Eating on his own

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Highlights
  • Finger-feeding is the first step toward independent eating.
  • Your child learns how to use utensils by watching adults.
  • Offer bite-sized developmentally appropriate foods and those that cling to a spoon.
  • Expect a mess as he learns to feed himself.

Your Toddler is taking more control when it comes to eating. Fingers are his first utensils of choice, but a fork and spoon have captured his interest. He’s exploring the use of utensils and learning by watching how you do it. That makes for a great opportunity for you to be a role model and teach him by example how to feed himself.

Is he ready?

If he can use his fingers to feed himself:

  • Offer a variety of easy-to-pick-up foods like diced bananas, meat sticks and bite-sized snacks.
  • Avoid foods that are choking hazards for your child’s stage such as popcorn, whole grapes, hot dogs, nuts, gum or hard candy.

If he’s already exploring a spoon, fork or cup:

  • Serve foods that are thick and will cling to a spoon. Holding a spoon level is something he may not be able to do, so use pureed foods thick enough to stay on.
  • Try bite-sized foods he can easily spear with a fork, like soft, diced fruit.
  • Use a cup that’s the right size and shape for his little hands.

Toddler-friendly spoons with soft handles and plates with curved edges will help him perfect his feeding skills.

How you can help

If your little guy seems eager and willing to feed himself, try these tips to safely encourage him.

  • Start with two spoons — you hold one and he holds the other. He’ll learn by watching you eat with a spoon. He may try to grab your spoon, and if so, let him. Then start all over again.
  • Start with foods that will easily cling to a spoon so he doesn’t get frustrated with food falling off his utensil. 
  • Using Toddler-friendly utensils and plates will make this process much easier. Spoons should have soft, big handles shaped in a way that’s easy for little hands to grip. Plates should have curved sides so he can scoop food along the edges.
  • Patience will pay off. He’ll make a mess, but that’s how he’ll learn. Resist the urge to just feed him yourself, and instead let him do it his way.
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