It’s Not All Mary Poppins


Over the past month, baby Nigel and I have developed a predictable food ritual. He sits in his high chair, a handy IKEA item, essentially a bucket on legs. It can be pulled up to the table when he feeds himself, or which can be placed in front of me when I’m feeding him. Appropriately bibbed, he sits up tall, alert, ready, and eager for his lunch.

The first spoonful starts the ritual. Thereafter he signals his readiness for the next by swinging his chubby legs like mad, while gripping the front of the chair. The legs-swinging is joined by chair-smacking as the spoon nears his open mouth. His mouth, which is, what with all the swinging and smacking going on, bouncing and bobbing all over the place, a small and eminently miss-able target.

Not wanting to smear his bean goop from cheek to earhole, I place one hand atop his head to steady and still, and in goes the spoon. Thus the procedure is as follows:

Legs swing;
Spoon approaches;
Arms wave;
Hand on head;
Successful deposit;
Boy becomes still while ingesting;
Legs swing.

Swing, spoon, wave-hand-food; swing, spoon, wave-hand-food; swing, spoon… you get the pattern.

Today I made a discovery. The boy was bibbed and seated, primed and ready, when the cat – that endlessly fascinatiing feline – meandered through the dining room. No amount of spoon-waving and you-hooing was sufficient to attract his attention, so I placed my hand gently atop his head to turn his face spoonward. His eyes never leaving the cat – and why can’t that dratted animal hurry himself once in a while, anyway? – Nigel’s mouth opened.

I take my hand away. His mouth closes. Put it back. His mouth opens. Hand on – mouth open; hand off – mouth closed. Open, close, open, close.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have behavioural conditioning.

What do you want to bet he salivates when I put my hand on his head?

January 10, 2006 - Posted by | Developmental stuff, food, individuality


  1. Next, you should see if you can teach him how to walk a tight rope. Rats can do it!

    Comment by MIM | January 10, 2006 | Reply

  2. Haha. I should tell my psychology prof about this.

    Comment by Haley | January 10, 2006 | Reply

  3. Haley- I’ve got a couple professors who would enjoy this too!

    Comment by Angela | January 10, 2006 | Reply

  4. mim: Yeah, but rats have four leg– wait a minute. Nigel isn’t walking yet. Okay, I’ll get right onto that.

    Haley: Oh, give him/her the link! It’d be fun!

    Angela: You, too!

    Comment by Mary P. | January 10, 2006 | Reply

  5. My baby is conditioned in when it comes to eating too!

    When she first started solids, she would get fussy when I put her in the high chair. To try and calm her, I started to sing “Itsy Bitsy Spider”. It worked, so I started singing it every time it was time for her to eat.

    Now I sing the song, and she opens up. Even if it’s not time to eat. Fun stuff!

    Comment by Andie D. | January 10, 2006 | Reply

  6. LOL. Too funny. We’re all just trainable animals, really.

    Comment by Kristen | January 11, 2006 | Reply

  7. less exhausting than train noises:-)

    Comment by Mrs.Aginoth | January 11, 2006 | Reply

  8. Andie: Makes you want to try it with something else, doesn’t it? Today, opening the mouth, tomorrow…potty training? saying please and thank you? tending to momma in her old age?

    Kristen: In many ways, we pretty much are. The motivators may change, but the principle remains.

    MrsA: My kids were joking about airplanes. “Here comes the spoon, coming in for a landing. Open your widdle mouf so the airplane can land!” Phew. Too much work for me…

    Comment by Mary P. | January 11, 2006 | Reply

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