"Meals are always so messy!"
"It's almost as if he's taunting me," says Stacy Kelley, of Hailey, Idaho, about her son, Whit, 2. "He'll hold up a piece of food, then watch my expression as he drops it on the floor." Another common trick: spilling his milk and running his fingers through the puddles.
Why he does it: At this age, your child spends every waking moment exploring and experimenting -- mealtime included. He's dying to know what will happen when he squishes his peas and how long it will take a meatball to fall to the floor. "Children learn by using all their senses," says Faull. "They're fascinated by how food feels, not just how it tastes."
How to deal: Don't punish your child over every thrown, dropped, or squashed bit of food. "If you play the enforcer all the time, he'll end up dreading mealtime," says Faull. Instead, set a good example. And since kids tend to play with their food when they're bored, provide distractions. "A toddler typically finishes eating in only five to 10 minutes," says Faull. If you want him to stay at the table longer than that, let him play with a toy.