If you’re like me, you don’t look forward to meal times with your toddler because of the clean up afterward. It seems like all we do all day is feed them and clean up since it happens so often. My 1 year old loves to swipe food on her tray until it slides off and throw it onto the floor just for laughs. Of course it’s not her fault because she’s just experimenting and learning new experiences for them.
So since we can’t take away meal times in general, I put together some ideas I had to make it easier on us moms when eating is a disaster.
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Choose non-messy foods
I know this seems like a no brainer, but really most foods turn messy when a 1 year old gets their hands on it. Here are just a few of my favorite foods to give my daughter when I really need to prevent a mess.
Mixed vegetables – Peas, corn, carrots
Cold cuts and meat
Macaroni/pasta noodles with no sauce
Clean as you go
I usually like to take meal time to relax and eat with my baby, but sometimes that just seems like time wasted. Instead, it’s helpful to clean up everything you used for their meals while they’re strapped down in their high chair eating. At least then they can’t get in your way while you’re trying to put things away. Of course, you can’t clean up their mess yet, but you can be ahead of the game by cleaning what you can.
Introduce utensils sooner
I started introducing utensils to my baby at 6 months. I would put the food on the utensil and have her pick them up and bring it to her mouth (If you haven’t gotten utensils yet and have a young baby, these Grabease utensils are the BEST for little hands). Although once she really started eating on her own I drew back on the utensil use because it was just a mess, but now that she’s 1, I am trying to introduce them to her again. With a spoon, it will probably make more of a mess at first, but the more you show them how to use it, the easier it will make your life once they are proficient in using them. Be sure to practice with them in a ‘hand over hand’ manner to begin. So put their hand on the utensil and place your hand over theirs. This way you can guide the utensil into the food, scoop it up, and put it in their mouth and their body gets used to the motion to try it on their own next time. For a little older children, the OXO Tot Utensils are the only ones you need- the metal fork is necessary to actually pick food up and the handle fits well in their hands.
Use a bowl/plate with sections and suction
For awhile I was just putting food on the tray because they don’t really no the difference, but once I started using bowls and plates, she actually started keeping the food in there. Make sure the suction is really good because if they can pull the bowl off the tray and dump it, that makes for MORE of a mess! Make sure you wet the bottom of the suction as well as the tray to get a nice good stick and sometimes you need super powers to pull those things off! These plates (EZPZ)have worked great for suction. I get the ‘mini’ ones because I found out that the regular size mats are too big for most high chair trays. The minis are plenty big enough. These bowls are fantastic as well! Don’t forget to wet the bottoms if you have a Hulk in your house!
Non leaking cups
Ok this is hard to find because when a baby throws a cup off their high chair, it’s bound to leak a little. Although, I have found these Munchkin 360 cups to be good for not leaking the most. I am also partial to a straw cup because it’s the best for oral motor development. I do love these munchkin straw cups. They’re great for the first cup to transition baby from a bottle and learning to drink from a straw, but sometimes they do tend to leak more when thrown.
Offer less food at a time
I was guilty of just dumping all the food I wanted my daughter to eat on her tray. She would do well for awhile, but soon after she would start the swiping and throwing things on the ground. I realized if I just give her a little bit at a time, she tends not to do this and will ask for more when she is ready. This will also help to develop their language
Vinyl Bibs or a Naked Baby
Often when I’m home I will just strip down my daughter for meal times because I’m sick of her destroying her beautiful clothes! Although for times when I can’t do that, I use These Bumkin bibs. They are so easy to clean, you really just have to rinse them off. If you’re in the stage where baby wants to rip the bib off all the time, I love these long sleeve ‘smock bibs’ as well. Since they are like a full shirt, it makes it virtually impossible for them to take it off. They’re especially good in the colder months when baby will be wearing long sleeves. If you don’t want sleeves, these rubber bibs really work to keep baby from pulling them off and are super easy to clean. The only thing I don’t like with these is the pocket protrudes out so far that it can get in the way with the tray depending on what high chair you have.
Pouch Food Holders
If you offer the food pouches for snacks and your baby squeeze them all over himself, consider purchasing one of these pouch holders. They make it super simple for your baby or toddler to hold onto the pouch, eating it themselves, without the constant fear of them squirting it all over.
Do you have any good ideas to lessen the clean up after your toddler’s meal time?