When my daughter was a baby and a toddler, she was a very messy eater. After having a meal there would be food on her clothing, on her face, on the floor, basically anywhere where food could fall, it would. But this never bothered me. She was enjoying herself and, most importantly, engaging in family meal time. And a new study has recently been released that this messy eating may actually have made her a faster learner.
Researchers from the University of Iowa studied a group of 16 month olds and how they learn words in the context of playing with food. This was an ideal early learning environment since they could manipulate these tangible items like apple sauce and oatmeal, things they could smear, spread and eat.
The researchers found that children who were given the opportunity to freely play with the food items learned the words for the items quicker. Time Magazine notes that, “the kids who had really got their hands — and sometimes the walls or floors — dirty, seemed to be the ones who understood the differences in texture or viscosity better. All that fooling around was actually learning.” The children also seemed to learn better while in a high chair, “because kids know they can get messy there.”
I think the big takeaway here is that we need to give our children the freedom to learn, the freedom to make messes, to see how things works, to see first hand cause and effect. Their experiences with foods are safe and satisfying and now we are learning they can be educational as well. So next time your kid is making a mess at the dinner table, let them.
Photo Source: Dee/MorgueFile