- The mess isn't always fun, maybe for us adults who have to clean it up... BUT! It has an important purpose in the development of children. So it is not in vain. The mess is a kind of sensory game and a precursor to tasting the food. It helps them become familiar with food and normalize it. Children need to feel the food in order to understand and get to know it. This can increase interest in the food and increase acceptance of new foods. The brain needs to prepare the mouth for what is coming at them, maybe it is cold, hard, sticky, rough, etc.
- They are given ample opportunity to practice the motor skills needed to eat. Both gross motor skills and fine motor skills.
- Letting your child scratch and explore makes them more likely to try and enjoy new foods. Overall interest in food can increase!
- And most importantly, children learn through play! So we need to let them "play" with food to learn. In fact, it makes sense to create even more play opportunities around food. These can be little things like making old men out of the peas on the plate or seeing who can nibble the peppers the highest.
- Try not to wipe the baby's mouth during mealtimes. This is partly because many children are sensitive around the mouth and it makes them uncomfortable, but also because the child can lick around the mouth himself, which contributes to sensory and motor development.
- Many are concerned that their children will not learn table manners if they are allowed to mess up. This is how I think - as long as the children are young, the joy of eating comes first. They can learn table manners later!
Lic. nutrition advisor
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