Here's one good thing that can come out of messy mealtimes with your baby. According to a study featured on TIME, kids who play with their food may actually be learning something new.

Researchers from the University of Iowa (UI) looked into how 16-month-old kids learned the names of changeable things, such as applesauce, oatmeal, juice, and soup. These liquids and semi-liquids were then given made-up tags that the participants could easier pronounce such as “dax” or “liv.”

Those who remembered what the items were called even when they were placed in other containers were those who relied not just on their sense of sight but also on their sense of touch—in short, those who got down and dirty.

“Playing with these foods actually helped these children in the lab, and they learned the names better,” says researcher Larissa Samuelson.

Of course, this isn’t a guarantee that your child will grow up to have an impressive IQ, but perhaps it’s not a bad idea to let her play with their food once in a while. After all, you never know just what she could be learning.

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(Photo by LB1860 via Flickr Creative Commons)

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