Messy mealtime tips for troublesome toddlers

Whether you went for baby led weaning or spoon fed your little one over the last few months, there’s no getting away from what comes next. Toddler mealtimes are a whole new ball game, with their own unique challenges for both you and for baby.

Instead of the friendly spoon or finger happy foods, your child now has to get to grips with cutlery. Not only that, but instead of baby friendly mush and overcooked veg sticks, you’re now dishing up proper meals, on proper plates, and that opens up a whole new world of squishy, icky fun.

Try as you might, sometimes mashed potato is just too good not to throw at the wall. Fish fingers make for perfect missiles to aim at their sibling, and don’t even get us started on yoghurt. Oh, and that amazing Peppa Pig fork and spoon set? Good idea, but fists and fingers will still be the tool of choice.

Eating with a messy toddler is certainly an experience, and not a pleasant one for everyone involved. If you’re concerned about your carpets, your wallpaper or your sanity, here are some awesome tips for a more peaceful mealtime experience.

Eat together

A family that eats together, stays together… or at least has enough pairs of hands to ensure everyone gets a bite of dinner before it’s stone cold. Even if your home is small, invest in a folding table and chairs so that everyone can sit down and eat at the same time.

Take away distractions

Turn off the TV and put away the toys. Toddlers get distracted really easily, so they’re bound to kick up a fuss if they can see something more interesting to do than sitting eating boring old dinner. Put the focus on food and family to give them a sense that this is what they should be attending to right now.

Keep it short

Keeping in mind the toddlers relatively short attention span, it would be unreasonable to expect them to sit still for a prolonged period of time for dinner. Mealtimes of 15 to 20 minutes should be sufficient to allow everyone to eat, so wrap it up after that even if there’s still food on her plate – she’s unlikely to eat any more after this time.

Cover up

If you’re concerned about ending up in a food stained cave of messiness, cover up anything that you hold dear before mealtimes start. Our oilcloth tablecloths are ideal for keeping your table looking like new, and can even be used as a mess mat on the floor too, helping you clear up fast and stress less about the inevitable mealtime mess.

Set an example

If you want your toddler to sit still and focus on the meal, do the same yourself. If you or other members of your family are playing on phones, getting up and down or refusing to eat certain foods, expect your toddler to be equally awkward during the meal.

Be inclusive

Mealtimes are a great time to catch up with all your family on how their day’s been and what they’ve been doing. But beware of having intensely adult conversations and excluding your little one from the banter. Ask her how her day was, talk to her about things she’s interested in and she’ll soon grow to love the attention and conversation that takes place at dinner time.

Be creative

If your toddler refuses to eat a particular vegetable (broccoli anyone?), try being more creative about how you present the item to her. Smiley faces, cars with carrot wheels, broccoli trees in a field of mashed potato… have fun with your toddler’s meals to make it less unnerving for her to tackle.

Going through the toddler years is just another milestone on the road to becoming a grown up. Try not to feel stressed about mealtimes, as before you know it they’ll be dining at other people’s houses on playdates and eventually cooking for themselves! Prepare your space and your mind for a toddler friendly mealtime and everyone will enjoy the experience much more.