Montessori Baby

The author, trained as a Montessori primary teacher (AMI), documents and analyzes her efforts to raise a "Montessori" baby.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Intentional food spills: Too many choices?

Okay, fellow Montessorians. I understood it when he was 9 months old - dumping his juice on the floor, spilling his cheerios - then, it was an experiment. I guess now it's an experiment, too. It's just that this time, it's not about what happens to the cheerios, it's about my reaction.

This all started on Easter Sunday. Alex, our three year old, "spilled" his cereal on the floor. At first, we thought it was an accident - the byproduct of trying to carry his bowl from the dining room to the living room. But when the second bowl ended up on the same spot on the floor, we knew it wasn't a mistake. Our reaction was pretty dramatic - shock, followed sending Alex for some cooling out time in his room (more for me than him), followed by clean-up together that was not quite as matter-of-fact as we might have liked (maybe not enough cooling time?). The rest of the day was pretty much a disaster - between lots of limit testing and a delayed nap, we all felt pretty awful before it was all said and done.

Yesterday was a pretty normal day, so I had chalked up the intentional spilling to the excitement of Easter. But this morning it returned - after denying a request for a tuna fish sandwich, first cereal, then fruit, then juice went on the floor. Alex is now at school fairly hungry, and I'm setting out to do some hard thinking about what to do.

I wonder if the source of this new behavior is the culmination of a growing uncertainty about our food "policy." I've thought about why I denied the sandwich request in the first place, and I think it was because the request seemed like part of a larger issue.

As Alex has grown, we have made more food choices available to him. There are generally two or three dry snacks available in the cupboard (goldfish, a granola bar) and two or three perishable snacks on his shelf in the fridge (yogurt, a cheese stick, fruit). Two kinds of cereal are also available for breakfast, although lately Alex has been asking one of us to pour a different kind of cereal for him or has wanted something else altogether for breakfast. Snacking has become an issue, too. We've been fielding requests after dinner, which I don't particularly like. I think it's likely that we're offering too many choices, and it's time to get clear about what the food policy is. So...

Breakfast is self-serve. There are two kinds of cereal, and a glass of orange juice.
On non-school days, there will be a snack available between breakfast and lunch. Self-serve.
Mom makes lunch.
There will be one snack post-nap.
Mom makes dinner.
There is one small Easter treat after dinner. (I could write a whole separate post about treats)
Bedtime snack will be served during Curious George time.

I will try to coolly handle spills - clean up, and no more of that food. What seems tricky here is the difference between intentional and unintentional spills...any thoughts?

We'll see how this works. I'm open to suggestions!


At 10:37 AM, Blogger Marcy said...

My kid's only 14months old, but I'm also dealing with similar issues-- him taking food off his plate and intentionally dropping it on the floor.

It seems that kids often do this b/c it gets a cool reaction from mom and dad, so my biggest challenge has been not to get all mad. I'm really big on natural consequences-- the natural consequences of dropping your cereal on the floor is that you have to help clean it up. Maybe he can get the 2nd bowl, but if that goes on the floor then that's it, no more chances. I wouldn't think it'd take too many mornings of going hungry before he realizes it's not worth it.

Again, he hardest part for me is keeping my cool. I know it's best to be matter-of-fact about it (those are the rules, that's just the way it is...). But it's so hard not to get mad when he insists on dropping his cup on the floor and I'm repeating over and over at every meal time that "The cup goes on the TABLE." I'm just trusting he gets the message eventually...?

At 1:26 AM, Anonymous SweetW said...

One idea - and you have to be brave and alert to try it - is to use glass or stoneware dishes.

Maria Montessori had the children use glass pitchers and cups, etc. because then they learn to respect the materials, and not throw them around, like they will with plastic (or metal, in her day.)

Yes, it can be dangerous if the child slips and falls and breaks a dish, so you will have to use your good judgment whether it is right for you and your child.

Just think of this: You and your child find his favorite color of blue in a stoneware cereal bowl. You buy one of them. He has his cereal in the bowl, and the first time it lands on the floor, no more cereal, but also, no more bowl. And that was his choice. He will get the hint really quickly.

At 11:52 AM, Blogger Rochelle said...

Perhaps it's just me, but that seems like a lot of snacks (3) ~ does he eat well at meals? We use to snack a lot, but a friend (when we were dealing with sleep issues) told me to cut back on snacks and focus more time on play/learning, etc. and this has seemed to help. We now have B,L,D and a snack after nap. My daughter seems to eat a huge breakfast, a med lunch and a veritable dinner (sometimes big, sometimes small). If she plays (throws, drops) her plate is taken away. If she doesn't eat her food she can eat at the next meal. So far this has seemed to make it all very self motivated (choice is whether to eat as served or not) and if I know we are going to eat something she can't/never eats I give her an alternative (peas instead of kale or salad, etc.).

I don't know if any of this really relates to your situation, but this is what came to mind when I read your post.

My husband and I have discussed forcing her to eat or letting her go hungry and we've decided letting the food choice be ours and the eating or not be hers, though she must always sit at the table with us whether she eats or not.



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