Expect the Worst
If you expect and prepare for it, you will be less frustrated and upset. Much of the behavior represents a normal developmental stage. Part of the process of experiencing and experimenting with different textures and tastes involves squashing them, wiping them all over the table, chewing them, wiping them all over the tables, chewing them and spitting them out. When toddlers first learn to feed themselves using utensils, it is a hit-and-miss situation. Favorite foods, such as watermelon and spaghetti sauce, inevitably leave their mark. Invest in a good stain remover.
Keep Mealtime Short
Get all the food ready before your toddler is seated, and make sure he is hungry when you put him into his seat. Take the food away when he is done eating.
Plate Smaller Portions
If he tends to throw food on the floor, try putting small amounts in front of him at a time. Avoid getting into the game where you are retrieving everything he is throwing on the floor. He is going to get more fun out of it than you are. Save cleanup for after the meal.
Use Special Equipment
Sectioned plats with suction cups at the bottom can stick to your tabletop and won't be easily overturned. Sippy cups and developmentally appropriate stubby utensils or dippers make less mess. Try using a bib that has a reservoir at the bottom to catch stray food. Whatever ends up in there is that much less to clean off the chair or floor after a meal.
Serve Neater Food
Thicker-textured foods, such as oatmeal and applesauce, are less likely to fall off the spoon. Finger foods will work well too.
Let your toddler hold one set of utensils. While he feeds himself, you can feed him with another set.
Mess Proof Her Dining Area
Make sure the area is mess-friendly. You may need to move the high chair or booster seat to a place where the floor Is easy to clean or spread out a garbage bag below to catch the droppings. Keep the vacuum cleaner close by.
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Instead of getting frustrated and angry, try, if possible, to model what you would like him to say; for example, "All done" or "No thank you, Mommy."
Learn More About the Book
What parents are often not prepared for are the behavioral changes that occur as their child enters the second year of life, and seemingly overnight becomes an opinionated, independent little personality who seems bent on testing their endurance on a daily basis.
That's when they will most need The Toddler Care Book by Dr. Jeremy Friedman. Written with pediatric colleagues from the renowned Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, this book is a thorough reference that provides age-appropriate strategies for dealing with the challenges parents face during the first five years. Designed to be user-friendly, it is chock full of practical information, easy-to-read charts, and helpful sidebars, enriched by more than 250 full-color photographs and illustrations.
Dr. Jeremy Friedman, MB.ChB, FRCP(C), FAAP, is the chief of pediatric medicine at the Hospital for Sick Children and an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Toronto.
Copyright © 2009 Meredith Corporation.