The goal is to teach our children to do things independently so that they can survive on their own. We need to recognize that right from birth, although babies need things from us, they are very capable beings. They can do a lot more than we initially give them credit for! Eating is one of the only areas that children largely have control over, so I believe we should foster them to eat independently right from the beginning. My oldest son, Atlas, was eating entirely on his own before I even knew it was possible!
How I Did It:
Introducing The Spoon
At 4 months Atlas began eating food. That is when I also decided I wanted him to learn to eat independently. To begin teaching him association, I gave him a spoon while I fed him with a different spoon. Even as early as 4 months, children are able to recognize that utensils are connected to food. He didn’t understand the purpose yet but could put the two together.
Making The Connection
Eventually, Atlas began chewing on the head of his spoon. This is the next step toward using his utensils. Building the connection between his mouth and the head of the spoon let me know that he understood how it worked.
Strengthening The Connection:
Once he made the connection, it was time to strengthen it. The next step was to start putting small amounts of food on the spoon. Atlas got excited about food being on the spoon when he put it in his mouth and I noticed him observing me as I continued to feed him. I would wait a while between putting food on his spoon so he started to get impatient and began reaching for the food on his own with his spoon.
Here’s The Part That Most Parents Hate!
I let things get MESSY! I started to give Atlas a bowl for himself with small amounts of cereal or yogurt and let him feed himself. There was food all over his face and his clothes. He made a mess on his high chair tray and all over the floor but he was happy and he was learning. At this point I would allow Atlas to keep trying for about 30 minutes and then I would feed him some food myself to make sure he ate enough but I wanted him to make his attempts first before I stepped in at all.
I noticed that Atlas started having a tough time with the long baby spoons and getting them in his mouth so I began switching to shorter utensils. All this time he would also eat finger foods but eventually he tried picking those up with the spoon as well so I started introducing forks. To my surprise, he already knew how to use it. He had been observing me this whole time.
That was it! No more assistance needed. He knew how to use utensils and refused help with eating since then.
To Summarize The Steps I Followed:
– Introduce a second spoon right from when your child starts eating
– Add food on the spoon once they start putting the spoon in their mouth frequently
– Begin lengthening the amount of time between putting food on the spoon
– When they start demanding more food and reaching with their spoon, allow them to begin eating out of the bowl themselves
– Shorten utensils as needed and introduce blunt forks with finger foods
You may have noticed that I didn’t give you many ages throughout this entire post. The reason for this is because I want to stress that every child is different. Different personalities lead children to behave differently. It is important when teaching your children life skills to follow your child’s own cues for when they are ready. Don’t push your child to do something that they aren’t ready to do! This could lead to regression.
Whether your baby is just beginning to try solids or you want to introduce utensils to your toddler for the first time, these tips should help your child eat independently!