Skip to main content

Young Toddlers and Mealtime Manners

Young toddlers (1-year-olds) are busy little humans. They are wandering, exploring, hauling, pushing, pulling little mobile people. At 13-months, I sometimes, I wonder if Teddy has sat down at all, all day long. Most of the time, I'm pretty sure the answer to that is "no." This can make mealtimes at his weaning table fairly interesting. But, today, I wanted to talk about something other than movement - I wanted to talk about manners. As babies turn into toddlers, and start becoming bigger and more capable, there is the question of manners. 

What happens when your young toddlers shoves their banana into their cup? What happens when they stand up at the table? What happens if they wander away? What happens if they dump their water? What happens if they throw their food? Or play with their food? 

This post contains affiliate link at no cost to you.

While there can be a big leap in our toddler's abilities as they start to grow, it is important to remember that they are still learning through their senses. They still need to explore the world around them in a variety of interesting and new ways. They are still going to want to feel how it feels to smash their food, to watch the water run down, and still need to follow their inner need to move. 

On this topic, I'm reminded of a Maria Montessori quote from Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, "We are eager to see them grow into intelligent, useful citizens, with find characters and good manners. And so we spend our time and our patience correcting them, telling them to do this, not to do that...We say that we correct them for their own good, and a great deal of the time we honestly believe it. But it is strange how often what we feel to be their good amounts to the same thing as our own comfort." 

Manners are a secondary concern at this age. They are something that will come with time and on their own, as your child watches you eat and interact at mealtimes. And, it will especially come in the second plane of development (over age 6) when children become much more acutely aware of social interactions. 

Teddy eats with this 5" toddler/baby chair

So, for our family, we set few limits at mealtimes for Teddy. Those that we do set, have to do with safety. We don't wander around eating because then I can't watch him and he might choke. So, if he's wandering away, I simply say that it looks like he is all done and he can come back and try again later. Usually, though, if he's wandering, he is done eating. The other thing we don't allow is throwing cups/plates/etc because they can break. We gently block him from throwing those things and say "the cup stays on the table." If it's a constant issue, then we stop and redirect to more appropriate objects to throw. 

Manners will come! I trust that they will. I trust too that Teddy is taking mealtimes and using them for his own developmental advantage. He's learning what he needs to learn and getting from them far more than just nutrition. And, the time for perfect little table manners will come - just much much later. 

How do you approach mealtime with your young toddler?

Montessori parenting advice for toddlers and mealtimes. Here's a look at how we approach meals and manners with a 1-year-old.



My 14 month old will wander off with a piece of food. I will say that it seems she’s done and take the plate away. A little later she’ll come back to the table, so I’ll put the food back and she’ll wander off with another piece of food. Should I be trying to take this piece of food off her? I’ve previously left it as it’s only the one piece she’s holding and then I’m taking the rest out of the way so she doesn’t do it with the whole meal.

Popular Posts

The Ultimate Montessori Toy List -- Birth to Five -- UPDATED 2020

When you are interested in Montessori, it can be difficult to know exactly what types of products you should get for your home. Or which types of "Montessori" materials are really worth the price. There are no rules about types of products can use the name Montessori which can add to the confusion. Not to mention, every toy manufacturer slaps the word "educational" on the package for good measure! 2020 UPDATE: This list is updated for another year! Enjoy a variety of Montessori friendly finds from both major retailers and smaller shops!  So, with this post, I'm going to try to help with this confusion! Here's a list of Montessori-friendly toys and materials for babies, toddlers and preschoolers.  First, let's clarify that there is no such thing as a "Montessori toy." Montessori never created toys, but only works for classroom settings. While there are many works that I recommend for home school use, you won't find these

Our Kids' Montessori Gift Lists 2020

With the holiday season upon us we've been making lists and gathering gifts for the Kavanaugh children. It's always a fun process of observing my children, seeing what they would really be interested in and making some decisions based on what I see. This year is different because I'm also making decisions knowing that we are looking at a very long and quiet winter ahead. So that's influencing the amount I will buy and the specific choices I will/have made.  Henry and Nora are also at the point, being into the second plane of development, where they heavily influence the items on the list and what is ultimately purchased. So, you'll see that while Montessori influences what I will purchase and what goes on their list, so does their own preferences and personality.  This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you.  Theodore Teddy is 14-months-old right now and as the fourth baby, we have so many toddler things. But, there are a few things I've still found tha

Sensitive Periods from Birth to 6 - A Chart and Guide

Dr. Maria Montessori spent her life observing, studying, and writing about children. During her lifetime of work she discovered that young children move through a series of special times when they are particularly attracted to specific developmental needs and interests. She called these times, sensitive periods. During the sensitive period, children learn skills related to the sensitive period with ease. They don't tire of that work, but seek it, crave it and need it. When the sensitive period passes, this intense desire is gone, never to return.  That doesn't mean the skill is lost forever once the sensitive period is over. Instead, it just means that it will take a more conscious effort to learn. As Dr. Montessori explains,  This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you. "A child learns to adjust himself and make acquisitions in his sensitive periods. These are like a beam that lights interiorly a battery that furnishes energy. It is this sensibility which enables