Teaching toddlers to feed themselves can be frustrating as you constantly need to clean up their mess. However, it is essential to the right kids cutlery at the right time, which helps develop their motor skills and independence and regulates their appetite.
Toddlers that are spoon-fed don’t learn to control the rate at which food goes to their mouths. When you give a fork and spoon for practice, they gradually learn how much food they can comfortably chew and swallow.
Following is some information that could help you understand various aspects of self-feeding and get you started on your journey to make your child an independent feeder.
Why is self-feeding necessary?
- Self-feeding helps in developing fine motor skills. It includes picking food with hands, fingers, and cutlery that require complex muscle movements that evolve over time. Moreover, self-feeding helps one learn to pick up and hold different objects and foods.
- With toddlers asserting their independence, mealtimes can get messy. However, it also means they explore their food with their senses and experience its texture, taste, temperature, and thickness. This way, they learn more about food.
- Self-feeding helps toddlers understand their levels of hunger. When they eat intuitively, they will eat the amount of food they need. Hence, there are lesser chances of overfeeding.
When are toddlers ready to self-feed?
- Usually, toddlers of age between 12 and 15 months can get spoons in their mouths. While eating during this time can be messy, it is crucial to accept different foods and for sensory play.
- By 15 months, toddlers learn to self-feed pretty well and get most of their food into their mouths. You can now introduce a fork as they have almost mastered using spoons.
- From 2 years, toddlers become completely independent to use a fork and spoon. This time around, you can introduce them to the knife.
How would you teach self-feeding?
- Make sure you invest in chunky kids cutlery, a high chair, and easy-to-clean bibs and mats.
- You must create an appetite schedule to establish a routine, so your child knows what to expect. When you develop a snacks and meal schedule and allow enough time between these, your toddler will have a healthy appetite.
- Focus on family mealtimes as children learn a lot by watching their parents.
- You can be disheartened when your child throws food off the table. During this stage of development, you must show perseverance and don’t forget to assert that the ‘food stays on the table’ firmly.
- Not all children will learn self-feeding at the same pace as each child is different. So, it’s vital that you offer a wide variety of foods with different textures, flavours, and tastes that will help them learn fast.
- While it’s frustrating to see so much food waste, allowing your children to get messy can be excellent for their sensory development.
- You can demonstrate using a fork or spoon to your toddler and ask them to take their turns.
- If your children struggle to follow you, use the hand-over-hand method to guide them.
When should you introduce cutlery?
You can introduce a spoon when your baby is about 7 or 8 months old. The spoons should ideally be soft with a shallow bowl. By the time the children are 18 months old, they become pretty adept at self-feeding without spilling food. Your child can use a fork and knife when they reach two years of age. However, if you find that your child is still struggling, you can visit your health advisor and get additional support.
Choosing cutlery to help children master table manners can be overwhelming initially. However, as you know the right ways of parenting around food, you can contribute largely to the child’s growth and development.