Messy High Chair? You May Be Raising a Genius

I knew it!  Raising a kid not to care about the cheerios on the floor, or the fudge icing in his hair, or the milk pooling in designs on the tray, is a good thing.

According to a study, the messier your child gets while playing with food in the high chair, the more he or she is learning. That's because children start learning words for solid objects from their unchanging size and shape. But things that ooze and are mushy?  That's more of a challenge.

But simply put them in a familiar setting, and that starts to change, reports.

". . . if you put toddlers in a setting they know well, such as shoving stuff in their mouths," quotes Larissa Samuelson, associate professor in psychology at the UI who has worked for years on how children learn to associate words with objects, they will start to associate the nonsolid objects with the words to name them. In those instances, word learning increases, because children at that age are “used to seeing nonsolid things in this context, when they’re eating,” Samuelson tells  “And, if you expose them to these things when they’re in a highchair, they do better. They're familiar with the setting and that helps them remember and use what they already know about nonsolids.”

Researchers allowed toddlers to muck about with applesauce, juice, pudding and other nonsolid objects. Those who did the most poking and prodding and squishing were more able to identify the texture and name the nonsolid foods, the study found.

And the high chair's the thing. "Children in a high chair were more apt to identify and name the food than those in other venues, such as seated at a table, the researchers found," relates.

It turns out that being in a high chair makes it more likely you’ll get messy, because kids know they can get messy there,” says Samuelson, the senior author on the paper.

The authors say the exercise shows how children’s behavior, environment (or setting) and exploration help them acquire an early vocabulary—learning that is linked to better later cognitive development and functioning, notes.

“It may look like your child is playing in the high chair, throwing things on the ground, and they may be doing that, but they are getting information out of (those actions),” Samuelson contends. “And, it turns out, they can use that information later. That’s what the high chair did. Playing with these foods there actually helped these children in the lab, and they learned the names better.”

So I don't have to feel guilty about not having an immaculate floor under the high chair?  I guess not.  Of course, that probably doesn't go for the restaurants where Phillip discovered rice -- and how great it looks on the floor.


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