especially between the ages of ten and eighteen months, tend to make
a mess when they eat. As they sit in their high chairs, they mash
food, spread it around, and drop it on the floor— sometimes pea by
pea, occasionally a bowlful at a time.
Parents wonder why their child acts this way. Is he doing it to
bother, defy, or manipulate them? Usually not. He might throw his
food down because he’s finished eating and doesn’t want any more, or
because he doesn’t like the food he’s been given. He might also just
be tired and ready to get down from the high chair. Often, a child
makes a mess because he’s playing with his food, experimenting with
the textures and spreading the food around to see what happens. A
young child is interested in his meal not just for its taste but for
its color and feel, and he doesn’t mind getting messy in his
When a child methodically drops bits of food onto the floor, he may
be testing his own power over objects and his ability to make things
happen. Children repeat this process because they seem to have a
strong inner need to perform the same actions over and over. As a
child drops his food, he feels delighted that he can control each
piece, deciding where it will land and watching it fall.
This phase, in which your child likes to drop things (toys as well
as food), can be irritating. If he’s at this developmental stage,
you will find that he won’t listen when you tell him to stop. This
happens because your young, egocentric child cannot consider your
wishes and his at the same time. He ends up considering just his own
desires and drops food even when you tell him not to. If you can
view this impersonally or even playfully, without thinking that he’s
trying to provoke you, you’ll have an easier time dealing with him.
To ease the clean up, you can spread newspaper or a piece of vinyl
under your child’s high chair so you don’t have to wipe the floor.
And you can try putting less food on his tray. That way he will
still have a little to experiment with while you will have less to