bugs in the kitchen”.
For more tips on family meals, click here.