Parents might find it frustrating to find children playing with their food instead of eating it, but it turns out that making a mess here and there could be good for kids’ development.
Playing with food helps children learn better and faster. A 2013 study by the University of Iowa found that children who poke, throw, feel and taste their food were more likely to name and identify different types of food correctly and more quickly than those who don’t mess around.
Dietitian Helen McIndoo told babycenter.com that through touch and play, children can learn about new objects and environments. “A little bit of squishing and squeezing and mixing and mashing, for example, teaches your child about the texture of different foods.”
Food exploration can also encourage children to have a more varied diet. A 2015 study by De Montfort University found that children who enjoy playing with their food are less likely to have a fear of new foods, or food neophobia. In short, allowing your children to have fun with food may make them less picky eaters.
“Parents might think less about pressuring or forcing their children to eat fruits and vegetables, and more about ways to foster fun, curiosity, and exploration,” nutrition researcher Myles Faith told Reuters.