why i let my children play with their food

Lately during meal times, this is the conversation that happens:

Please don’t play with your food, Elle.
Elle, stop playing with your food!
Stop Elle!
Stop. Stop. Stop.

She’s pulling apart a piece of pastry into little pieces, watching as those tiny flakes fall off her hands onto the plate and table. She’s rubbing rice in between the palms of her hands, noticing and commenting on how it sticks to her fingers. She’s squeezing the roasted zucchini, watching as the juice escapes from in between her fingers and runs down to the bottom of her hand.

Food is all over the table, the floor, her clothes…we keep telling her to stop but she’s in her own little world, not paying attention to ignoring us. I’m so tired of asking her to stop and tired of listening to my husband threatening to take her dinner away.

Meal time should be about enjoying our food and connecting with each other.

When did it become such a frustrating chore?

As I’m on my hands and knees cleaning up the mess on the floor, I wonder if playing with food is such a bad thing. In my daughter’s case, she does eat her food…she just needs to play with it at the same time.

Other than the huge mess, what is so wrong about playing with food? More importantly, what are the good things that can come out of this situation?

I remember when she was about 1, there was a period where she kept dropping food on the ground. When she did, I just let her finish, pick the food back up and feed it to her again. I didn’t mind, it was how she learned the effects of gravity.

As she plays with her food, she’s learning that rice is sticky, pastry crumbles into tiny pieces and zucchini can be wet enough to squeeze juice out of.

By asking her to stop playing with her food, are we asking her to stop being curious? Are we asking her to stop exploring? Are we limiting her creativity?

I have always encouraged my children to explore, to always be curious. This is how they learn the world around them. I will encourage them to do this through their adulthood as this is how we learn new things, push boundaries and accomplish great things.

If cleaning up after her is the price to pay to keep being curious and keep exploring, then it is worth it.

Tell me friends, do you let your children play with their food?

Michelle Robindell -

Hmmmm, this is a hard one for me. My kids tend to throw their food, sometimes at each other. I love the IDEA of letting them play with their food, but sometimes I just can’t stop myself from saying, “Don’t play with your food!” I’m caught between wanting to teach them good table manners and wanting to let them explore, enjoy their food, learn about it.

Eschelle Westwood -

yeah my kids toss and wipe thinngs into couches, spit them out… no way lol it would be a full house clean, some carpet washing and I bet yelling lol. I bow to you for being able to let her do that, watch her be a renouned chef who always says in interviews: “i thank my mother for always letting me explore my food to the fullest”.

Northstory -

I don’t think mine play with their food, but I do a lot of finger foods for lunches b/c I find it helps them eat their meals vs looking at a giant plate and being overwhelmed with what they see. I do however bake with my kids as often as I can and they really get involved in the entire process of preparation and decorating.

Amy Lee -

Finger foods is such a great idea! I’ll have to source some out from Pinterest! Thanks for the suggestion!

Serena Mahabir D'Cruze -

What an awesome way to think of it….If you don’t mind cleaning up the mess then I guess it’s not so bad!

Daniela Duriavig -

I think any decision that makes interactions with your kids more positive for everyone is a win – good way to look at things!

Amy Lee -

It’s no easy @[551295172:2048:Eschelle Westwood] since I’m a neat freak! Every part of me is cringing inside!

Amy Lee -

It’s not easy @[551295172:2048:Eschelle Westwood]. I’m a neat freak and every part of me is cringing inside!

Amy Lee -

I would draw the line at food throwing too @[738710920:2048:Michelle]. And you’re right about table manners, they do need to learn that as well. I guess I’ll teach them that when they’re not playing with their food =)

Amy Lee -

It’s just doing things a little differently 🙂

Amy Lee -

Either way there’s a mess to clean up so might as well make it fun 🙂

Jackie Currie -

It’s so good that you’re recognizing that she’s exploring, discovering and learning while she’s playing with her food. As the saying goes “this too shall pass”.

Cheryl KL -

I do let my kids play with their food – whatever makes meal time fun, I say! My 5 year old though grew out of the playing with food quickly so I am thankful for that. My 2 year old is still playing with his food and it’s usually his side of the table that is messy. I don’t mind – at least he’s interested in food and willing to try everything we give him.