I recently saw a video of a mother who was proudly showing her baby son happily eating a piece of watermelon. The baby took a bite, mashed it in his mouth and happily smiled with juice running down his mouth. The scene was heart warming, but there is a part that makes me shrink and think, let the baby be a baby. What was in this picture that made me think twice about it? It was the perfectly clean, I mean, spotless tray the baby was sitting in front of, the fork the food was fed to him on, and the immediate wiping of his mouth. It is a scene that is normal for many, many households around the world. For some of you, you may ask, what is wrong with this picture? It seems perfectly fine.
When a baby is weaning, and as a baby grows, everything, I mean everything is new and exciting. The foods tasted, the colour, texture, temperature of the food, EVERYTHING is interesting. Why not allow your kid be a kid. They make messes, lots of them and HUGE ones at times, they dirty their clothes, and have some unknown gunk of some sort smashed on their faces and in their hair. Guess what?! No one is going to think twice about it and if they do, who cares! Let your little one enjoy what they are exploring, eating (maybe for the first time), and savouring.
Parents often put unrealistic expectations on their kids which we discussed a bit about last week. Often we expect a baby or a toddler to act like an adult. They need to be presentable and clean and eat tidily with utensils. Have you thought about the years it took to perfect these skills? Please do not hold your toddler to these standards. Your little one does not care that they have food all over their face. If they even realise, it, they may find it hilarious and keep trying to do it again. Have you ever seen a toddler realise they have a milk moustache and then proceed to have a milk moustache every single time they drink milk? My little one does all the time and when he talks about it, the energy and joy is infectious. Watch them eat and explore food for the first time. Yes, you may not want to do this in a fancy restaurant, but find time and places for that to happen and let you kids be kids. It will not only allow them to explore what they are eating, it is a learning experience which can help them develop a healthy relationship with eating and food.