How you can embrace the messy eater and have some fun along the way
When kids get to the age of wanting to self-feed, it can be a messy process! As every parent knows, it can be a real struggle to deal with food everywhere, including across the high chair, on the floor and sometimes in your child’s hair! I am here to tell you to embrace that mess. That’s right – learn to deal with the mess in a way that allows your child to experiment with their food.
Letting them be messy
My children (and I’m tipping yours too) have gone through stages where they make a big mess with their food. More often than not, this is in the realm of the toddler, spreading their food around instead of eating it. There is no doubt that for those of us who like clean, this is a difficult time for a number of reasons. Firstly, we want them to be eating the food, not spreading it around and secondly, we are the ones who have to clean up the mess!
Having said that, there are also some very good reasons why we need to let our children be messy with food sometimes. For children, everything is a learning experience and food is no exception. Learning involves playing with and seeing what things feel like, smell like and of course taste like. It might be that one day they are squishing food in their hands to see what it feels like, the next day they may decide to try eating it. The point is, it’s a learning process and is no different to learning with toys, through experimentation.
To hide or not to hide
No, I don’t mean hiding from the mess, although this has occurred to me on more than one occasion! If you believe your kids won’t eat their vegetables, I would still encourage you to give them a go; you just never know when your child may decide to eat them, even if they have rejected them previously. If you put them on the plate, your child has the opportunity to see them, smell them and play with them.
I generally don’t hide the vegies in my kid’s food, as I want them to know what they’re eating. Broccoli for example is often not a vegetable that children will eat the first time they’re given it, but it’s a really interesting vegetable and has the added bonus of being shaped like a tree. Maybe the table discussion could be around the fact that it’s like a mini tree, rather than asking them to eat some. This will encourage them to look at it, and get used to it, and maybe one day try some.
Have a conversation
In those messy toddler years, we often say to our children (and I am guilty of this too), ‘Don’t play with your food’, however I think in a way this is counter-productive. Allocate some time for them to play with their food and experiment with different colours and flavours. It can be fun once you have made the decision not to get annoyed with the mess. During Summer this can be a fun thing to do outside and has the added bonus of the birds ‘cleaning up’ any food that gets left on the ground.
Create some moments with your kids around food and remember to talk to them about colours, shapes and smells. They will eat when it suits them and I’m pretty sure they won’t starve with healthy food around them.
Get in touch and let us know your strategies for allowing some messy eating – we would love to see some photos! Tag your messy kids on Instagram using the hashtag #LoveMyBabyBistro and we may even share your pics on our page.