Food is fun. It is the perfect way for our little ones to explore so many different things. Taste, touch, smells and even help learn color. Introducing foods to a baby is always going to be messy, but we can deal with it using bibs and wet wipes. When we get to toddler meal times, things take a very different turn.
Toddlers are like little hurricanes. Their mind is usually set on something, and no matter what we do, they will not change it. At mealtime, if your toddler wants to build a chicken castle, talking them out of it is near impossible. Trying to get your toddler to actually eat their food is one thing, but trying to keep things clean is nearly impossible.
Luckily, there are a few ways you can work some cleanliness into meal time. While the photos might be cute, a toddler covered in pumpkin mash can be a nightmare.
Here are the best ways to keep your meal times (less) messy.
- Utilize the bib. If the bib fits, wear it. They make bibs for toddlers, and if your little one is quite a messy eater, there is no reason you shouldn’t use a bib. Don’t rely on the bib though, it is there to catch mess. Teach your toddler (while using the bib) about eating better and a little less messy.
- Placemats save a lot of cleaning. Get a cute placemat to put down for dinner time. Have your toddler choose it if it will help him sit down and eat more. With a placemat, you won’t be scrubbing the table and floor. Simply throw the placemat in the dishwasher and voila!
- Feed outside. If you just aren’t in the mood to scrape spaghetti off the ceiling, feed your kid outside. The grass will love the extra nutrients, and fresh air does nothing but good for the both of you.
- Keep cleaning. Rather keep on top of the cleaning as you go than leaving it all for when dinner is finished and you are exhausted. Once dinner is done, all cleaning will be done too and you can get on with other things.
- Cook mess-free food. Mash can be messy, so can sloppy joes. Opt for easier to eat food such as carrot sticks and chicken pieces. They can’t really be smooshed too much and are easy to clean up after.
- Don’t overfeed. Give your baby the amount of food they will eat. Dishing up too much means there is some extra food to play with once they are full, and also there is less of a chance of mess from spilling.
- If you know tonight is going to be particularly messy, keep the mop and cloth handy. This is just a phase and you might just have to deal with it as it happens.
- Reward clean eating. Clap after successful mouthfuls and cleaner eating sessions. The positive reinforcement will encourage your child to (hopefully) eat a little better and not play with food as much.
- Set examples. Show your little one how well you and daddy eat. The example might just encourage them to eat like a ‘big person’.
- Use toddler-friendly utensils. Using a dessert spoon to feed a tiny mouth is asking for disaster. Stock up on baby spoons and non-slip bowls. If your child is learning to feed themselves, non-slip bowls are a lifesaver. This cuts out a lot of the mess and allows your child to practice eating alone a lot more successfully.
Getting your child to eat with less mess can save you a lot of hassle and time. By encouraging good eating habits, you are teaching them proper manners and etiquette. At the same time, it is also a learning experience for them. Let them have fun if you have the time to supervise. Let them explore textures, tastes and smells. This all helps with their development and will hopefully grow their love of food.
Some children are just messier than others. Try and focus this messiness on painting or garden play instead. And if all else fails, let the dog or cat in to lick up the mess.