Toddlers vs. Clean floors

My daughter is 21 months old. I love her. But she is a walking disaster area, and the floor around her highchair bears the brunt of it. For some reason, when she’s done with a food, it must be removed from her sight immediately. This means everything from dry cereal flung wildly around the kitchen to an entire bowl of spaghetti dumped on the floor.

So what’s the best approach to cleaning in this situation? Are those splat mats useful? I would think you just have to clean that anyway, so what’s the advantage?

And as to the floor in general: we have laminate flooring. What’s the best vacuum for this? I find myself sweeping with a broom, then dustbustering the collected debris because my upright vacuum is useless and my “electric broom” is so bad at edge cleaning. For wet cleaning, is the traditional mop the way to go, or is Swiffer better? Should I go all the way and invest in one of those floor cleaning machines?

Finally, how do you clean pasta off the floor? Unless you let it sit until it dries (hardly and option) you can’t vacuum it up, nor can it simply be mopped. I wind up squatting down and picking up pieces by hand, then wiping the area or mopping it. Please tell me there’s a better way!

I find dogs are very useful for this. They learn very quickly to hang around under and near the high chair.

Large garbage bag instead of a splat mat. Toss it when it’s too gross.
Keep the kid close to the floor to reduce the radius of destruction.
Clean up with a wet towel as soon as mealtime is over. Don’t let anything dry.
Bananas are nature’s epoxy. NEVER let banana mess dry on anything. You will not get it off. without substantial effort.

When I was asking about gifts for my sil’s baby shower, the mom’s I talked to said a large vinyl tablecloth to go under the high chair was absolutely essential. Basically, it works like a big dropcloth–most of the spills go on it instead of your floor, and afterward you can just pull it out and hose it off. Plus they’re cheap, so you can replace them easily if they get torn of excessively stained, and they make sure the high chair legs don’t scratch your floor.

Another trick I used is to just give them a little bit at a time. That way the end of the meal mess is minimized and, if something is spilled by accident, it isn’t so bad.

The Shark ™ sweeper is good at sweeping up bits of everything, including sticky things like wet cheerios or cooked vegetables. We also use a Swiffer on our laminate floors and it works pretty well. To clean something like pasta I think I would use a wad of damp paper towels to shove it all into a pile and then scoop it up. We have a dog so I have never had to try this though, just swiffering after she gets at it is enough!

I have considered getting one of those hard floor cleaners too. The ones that vacuum and then flip to a floor cleaner look pretty cool. If I find after a while that the swiffer is not getting the floor clean (our floors are new so I don’t know how well it does over time) then I might look into getting one.

Toddlers vs. Clean floors?

My money will be on the toddler to win every time, with a substantial point margin.
And I have yet to find a way to get the pasta up other than picking it up piece by piece. I learned fast that elbow macaroni and spaghetti are the hardest to pick up. We went with bowties or wagon wheels. It was easier to get a grip on them. :smiley:

This too shall pass. Our resident toddler is now 30 months old and the floor situation is MUCH better than even a few months ago. Unfortunately, his little sister will soon begin Adventures in Self-Feeding so it will start all over again :smiley:

I try to catch things and wipe them up when they’re still wet–if I have enough time and enough energy to actually care. If it dries, a quick spray with PineSol or something similar, then a wipe with a paper towel does the trick. Hard, dried stuff may require a blunt edge to scrape it up. Once a week or so (again, depending on time/energy/apathy) I bring out the Swiffer Wet Jet. Once in a great while I actually dig out my mop and bucket and give the floor a good scrubbing.

I thought about a splat mat/vinyl table cloth, but I don’t usually have time to take something outside to hose it down and then wait for it to dry and then actually remember to bring it back inside so it doesn’t blow away into the neighbors’ yard overnight. YMMV.

I used to be almost OCD about housekeeping. Now I find I am happy if the dishes are clean and there is a path to walk through the living room!

Resign yourself to daily cleanup. Toddlers are cuter, but mess doesn’t stop when they hit three and are out of he high chair.

My three-year-old thinks he can do everything himself. I’d need a “splat mat” for the whole house.

Even my nine-year-old is no neat freak. Obviously, he’s capable of cleaning up after himself in an un-toddler-like fashion, but even so, there are limits to how good a cleaning job you can expect from a pre-teen.

Cleanup is just a part of the overall parental job. And of course, it’s most effective once the kids are all in bed.

My mother has one of those floor-cleaning machines, and is sorry she ever bought it–she thinks it’s near useless. Her principal complaint, as far as I can tell, is that it can only do rather small sections of floor and then it needs to be emptied and refilled… maybe if you were only doing the part of the kitchen beneath your toddler’s highchair, it would work for you.

My initial reaction to this thread is, thank God I’m not the only one. My mother is compulsively neat, and every time I survey my kitchen, I feel like a domestic failure.

Basically the way we handle the mess is to sweep the floor after every mealtime, and then mop once a week. The day or two before mop day, the floor looks pretty crufty, but frankly that’s the best I can do.

At 21 months she’s old enough to start learning you don’t fling food. That will help a lot. She isn’t going to learn that on her own.

Then, feed her things that are easy to sweep up until she gets the hang of “don’t toss everything” Spagetti - takes getting down on the floor with a wet paper towel, then if you’ve used sauce, a mop. Rice and peas takes half an hour to dry out and a broom. Little bits of apple, carrot, bread, and hot dog sweep up - macaroni and cheese becomes part of the wall decor. Liquids go in sippy cups until she learns not to fling - unless its water that can be wiped up fast. Speaking of sauce, there isn’t any reason a toddler needs a lot of sauce - things will be a lot tidier if you sauce her noodles just to coat them.

Rather than trying to scrape up dried on hard food: Wet a paper towel. Lay paper towel (folded a few times) on top of stuck noodle. Let water work magic for half an hour, wipe. A wet paper towel will stick nicely to the wall…

I prefer Swiffer, just because it means I don’t have to fill a bucket, lug it around, and deal with the very real possibility of my knocking it over at some point.

Ditto with oatmeal. That stuff is like glue.

Yes, a dog is the best answer for this problem. It worked great for me.

A co-worker’s daughter came up with a good idea, though it might be over kill for most. She had twin boys and they were teaming up on her like crazy, so she bought a kiddie pool and put it inside one of those mosquito netting dealies that usually go around a bed. After she set their chairs inside she could feed them without worrying about flying sketti-o and it was all washable. In between meals she just leaned the whole thing against the wall, which wasn’t too pretty but better than exhaustion and cleaning guilt.

I love this idea.

I think I will modify this approach and feed my 20 month old outside during the summer. When dinner time is over I can just hose her down.


I was thinking a dog and Shop Vac would work nicely …

I don’t have a toddler and the Swiffer wasn’t invented yet when I did but I have to say that I tossed my Swiffer in the trash after a ver short time.

It leaves cleaning solution on the floor. Which just caused the floor to attract more dirt. My kitchen floor never looked grungier and needed mopping more often than when I was using that thing.

I’m back to the old mop and bucket with the occasional scrubbing to get the grout clean. I have tile throughout my condo except the bedrooms, maybe it works better on vinyl?

Good luck with your sweetie. She will grow out of it.

Ooh, lots of lovely responses - thank you! And I just have to say I laughed my head off at

My friend keeps saying we need a dog, and there are only three problems with that:

  1. Chloe is intensely terrified by domestic animals, regardless of size.
  2. Taking care of a toddler is enough without adding a dog’s needs.
  3. Dealing with a toddler’s poop is enough without adding a dog’s.

And yeah, we are teaching her that throwing food is not acceptable, but it’s slow going.

I will try some of the other suggestions as well. I don’t think I’ll go as far as mosquito netting, but we do have a lovely deck just feet away from the dinner table, and nice warm weather coming . . .

MsWhatsit, I’ve learned to cut myself some slack. I prioritize: is the kid safe and properly cared for? Have I fed myself and gotten some exercise? Is the kitchen clean enough to cook in? If the answers are all yes, I don’t let scuzzy bathrooms or a living room cluttered with toys take away my feeling of victory. My mom’s house is pristine, too, but she’s 53 and has nothing to take up her spare time other than cleaning, decorating, and gardening.