Table Etiquette Advice??!!

Danielle - posted on 04/02/2010 ( 12 moms have responded )

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My daughter, bless her, will be 2 May 27th. We call her the local garbage disposal. She will eat anything and everything. Which sounds great. Until you see the mess. I kid you not this is every big meal: food mushed into her face, hands, hair, table, booster seat, outfit (sometimes inside her outfit), ugh it's just too much! I've seen a lot of things but dang this girl is messy!!! She tries to use utensils but she eats like she's never ate before in her life and they slow her down too much. So I truly don't know what I can do to make her slow down or use utensils better. I've tried smaller portions and increments but she is just plain sloppy. My son will be four in June and is appalled watching her eat. He just shakes his head and says "ew". Then won't eat his supper because he is disgusted. We only have the one table, no high chair, and are truly trying to emphasize a family meal. So if anybody has any suggestions as to how this can be changed, please respond. We are truly sick of stripping her down in the kitchen after supper, immediately bathing her, and spending almost an hour cleaning the kitchen. There just isn't enough time in a day for this! :)

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Christina - posted on 05/14/2010

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Hi Danielle. My daughter tends to be messy some of the time. One of our dogs sits at her feet waiting for food to hit the floor. We waited til she was closer to 18 months before we started letting her feed herself messier foods. for the most part it's worked. When she eats pasta, like ravioli, I heat it up in one plate or bowl, then move it to a different one so I can leave off the extra sauce. We also bought her her very own set of plates, bowls, and silverware (she loves tinkerbell) and told her they are only for her to use. Knowing she has her very own utensils, etc makes her eat a little cleaner. She is allowed to make messes sometimes, like w beefaroni or chicken and rice. When she starts making amess, we get onto her and take her bowl/plate away. She gets upset but we tell her she can't make a big mess then give it back. If all she wants to do is play with her food and not eat, we take it away, clean her off, and meal time is over.

As for her eating like she's always hungry, what does she eat? Simple carbs, cereals, and sweets aren't ging to fill her up. She needs more substantial foods, like veggies, whole wheats, foods with fiber, and healthy proteins like chicken, turkey, and eggs. (I'm sure u know this, but sometimes it helps to be reminded.) For snacks during the day, try making ur own cereal bars. You can use peanut butter, no sugar added preferably, whole grain cereals, oatmeal, and fruit of your choice. To sweeten, use a little bit of honey. Wallah! Voila! Her very own snack.

Good luck with the messes! I hope this helps.

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a couple of things: 1st LOL!! 2nd, sometimes a toddlers coordination is not well enough developed to use some of the utensils on the market. there is a specialized utensil that might work called the "Learn and Turn Utensil". basically it allows you the adjust the angle of the spoon or fork so that the food actually ends up in their mouth until they have refined the skill better. next, if she is crazy about shoveling the food, i would suggest more meals in a day. perhaps a nice size snack around 3pm so she is not so hungry for supper. last, i would say that she should be the one cleaning up her mess. she should learn the consequences to her messes. my children have learned from very little where to deposit their dirty laundry and pee-pee diapers, as well as, using wipes to clean up any spills that they make. perhaps if she finds the mess making fun, the cleaning part will deter her from doing it.

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Danielle - posted on 06/18/2010

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Thanks for all of the suggestions!!! She's actually been improving drastically as she's gotten a little big older. You'll laugh but I started wrapping a little bandana over her long hair like a do-rag because that was one of the worst messes. As for being hungry, I think she must've been going through a growth spurt and teething because she's much steadier in her eating habits now. Let's just hope that she keeps improving with her newly found eating talents!!! :)

Elyssa - posted on 05/13/2010

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my son is a disaster when he eats too, in fact, I just strip him down BEFORE he eats. One thing that has helped him start to be less messy is that I give him "big boy" utincils... (which are just small versions of what I use... like salad forks instead of dinner forks etc) and since he feels like a big boy because I am treating him like one, he tries harder... but sometimes it is just too frustrating for him, so he just uses his hands as shovels and stuffs his mouth full of whatever is on his plate.One thing that I would try if I were you is getting a bib that is similar to an apron. They make some with sleeves and a big pocket for that extra food to fall in. They'll outgrow the messy stage at one point or another, and in the meantime you can just save yourself some extra work by catching the spilled food on a giant washable bib. Another thing you may want to try is serving more finger foods, they tend to be a lot less messy than some foods like pasta or mashed potatoes. one of our family favorite dinners is homemade baked chicken fingers (using cornflakes and flour to make them extra crunchy) carrots (either raw or steamed) and cubed cheese. Relatively easy and pretty yummy! Not to mention easy to clean up! Praising your toddler when she is doing something good at the dinner table (like using her utincils) really helps as well, it makes them WANT to do what makes you happy. Also, you may try adding a few snacks in during the day (if you aren't already) it may make it so she isn't quite so hungry during mealtime, so she will be more willing to take her time. Just some suggestions. Hope they help!

Renee - posted on 04/28/2010

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I experimented with a lot of different utensils for my son as well. I found one that has a oval shaped handle with little grips on it, works the best for him. He is able to control it more. Plus it is a plastic so the food sticks to it better as well. When he doesn't use that spoon he has a bad habit of flipping the spoon over before it gets to his mouth dumping the food on to his lap, table, floor, etc. Then he tries to wipe it up and ends up just smearing it all over the place making a bigger mess.

Melaina - posted on 04/09/2010

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In my totally non-expert opinion, I think maybe you're setting your expectations too high. She's not even two, and kids this age are going to be messy. You can, and should, continuously voice what behaviour you expect, and show her that everyone else at the table is eating neatly, but she's still going to be a toddler. If my son's table behaviour gets too out of hand (like he starts throwing food or something totally inappropriate) we take his plate away for a minute to reinforce that the behaviour is wrong. And, like Elisa, we expect him to help clean up his own messes. Also, be careful comparing the two kids and make sure you are also teaching your son that his sister is still very little and that he needs to be accepting of her behaviour.

[deleted account]

i've seen it at only 1 store before. but i know they have a website u can order directly from. i would google it. they are relatively cheap, should be about $10, but is worth it. good luck!

Danielle - posted on 04/08/2010

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Thanks Elisa! She actually loves to clean...probably because I clean alot, so that she definitely already has down:) That utensil, where would you get that? Amazon, Target, I've never heard of it, but very excited to try it. She's ambidextrous and can't get either hand down so that tool might really help her decide. I seriously give her snacks all day. Just took her to the doc and she's three feet and 19 lbs. And I would safely say she eats as much as me, my husband, and son combined. Been like it since birth! One day, she will wake up with a gut ache ;) Anyways, done rambling, thank you for the suggestions!

Ene - posted on 04/05/2010

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Hi Danielle, after reading your response to my post, i will encourage you to take things easy. Your son, much like my daughter, were probably born with the 'neat gene'. Some kids display amazing neatness attributes so must be the reason why he is so much neater at the table. Since the kids stay at home with you, the best you could do is manage the situation thereby reducing your stress. I can imagine that cleaning after her may be another one of your frustrations so I'd suggest you buy non-cotton large bibs like those made out of nylon which are easy to clean by wiping. You can allow her to eat at a toddler plastic table - probably one of those ones that are high enough to be placed by the family's dinning table. bottom line, find ways of making cleaning easier. your daughter is still a child so forget that your son was 'easy' and treat her uniquely. don't let it bother you. I do allow my daughter to make a mess - it is part of being a child; I concentrate on making cleaning easier to do. cheers!

Danielle - posted on 04/03/2010

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Thanks for the response Ene!!! To our great disadvantage at times, she stays home with me all day as does her four year old brother. So it's up to me if anything is going to change :(. Her pediatrician said that a lot of kids her age are messy eaters. Unfortunately my son is pretty OCD and unbelievably neat. So we're on opposite ends of the spectrum with this one. I've tried to tell her to be neat and she just doesn't seem to grasp the concept of it so it's hard to scold her for it. Maybe make a game out of staying clean? I don't know, my son has an appointment next week that she'll be at as well so I'll ask the doc then. Otherwise I'm just not too sure what to do. Thanks for the advice =)

Ene - posted on 04/03/2010

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Hello Danielle, Have you tried talking to a pediatrician for an advice? They tend to know how to handle children's needs. Is your daughter in Day care or nursery? Peer pressure helps children to adjust to social etiquettes because they don't like to be laughed at by friends. Teachers at school are also skilled at helping children build such etiquettes so you might want to consider that option. And if she's already in one, talk to the teacher and find how you both can help her. Then again, if you didn't start her with table manners early - i bought my daughter table and chair at one year - it is much harder to enforce good table manners. Have you tried scolding her or talking to her?

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