Congratulations! Your baby is now eating solid foods. This can be an enjoyable and eventful time. And a super messy time in your life! Some babies are going to be neater than others. But one thing is for sure, as your baby learns how to use those fine and gross motor skills, meal time is going to be messy. I’ve put together some tips to help cut down on the mess. Pick a few of these ideas or all of them to implement, and I guarantee the mess will be less.
Bibs Are Essential
The correct bib used for the right feeding circumstances is going to cut down on the mess drastically. If you will be doing most of the feeding yourself with a spoon, a cloth bib will usually do the trick to catch the spills. But if your baby is self-feeding, then use a plastic bib with a pocket to catch all of the food that misses your baby’s mouth. When mealtime is over, dump out the waste over a garbage can and then wash the bib in the sink.
Use A Mat or Smooth Surfaced Floor
The best place to serve food to your messy sweetheart is a place where you can expect food to fall and can easily clean it up with a broom or mop. By all means, avoid carpet or a surface under the high chair that could become stained. Prepare for spaghetti sauce to fly and grape juice to spill. Expect and plan for the worst and then, whatever happens, won’t be so bad. If you don’t have a tiled kitchen or hard floor, then use a mat underneath the eating area.
Plan For Messy Meals When You Have Extra Time
If you are needing to head out to an event shortly after mealtime, then try to feed items that aren’t as messy when you are in a hurry. Save the spaghetti for a meal when you will have extra time to not rush and a lot of time to clean up afterwards. When you add a rushed schedule to a messy meal, it will be a recipe for disaster. Plan out the types of meals you will be serving and when to make life easier for you and more enjoyable for your baby.
Look For Teachable Moments
Babies who are just learning to feed themselves won’t have the same skills as an older child. So don’t expect too much that is not in their skill set yet. But with that being said, if your child is rubbing applesauce in their hair, it’s a good time, to tell them not to do that. Each parent will have a tolerance level of what is fine and what is going too far. Most kids will be able to learn not to put peas in their ears and squash in their nose if you tell them no.
Dress Them For Success
When a messy meal will be served, and believe me I realize all meals at certain ages can be messy, then dress your child in clothes that can get dirty. If you are constantly worrying that they will get their new socks stained, then take the socks off. If the temperature is warm enough, there is nothing wrong with stripping your baby down to a diaper for meals. When the meal is over, change the diaper since food may have fallen in it, wash them up, and then get them dressed again.
Praise Their Efforts
Take a deep breath, relax, and then praise your child’s self-feeding efforts. By looking at the positive side of things, the mess will become trivial. Well, maybe not depending on your comfort level with messes, but the stress will be reduced. Say things like, “I like how you are eating your apples.” Or “Good job! Can you eat another spoonful?” Most of us like to eat, so try to foster a pleasant environment so that it is an enjoyable time for all.
Let Rover Help
A dog can do wonders to clean up food off the floor before you ever noticed that it fell. If you are in the habit of putting the dog away when your child eats, you may want to rethink that plan. Just keep an eye out that your child doesn’t start dumping over bowls at a time to feed the dog.
Keep that Vacuum Handy
A little handheld vacuum can help to keep the place tidy while your child eats. It’s going to be highly individual from one parent to the next, as to what you can tolerate as far as messes go. If you feel comfortable with cleaning as the meal takes place, then, by all means, do that.
Let Older Children Help
If you are blessed with an older child, it may help to let them help during feeding time. Encourage your older child to help the food get from the plate to your baby’s mouth. Let them make games out of it if that’s what it takes. A spoon can become a flying airplane, and finger food can become anything your imagination thinks up. An older child may just have some of their own games up their sleeve. See how it goes, and sit back and take a break while enjoying the moment.
Recap and Final Thoughts
I hope some of these tips may help you not only survive messy feeding times but enjoy them too. Remember to prepare the area with a mat or hard surfaced floor and by all means, don’t forget the bib. Make sure to set aside enough time for messy meals especially. Dress (or undress if that’s what it takes) your child for success during meal times. Praise even the smallest of efforts on your child’s part as he or she learns to self-feed. Do what it takes to keep it clean even if that involves letting your dog clean the floor or having a vacuum handy. Try letting an older child help. Then take a deep breath and be mindful of the fact that this time will pass quicker than you realize.
For more information, check out our Top 10 High Chair Reviews of 2018.