Embrace the Mess

IMG 2110 150x150 Embrace the MessOne of my mantras I have reiterated is to “embrace the food experience”. I said it last night as my child ate cake on his first birthday. I said it this afternoon as my child squeezed bread and cream cheese in his hand. I believe this mantra because all too often we adults, especially, become unattached not only to our food but to our bodies. By working the experience of food into our everyday lives, we can pause for even just a moment to think about where our food comes from and how it might affect our bodies. For adults, this behavior can be difficult to adjust but kiddos, on the other hand, are ripe for integrating food experience into every day life.

Unfortunately, parents, this exercise begins with our ability to be okay with the mess. With a deep breath, I hold back every day, every meal in fact, as my one year old “explores” his food. I stand back brandishing a wet cloth ready to dive in to clean hands, arms, face, tray, floor – you name it – but lately I have forced myself to stand back and embrace the mess. Yes, that is what I wrote, “embrace the mess”. {Sigh.} Seriously standing back and watching the mess unfold is one of the toughest things I have had to do yet because ingrained in us is that messy = bad. Right? I came to the conclusion that not only is it important in my toddler’s learning to eat on his own and his own terms (choosing avocado rather than string cheese or whatever the food may be) but this act of creativity (yes, that is what I call it, “creativity”) is vital to my child’s experience with food, at least initially. I don’t want to stifle his curiosity in what he is eating – what it looks like, feels like AND tastes like – so I embrace the mess.

So there you have it. I let my child squeeze strawberries in his pudgy little fist because he thinks it sounds and feels interesting. That is a good thing, especially when I watched him figure out that strawberries also taste pretty good too.

So grab your splat mats and smocks, and brace yourself for one messy ride as your child explores what is on his plate. Yes, I am advising you to be okay with messiness. Try not to be upset. Bite your lip (I do) and remember that curiosity is a good thing. Encourage it. One day maybe your kiddo will be getting all messy while planting a vegetable garden in your backyard and it’ll be because you stopped yourself from saying, ‘stop playing with your food.’ Or maybe one day your kiddo will be messy in a science lab or restaurant kitchen, or maybe your kiddo will simply grow up to appreciate what he is eating on a daily basis and how that food affects his day. All and all, the situation is win-win.

Have fun!


  1. Yay! Great post. We love a bit of mess at our house too.

  2. Great post! This is hard for me. Especially since I was apparently the 2 year old who could eat an ice cream cone without getting a drop on me. My Mom had pictures that show me and my younger sister eating ice cream cones and she's messy and I'm not. What age did you start letting your little man try to feed himself. Jessica seems interested in her spoon with food on it and I have given it to her and half the time she puts the spoon in her mouth and the other half she bangs the spoon around and the food gets everywhere.

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