Encouraging independent eating while reducing mess

At doddl, we believe that unleashing independence in every child starts with feeding. But we know that the process brings with it some unavoidable mess!

There are things you can do to minimise the messiness..  Here’s our expert partner, Stacey Zimmels with some tips on encouraging independent eating while reducing mess.

“Hi I’m Stacey Zimmels Feeding and Swallowing, Speech Therapist and I’m doddl‘s expert partner.

Here are my top three tips for reducing mess to a minimum while encouraging independent eating.

Tip number one – cover up!

Accept the inevitable! Mess is going to happen especially with younger babies. So think about what you can buy or what you already have at home to help reduce the mess.


For bibs my suggestion is a high necked long sleeved bib. If it’s one that also covers the knees, your baby is completely covered. So at the end of the meal they leave the table as shiny and clean as when they sat down.

The second tip is for babies who are weaning or starting solids. Look for a bib that can in some way attach to the tray. This means that the gap which often allows food to fall through on to their lap or go onto the floor, is covered with the bib and catches all the mess.

The final tip is to cover the floor under the high chair with a square wipe-able mat that can be easily cleaned.  If you have mealtimes in rooms with carpets it can be really helpful!

Tip number two – choose cutlery that works

I want to suggest that we all look at the cutlery that we are using with our little ones. This is where a lot of the mess can happen, especially because they’re learning a new skill. If the cutlery isn’t really fit for purpose, the food is going to fall off and away from their mouth and plate, and onto the table and floor.

Metal ends and short handles

I recommend the doddl toddler cutlery for learning to eat. I particularly like it for two reasons. Firstly because they’re made from metal. This means the edge of the spoon and also the tines or prongs of the fork are really effective at scooping food on or stabbing food.

The other thing about the cutlery that you should be looking out for are short handles. This helps because when your baby or child is taking food into their mouths, the movement of the hand and wrist is very minimal. The problem is where they have to do larger movements (because of longer handles).  That’s where the food is going to be more prone to falling off and creating mess.

Tip number three – select your plate carefully

My final tip might be a little bit unexpected, and that is to think about the plates that you’re using. I’ll tell you why.

Grip and shape

You need to look for a plate that is static and maintains stability on the table. So either a stick down plate, or a plate with has some sort of grippy ring on the underside to stop it from moving. This is because our little ones use big gross movements at the beginning of learning to scoop. And they’re so gross or large that if you have a light weight plate, it can easily slide across the table.  Sometimes even onto the floor.

My second tip is to make sure your plate has got at least one side which is curved upwards.  This is because at the start your baby will be using just one hand.  They’re not yet using the other as a helper to get the food on to the cutlery and keep it on there. Having a high side to the plate means that when they scoop, instead of scooping and pushing food off the plate, they’ll be scooping up into the side of the plate. This helps them get the food on to the cutlery It also stops all that food from spilling off the plate and on to the kitchen table or dining room floor. We really like the doddl children’s plate in our family because it serves both purposes. We still use it now even though my little one is already four years old.

I hope you find my top tips on encouraging independent eating while reducing mess helpful. And I look forward to hearing how you get on!”

Find out more about doddl mealtime products by visiting the doddl store or if you’re in the US visit us at our US doddl store.

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