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. 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.