Messy Eater or Developing Genius?

Messy Eater

Just in time for Christmas – a new study has revealed that it’s easier for toddlers to learn words for certain foods if they are a messy eater as they sit in a highchair and mix and play in foods. That’s right – when your little one is squishing and oozing mashed potatoes, peas, and carrots together, she is actually learning not just what those foods look like, but what they feel and taste like.

This helps the child learn about nonsolids.

Maybe It’s Not Naughty To Play With Food!

Maybe you’re like countless other moms, maybe you’ve warned your toddler about not making it onto Santa’s Nice List because she/he was playing with food  – but now it turns out that may not have been true. Santa is a wise man – he probably knew about this stuff all along!

Children have an easier time learning about solid items – this is because these things do not change in size and shape. This new research was conducted at the University of Iowa. It studied how 16-month-olds learn words for nonsolid objects.

Children learn better when they are in a setting they are familiar and comfortable with – a setting like the highchair and a situation such as eating. The journal Developmental Science published a paper about the research that was conducted. Toddlers were presented various food and drink items, such as juice and pudding and each was given a made-up name.  One minute later the kids were asked to recognize the same food items in different shapes or sizes.

Exploration of the food was a big part of the process – and yes – exploration of the food includes what we usually think of as, playing with food. This could include everything from poking, squeezing, and even throwing the foods. These activities help the children learn about the foods’ textures and in the process they also learn to associate words, or names, with certain objects. This is one of the ways vocabulary is developed – and in the end, this learning is associated with better cognitive development.

It turns out that ‘playing with your food’ may not be such a bad thing after all!

Debbie Allen is a team member at Package From Santa. When she’s not writing content or editing you will find her spending time with her family and pets.