The Texture Of Things

Playing Catch Up – Updated

January 7th, 2007

The tot hit an important milestone today. She has begun dumping things out. This morning at the restaurant, she dumped her bag of Cheerios (known 90% of the time as Ohs). She played with them and ate some. She explored the physics of the Ohs by putting her hand on the whole pile, moving bunches around, sliding them on the table.

Then, at lunch, she not only ate several of these waxy-frosted, beady-ball sprinkled cookies when she never ever, never ever would even touch them before,

frosted cookies

but she also asked for and dumped out her cheesy crackers and played in the crumbs.

cheesy cracker crumbs

Now that I think about it, on Thursday she crumbled a graham cracker and left the crumbs on her snack table.

What’s noteworthy about this development, besides the fact that a 2.5 year old is just now acquiring a 7 month old’s inquisitiveness, is that her anxiety during the sessions is absent. She is not troubled at all by the potential mess, which is about 1,000 miles from where we began.

It’s messy, to be sure, but it’s necessary. This kind of play falls into the category of “the physics of food.” Essentially, it is playing with a food in your hands in order to learn about how it will be in your mouth. When you bang a raw carrot on the table, you learn that it will be hard and require a hard bite and a big chew. It will not be mushy and it will not be brittle. When you plop your hand into your bowl of applesauce, you learn that it will feel a bit gritty and very wet, possibly cool and easy to move around in your mouth.

Younger tots come into learning about the physics of food more inconspicuously because they are naturally inquisitive and they gradually seek out interactions with the foods around them. The tot did not because 1) I didn’t give her enough opportunities to be messy and handle many of the foods I was feeding her, which only served to complicate things like the fact that 2) the tot did not want to handle anything other than her dry spoons. Spilled foods, on her or on any surface other than “the right one” (i.e., the bowl or plate), were deeply traumatizing. They were crises. The saying “Don’t cry over spilt milk” was probably invented for kids like my daughter.

But in the last couple of days, she’s making huge strides. She ate a ton of food today*, including foods she’s never eaten before: the nasty frosted cookies, M&Ms**, and some rather wet baby carrots (a food she has licked before, but tonight she gnawed on them). It’s improvement, and I’ll take it.

*I’m not typically worried about the amount of food she eats, as long as she’s not acting hungry. If she’s acting hungry yet struggling with food, there’s a problem. This scenario is improving, however, as she learns to recognize her own hunger cues and ask for food or drink – big self-help behaviors that have eluded her all this time. Today, I don’t think she quit asking for food once. The next two days it will be critical I remember the diaper bag everywhere we go because, um, seriously. There’s gonna be a blow-out, probably at Kohl’s.

**There is an interesting little story here, I think, that I’d like recorded here. Thank you, HG, for posting it in the comments. Smooch!

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