When kids are learning to feed themselves, things are going to inevitably get messy. It’s good to know that it is totally natural for that to happen, as they begin to learn to use their hands and fingers before moving on to cutlery. Once their muscular strength and coordination improves, so will their ability to get the food in their mouths, instead on around their mouths!
Why messy eating is normal
Getting good at something takes time. When beginning to do anything, your first attempts are going to be inaccurate and ‘messy’. But with time, practice and a development of coordination, the ability for children to guide cutlery to their mouths will get better and better.
Going from grabbing food with their hands to using a fork and knife is a big journey, so don’t expect smooth sailing and transitions, things are going to get messy!
Messy eating and playing with food
Kids love to play with their food, and this is actually one of the great ways that children learn to develop their motor skills. It’s also great, as the messy exploration of the shapes, colors and textures of foods helps the kids learn more about the culinary world they live in. Not only about the culinary world, but the world in general. Such as…
- Dropping things makes them fall down.
- Throwing things makes them fly through the air.
- Putting yogurt in your ear feels weird.
- Peas are round and squishy.
- Sticking a sandwich in a drink makes Mum upset! // raisingchildren.net.au
What you can do about messy eating
Even though things will get messy, with food being squished, thrown and spilled, there are some positive steps you can take to help cut down on the cleanup later.
Cut food into strips or fingers, letting your kids use their hands as opposed to cutlery early on.
When your child is old enough, have them participate in setting up the table for dinner. They’ll be less inclined to make a mess if they are involved in the set up.
Sitting together and sharing mealtimes with your child gives you the opportunity to set a positive example. Be patient though, it will take time.
Offer your kids the same meals as what mum and dad are having, but in smaller pieces, mashed, or served in small portions. So if it does all end up off the table and on the floor, there should be less to clean up!