BookmarkBookmarkTick

Is It Okay for My Toddler to Play With Her Food?

I’d rather keep meal time as neat as possible, but my partner lets my toddler mess around with her food. Who’s right?
ByElizabeth Pantley
Parenting Expert
Updated
September 15, 2020
Hero Image

Yes, it’s okay for your toddler to play with her food — but within reason. Toddlers are experiential learners, so resist the urge to interfere when your child pulls apart, smells or smashes a new food. That’s how they learn! As hard as it may be, it’s best not to comment at all. (Resist the urge to roll your eyes too!) Remember, it’s completely normal for kids to play with their food before trying it, and it may take a couple of tries before your child gets the food anywhere near her mouth. Letting her play around and experiment with it is the first step to acceptance.

If meal time turns into non-stop playtime, though, it’s time to set some limits. Most kids will start playing with (and tossing) their food when they’re done eating, so if your toddler suddenly starts slinging the oatmeal she was slurping up just a few minutes ago, it’s time to end the meal. Calmly remove the food, clean her up, take her away from the table and hand her some toys. Soon, she’ll get the idea that food is for eating and that playtime is for toys.

Plus, more from The Bump:

Related Video
All different kinds of protein for toddlers including cow's milk, soy milk, almond milk yogurt and cheese.

Ask the Pediatrician: Which Type of Milk Is Best for Toddlers?

profile picture of Dina DiMaggio, MD, and Anthony F. Porto, MD, MPH
Dina DiMaggio, MD, and Anthony F. Porto, MD, MPH
dad feeding his baby at the kitchen table

USDA’s Nutritional Guidelines Now Include Recommendations for Babies

profile picture of Nehal Aggarwal
Nehal Aggarwal
Associate Editor
Published
07/22/2020
toddler child holding orange sip cup

Preschoolers Who Drink 100% Fruit Juice May Have Healthier Diets as Adults

profile picture of Nehal Aggarwal
Nehal Aggarwal
Associate Editor
Published
06/11/2020

Vitamins for a Picky Eater?

profile picture of Michael Lee, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at UT Southwestern Medical Center and pediatrician at Children’s Medical Center Dallas
Michael Lee, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at UT Southwestern Medical Center and pediatrician at Children’s Medical Center Dallas
Pediatrician
small child drinking milk from a bottle

Research Aims to Debunk the 'Milk Causes Mucus Myth’

profile picture of Stephanie Grassullo
Stephanie Grassullo
Associate Editor
Published
09/07/2018
child eating his breakfast cereal

Why Gluten-Free Isn’t Always the Healthier Choice for Kids

profile picture of Dina DiMaggio, MD, and Anthony F. Porto, MD, MPH
Dina DiMaggio, MD, and Anthony F. Porto, MD, MPH
Published
07/30/2018
collage of major soda brands, sprite, coke, fanta

Soda and Sugary Drinks Are Banned From Kids' Menu in Baltimore

profile picture of Laurie Ulster
Laurie Ulster
Contributing Writer
Published
07/20/2018
Young blonde girl picking her nose

Blame Bad Behavior on Bacteria

profile picture of Anisa Arsenault
Anisa Arsenault
Associate Editor
A dad spoon feeding baby in high chair

AAP Updates List of Nutrients for Baby's First 1,000 Days

profile picture of Anisa Arsenault
Anisa Arsenault
Associate Editor
Published
01/25/2018
Article removed.