Young children, especially between the ages of ten and eighteen months, tend to make messes 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.
You may wonder why your child acts this way. Is he doing it to bother, defy, or manipulate you? 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 explorations.
When a young 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.
To ease the cleanup, spread newspaper or a piece of vinyl under your child’s high chair so you don’t have to wipe the floor. And try putting less food on his tray. That way he’ll still have a little to experiment with, while you’ll have less to clean up. 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’ll probably find that he won’t listen when you tell him to stop.
This happens because your young, egocentric child can’t consider your wishes and his own at the same time. He ends up considering just his own desires and drops food, and toys, 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 and simply picking the food and toys up.