Tips To Make Toddler Mealtime Cleanup Quick and Easy
November 23, 20214 min read
Babies are adorable, but that cuteness can only get them so far when they turn your dining room into their art gallery of food splatters. Messes are an unavoidable part of having a toddler. However, that doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to hours of cleaning every day. When you encourage your little one to eat their food more than they throw it, you can minimize messes and make mealtime a happier experience for everyone. Check out these expert parenting tips to make toddler mealtime cleanup quick and easy.
Choose Foods Wisely
Most food turns messy once a toddler gets their hands on it. That said, some foods can cause more problems than others. Options like cheese, plain chicken or turkey, scrambled eggs, or plain pasta are easier to pick up if they fall off the tray and onto your table or floor.
Of course, you want to introduce your kid to a wide variety of foods so that they can experiment with new flavors. You shouldn’t limit meals to just these options. But when you’re in a rush or can’t handle a chaotic mealtime that day, these less messy foods are a good way to save you from the headache of a lot of cleaning.
Clean As You Go
Cleaning gets a lot easier if you do it in small sections as you go. Load the dishwasher while you wait for something to boil on the stove. Wipe down the counter while the food cools down enough to eat. A couple of minutes of cleaning here and there will reduce the mess you have to deal with once your little one finishes eating.
Another benefit of cleaning as you go is that your baby will be in their high chair and out of your way while you work. While you should always keep an eye on your toddler during meals, they can hang out in their chair while you wipe down the counters or finish the dishes after a meal. This helps give you more peace of mind and takes some stress out of cleaning.
Lead by Example at the Table
Babies learn a lot from watching others. Even if you think your child isn’t paying attention, they still pick up on your practices and behaviors.
Use this to your advantage during mealtimes. Show your toddler how to eat properly by exaggerating your movements and using good table manners. Eventually, your little one will discover how you use your spoon, drink from your cup, and keep the table clean. While they might still think slinging food is fun for a little while, they’ll also watch you and imitate how you do things around mealtime.
Leading by example is also a great way to help your baby learn to use dishes and utensils once they start feeding themselves. Be a good role model and encourage everyone else at the table to do the same.
Get the Family Together for Meals
Everyone’s busy these days. It’s hard to get the whole family together for a few minutes, let alone for some actual bonding time. However, family time is an important part of raising your kids and enjoying life in your home. Make meals a family event by having everyone sit down and eat together.
In addition to getting everyone together, having a sit-down meal with the whole family is another great way to teach your baby good eating habits. Plus, a full table means more distractions that can keep your little one’s attention on the meal rather than playing with their food. With multiple people around showing them how to eat properly, your toddler will be more eager to participate with everyone else.
If you hover too much over your toddler during mealtimes, they might get frustrated because they want to try things for themselves. Try backing up a little and letting them attempt to feed themselves alone. Remember that messes are natural. The more your kid can explore for themselves, the sooner they’ll learn to eat without making a big mess. Plus, toddlers who have more room for independence are more likely to let you help out from time to time.
Use the Right Dishware
The dishes you use can make cleaning up after meals much easier or harder. First, try to use dishwasher-safe dishes. Cleanup becomes far less stressful and time-consuming when you don’t have to wash everything by hand.
Next, look for bowls and plates with suction cups. Suction cup bowls are an easy way to make sure your toddler’s dish stays firmly on the table rather than on the floor. Suction cup dishes are easy to use and clean. Your baby will get to flail around and do the things babies do at the table, but you never have to worry about them accidentally flipping dishes and making a huge mess.
Eat When Your Baby’s Hungry
If your baby is a little hungry, they’ll be much more interested in eating food instead of playing with it. This is one of the most straightforward tips to make toddler mealtime cleanup quick and easy. Build habits like cutting down on snacks around meals or pushing mealtimes back a little.
You can also give your little one smaller portions initially. If your toddler has a lot of food in front of them, they might grow bored of eating and start playing instead. On the other hand, smaller portions give them less to make a mess with. Starting with smaller portions also helps your child learn to ask for more if they’re still hungry when they finish their plate.
Remember that you shouldn’t do everything alone. Never be afraid to ask for help, especially when caring for your little one. If you’re cooking, you don’t have to be the one to clean everything. Have a spouse or an older child tackle the dishes. Someone else can clear the table or wipe down counters. By dividing chores among multiple people, you give everyone less work while still getting the job done promptly.