When should my child be feeding themselves? When should I give my child utensils to use? What kind of utensils are best to give my child? How should my child be feeding themselves? Is it ok for their feeding to be messy? How do I teach them?
Does this sound like you? Don’t worry- You’re not alone. I hear this daily.
The when-to-do-this-and-that is a biggie when it comes to parenting. We all want our children to be hitting the mark across the board. And if they don’t we panic. Is it because I’m not doing ‘X,Y and Z’? Am I not doing ‘X,Y and Z well enough?’. Should I be doing more. Insert Freaking out.
Let me tell you something: You don’t need to know all the answers and you never will. And that’s perfectly ok, beautiful you! Heck, I don’t know all the answers to everything related to my job as a therapist and coach, and that’s ok. Why? Because let’s be honest you can’t and never will (reality check) and if I did life would be boring (imagine being a know it all- yawn).
So grab a cup of tea or one of my delicious bliss ball and enjoy this post- which I hope gives you some practical tips and information to help calm your worries about the ‘when, what and how’ to do with helping your child develop their feeding skills.
Guidelines: Self feeding and use of utensils
Here’s a rough list to keep in mind- but- understand there are individual differences. Contact me here if you want to discuss your child’s skills in a bit more detail.
+ 6 months:
Picks up finger foods and eats using whole hand
+ 10 months:
Starts to explore a spoon, the child will hold with a fisted grasp. You can expect to see your child exploring a spoon to bang, mouth, dip into food (‘Cause and effect’ based play typical for this age group, especially as they learn about the world, objects and their sensory systems).
+ 12 months:
Begins to finger feed using a grasp involving the index finger and thumb (pincer grasp). At this time you will also see your child continue to show interest in holding a spoon. More interested now in bringing the food on the spoon to their mouth (if haven’t already been exploring this).
+ 15 months- 18 months:
Starts to dip spoon into food with greater accuracy. Continues to use a fisted grasp. Getting food to their mouth with more control though feeding is till very messy! Still turning spoon to get food into mouth.
+ 18 months- 24 months:
Starts to scoop food with spoon. Still spilling food when bringing to mouth depending on consistency.
+ 24 months- 30 months:
Using spoon well with minimal spilling. Starts to feed self with the spoon the correct way up (e.g without turning spoon). Scooping food with greater independence. Children may start to explore the fork now- experimenting with ‘spearing’ at food, using a fisted grasp.
+ 36 months:
Grasps the spoon with the fingers.
+ 42 months:
Children will start to explore grasping the fork with their fingers. Start to practice shovelling food onto fork, with spilling.
+ 48 months:
Eats liquids with minimal spilling. Loading the spoon independently. Shovels food with the fork with less spilling.
Ways to improve your child’s feeding skills
In this post I talk about fine motor skills and again in this post (+ a delicious recipe). I recommend you read these because your child’s ability to develop the skills needed to feed begins with establishing control of their hands.
Meanwhile there are so many fun things you can try at the table:
+ Start with finger foods that are rod- shaped, dissolvable and that are easy to pick up. Children first learn how to eat using their fingers so let’s make it easy for them to explore, grasp and taste.
+ Once your child is able to pick up and eat bigger pieces of food, encourage your child to pick up smaller pieces that require the use of fingertips (also known in therapy lingo as a ‘pincer grasp’).
+ When feeding your child, put puree and dissolvable foods on the high chair tray to explore and touch. Allow food to be on your child’s hands and face while eating (mess is part of this wonderful process of learning about the properties of food). Self-feeding starts with being comfortable touching foods that are both wet and dry.
+ Give your child a chance to hold child friendly spoons and toys with wet food on them. Your child can play with them and may bring them to the mouth to taste. Assist your child with putting the food on the spoon or toy as needed. You can also gently help bring the food toward their mouth (this helps them to understand the purpose of the spoon).
+ The first utensil to try having your child use is a spoon. Select a toddler spoon that has a short, thick handle, so your child can easily bring it to their mouth.
+ When first using a spoon, your child will initially need help getting the food on the spoon and bringing the spoon to the mouth. Provide help as needed and give less help as your child gains more control and has increased success.
+ When your child is learning how to use the spoon, it is ideal to have a spoon that you feed your child with and another spoon that your child can try to eat with. This decreases frustration and allows your child to eat enough food while learning this new skill.
+ When your child starts using a fork, stab the food and let your child bring the fork up and into their mouth.
So how was that for a round up of a few strategies to try next time you and your little one are having a meal together. Let’s start a conversation below about other ‘how to’s’ that you find helpful or have found helpful? I can’t wait to hear from you!
Images via Pintrest and Instagram