How to Reduce Mealtime Messes with a Toddler

As a baby, my daughter used to throw food. Sweet potatoes were on the walls and peas decorated the floor. However, when she became a toddler, the untidiness didn’t stop. With more frequent meals and snacks, the day became an endless cleaning task. While breakfast, lunch and dinner are never mess-free, there are ways to reduce mealtime messes with a toddlers.

Drop Cloth

My daughter loves things with tiny crumbs. Crackers, parmesan cheese and orzo are three items she eats that leave the floor looking unsightly. Rather than trying to vacuum up every stray crumb, I often put a “drop cloth” under her. This could be an older tablecloth or sheet. The drop cloth is simply washed and placed under the chair for the next day.

Eat Outside

Possibly, the best solution to the mess situation is to eat outside. If you have a table outside great; if not, have a picnic. I have found that toddlers love picnics and being outdoors. The crumbs simply disappear into the grass and the blanket gets washed. Of course, I live in Southern California so we can eat outside for most of the year. Indoor picnics are equally fun. Plus, you still only have to clean the blanket rather than the table and the floors.

Hybrid Sippy Cup

Typically, my daughter drinks out of a plastic cup. However, on those days when she has had one too many spills, I give her a hybrid sippy cup. This looks like a cup but has a lid with a small slit on top. It prevents the spills but still looks like a “big girl” cup. Drinking containers with lids and straws are also good for toddlers.

Snack Catchers

For toddlers, there’s an amusing cause and effect relationship between dumping food on the ground and seeing what happens. Snack catchers or “no-spill” bowls are the perfect solution. Snack catchers have a lid on top with soft flaps that little hands can reach into. Of course, it’s important to also teach kids that it is not okay to spill or throw food on purpose.

A Smock

One day, I couldn’t find a clean bib and decided to use my daughter’s smock. Smocks are great for painting. They are also good for covering up clothing during meals. Other good ideas are the big bibs with a crumb catcher pocket. Finally, you can cut the back off of a larger, old shirt for excellent coverage.

While I will probably never completely eliminate all spills and crumbs from mealtime, these tips have certainly made my life easier.

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