I've been on a roll here with playing, so I'll continue.
Let them play with their food.
Really. Even though it kills you to watch. No, not you, 8 year-old. You should know better.
Yes, you, 8 month-old. You too, 18 month-old. 3 year-old, no, don't be shy, stand right up. 4 year-old and 5 year-old...well, you can play a little bit. Maybe unscrew the PB&J into 2 halves and lick one side, then the other, leaving a somewhat slimy, sodden mess for Mommy to clean up. Yes, I said Mommy, because even if we Dads were around, we'd probably forget. Sorry, honey.
"But shouldn't we be teaching them manners? I mean, kids these days...how can I ever take them to a nice restaurant?"
First things first - please do not take your young kids to a nice restaurant. You'll be bald like me in just a few minutes, will have wasted every sure-fire discipline trick you own in the first 15 minutes, and will be hanging on for dear life on top of the TGV with no fancy "Mission Impossible" contraption to keep you on.
Next? Kids, especially young kids, learn best with their senses. They like to squash things through their fingers, listen to the sucking sound as they open their fat little fists covered in yogurt. They enjoy the glint of wetness that their spilled milk gives to anything, and relish splashing anything splash-able all over the place. They love both getting the spoon and bowl and flinging them both on you, on the floor, on Mars.
What happens if you prevent them from making a time-space-continuum-rending mess? Some kids won't care, so...if you're sure you have one of those kids, breathe a sigh of relief, and do your crossword puzzle in your regularly scheduled bedlam. However, if you have one of the other kids (so far, 2/3 of the DiGiovanni kids behave this way), here's a look at what might be going through their heads as your try to engineer a no-muss-no-fuss lunch.
"What the heck? Why is she always taking the spoon away from me. I want that SPOON. Here it comes again...RATS, she used that other hand. What a big fat cheater! Aha, the bowl...noooooooooooooo give ME the bowl! Argh, curse my nonverbal-ness, words don't fail me now! Oh, great, the wipe-y thing. Wipe wipe wipe, now my hands are freezing. Pleh, when will I ever learn not to lick that yucky washcloth that's chafing the baby out of me."
"Well, if I can't play with that food, there must be something wrong with it. I am NOT trying that mucky slime unless I can get these mitts on it. ESPECIALLY, because she's been tricking me by waving that cool rattly toy in front of me and when I open my mouth, BANG, green yucky in the kisser. So that's it. I'm out. No green yucky stuff, no green yucky stuff that looks like green yucky stuff...let's lump yellow and orange in, because they're colors, too, and I seem to run into trouble when I eat colored stuff. And no more spoons - yeah, if I can't get my hands on 'em, NO MORE."
"In fact, forget sitting in this high chair. And check this out...I was surfing the Web (awesome I can surf before I can crawl! Wicked!) and DL'd this SWEET blood-curdling scream. One lick of that bad boy and SHAZAAM - I get what I want. Today, I think I'll have...chicken fingers and fries! Tomorrow, just to be difficult, I think I'll throw the chicken on the floor."
Like a lot of things, parenting your child centers around control (see Claire's thoughts on her tights for details). Be careful which issues deserve your stiffest spine, or your child might be a three-food-three-year-old before you know it.
5 hours ago