Photo Courtesy of flickr user Cavale
If your baby is in the infant stage and has yet to eat solids, enjoy it. If you day dream about blissful meals where you delicately feed your toddler all sorts of treats, while he accepts every bite of food and keeps all of his food in his mouth, well, all I have to say is...Enjoy that day dream, because the reality of feeding a toddler is quite different.
Don't get me wrong. I love to feed Nate. Watching his facial expressions as he tries out a new food is priceless. And there is a certain satisfaction that goes along with making your own child a meal and having them enjoy it.
And this a big but, there are times that the dropped food, thrown sippys, stained shirts, and half-chewed food gets to be a bit frustrating.
Here are few tips to help alleviate that frustration and make meal time just a bit more manageable.
1). Never feed your child over carpet. If your dining room has hardwood floors, than you are in luck. Cleanup will be relatively easy. However, if you are cursed with a carpeted dining area like I am or do not have a dining area and, instead, eat around the living room coffee table, then you need to invest in an Office Chair Mat (click the link for an example). My husband came up with this brilliant idea. Nate's high chair always stays on the mat and
2). Keep bibs close. In my old house, when Nate was much younger and rarely ate solids (with the exception of rice cereal), bibs and rags were stored in a drawer in the kitchen and quite a distance from the eating area. That was a convenient place for them then since I mostly used bibs to soak up his drool when we were out and about. Now, I have a three-drawer organizer hidden behind the dining room table. I keep it full of bibs, rags, and other must-have accessories for a toddler.
3). Keep wipes closer. There are two containers of wipes in my house. One container is kept on the changing table for the obvious reason-diaper changes. The other is kept just behind the highchairs on the counter. The wipes are within arm's reach if Nate wipes a hand covered in peanut butter through his hair, spits sweet potato puree onto my shirt, or throws a peach beyond the limits of the office chair mat and onto the carpet. Having wipes close has alleviated many mini-disasters.
4). Feed only in confinement. I'm not reciting some petting zoo rule, but rather giving some advice that will save you many headaches. Handing your child a cookie or carrot to snack on while they are running around is not smart. This will lead to crumbs hidden in toy boxes, between the pages of books, and all over your newly-vacuumed floor. I know this from experience. Take the time to confine your child to the highchair, exersaucer, or some other restraining device (you get the idea) before giving them something to munch on. Besides keeping your house cleaner, this also teaches good meal habits and reduces choking hazards.
5). Make meal time fun. Being engaged and present during meal time will cut down on messes. I have the habit of trying to get a few things done while Nate eats his breakfast or has a quick snack. But since he doesn't have my attention, he will often begin throwing his food down on the ground with the infamous "uh-oh" or make a mess with his milk. Enjoying a meal with him or talking to him and having fun seems to drastically cut down on his messy-meal habits.
What works for you? Do you have a system for eliminating meal time stress and mess?