How to teach your child to eat on their own

How to teach your child to eat on their own

Self-feeding is one of the essential skills that every child needs to learn. Of course, the teaching process can be difficult sometimes, but it is always worth it in the end. Not only will it ensure your little one is on the way to independence, but it will also take some work off your plate, so to speak.

Teaching your child to eat on their own is a gradual process. Most kids will show some interest in feeding themselves at an early age. It is also completely normal if it takes some time for this interest to appear. Either way, there are a few things you can do to ensure that your child can eat by themselves, especially by the time they are ready to start school.

baby fingers in a bowl

Like most things in life, teaching your child to eat on their own is going to take a lot of patience on your part. You’ll also need to know what to do and when to do it. This article contains all this and more. Here is how to teach your child to eat on their own. 

Why should I teach my child how to eat on their own? 

  • It improves your little one's hand-eye coordination skills when they try to get the food from the plate to their mouth.
  • It helps to make your child more independent, which is another vital skill. They also gain some control, like stopping to eat when full.
  • Holding the cutlery and the baby bottle teaches your child how to grasp items firmly.
  • Your baby gets to improve his other senses, like touch. They learn that different foods have different textures. 

At what age can my child feed themselves?

When teaching your toddler to eat on their own, do not think of it as a switch that you have to turn on when the time comes. Instead, think of it as a gradual process that needs to start from an early age. 

Here are some of the things your little one will be able to do at different ages: 

6-12 months

At this age, your child can hold on to their bottle with little to no assistance. Also, they can pick small pieces of soft foods put in front of them.

baby folding a bottle

1-2 years

Your child can use their sippy cup and might try to use a spoon, but the chances of them making a mess are high.

messy bowl

2-3 years

By now, they can drink from a glass with or without a straw. Using a spoon is now easier, and they might want to start using a fork.

baby holding a spoon

3-4 years

At this point, they are comfortable using a fork, a spoon, and drinking straight from a glass. As they get older, skills like pouring a drink from a jug will be achieved. 

Tips for how to teach baby to feed himself

Here are a couple of tips and tricks that can assist you when it comes to teaching a baby to eat unaided. 

Set the mood

When deciding about when to teach them how to eat, choose a time when they are not tired and when the environment is not stressful for them. You can play some soft music for ambiance and work towards creating a daily routine. Eliminating distractions like screens and the TV will also be helpful.

Also, set up the baby’s feeding area with a high chair or a table and chair that keeps your toddler in one position throughout feeding time. 

Expect a mess

As you figure out how to teach your baby to eat with a spoon, you should be prepared for food to be all over, especially during those early stages. Consider using a long sleeve bib - apron on the table and around it to make the cleanup process thereafter a little easier. 

Since a large portion of the food will land on the baby’s clothes, you should also invest in bibs that they’ll wear every time they eat. 

Make it fun

You can incorporate songs as aids. Having pretend tea parties with dolls can also help to boost their coordination. You can also play naming games with what's on the baby's plate.

Choose the right utensils

Look for dishes that won’t make it harder for your child to eat independently. The baby’s first cutlery set should be flexible, durable, and have smooth edges to avoid hurting them. A baby spoon should also be lightweight and thick enough for it not to slip through his grip. 

Also, let the baby have their plate to eat from. Invest in one with suction at the bottom to prevent it from toppling over.

Give assistance

It might be a while before your child fully gets the rhytm of eating alone. Offer some help by holding the spoon with them as they eat. You can also offer them bite-sized soft foods like slices of banana to eat.

Final Thoughts

Teaching your child how to eat on their own is a messy and gradual process. The good news, though, is that this is one of the fun things about being a parent. In a few years, you’ll look back at this period with nostalgia. Plus, with the tips outlined here, things should be a lot easier for you. Good luck!

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