After months of using the aeroplane method to deliver food to your precious little one’s mouth, you might be desperate to have them start feeding themselves. You can’t be a food pilot forever! Self-feeding can be a relief for exhausted and time-poor parents (but be warned it doesn’t come without mess!). If you’re motivated to get your child on track to be able to enjoy your own meal again, here are a few steps.
When should my baby be eating with their hands?
Typically, around 8 months your little one should start shovelling food into their mouths with the utmost grace. You will laugh at the sight of them using their entire chubby hands to grab as much food as possible before shoving it all in! As time goes on, they should start actually using their fingers – also known as pincer grip – to be a bit more effective at picking up their food. To help them along with this process you need to offer them plenty of encouragement. Lead by example by showing how to use their fingers to get to the destination. Let them try often even though they will continue to fail – and they will make lots of mess. If the skills aren’t coming naturally, slow it down a bit by handing out their food one piece at a time. This will help them to use the correct motions and refine their skills. Remember, practice is key!
What’s the Next Step?
If you’re feeling ambitious, it might be time to introduce the trusty spoon! Again, allow them to try and figure out the movements themselves. Place a spoon in front of them and cheer them on if they do anything but throw it on the floor! Encourage them to pick up the spoon and demonstrate yourself, and then take their hand and go through the motion with them. Taking small amounts and bites at a slow pace will help them learn the motor skill over time. Once they seem to have picked up the idea of a spoon, move a step forward with a suction bowl for their own food. There will be (hopefully) less mess and they will learn the connection between their utensil and the bowl of food they so desperately want! The mess might get overwhelming at times so be prepared with plenty of bibs and cleaning wipes and a splash mat on the floor. Overall, the best way to help them with a spoon is to guide them with your hands and give them space and time to figure it out. Remember, keep it light and fun.
It will take some time to get to this stage – usually not until 15-18 months. Once this time comes around, use soft and easy to grab food like cheese. You might meet some serious frustration but patience is key. Again, use the hand over hand method if they’re struggling a bit on their own. Repetition and practice is the only way these skills will become normal actions for them. Soon enough forks will be a piece of cake! At that point, you will be completely back to your scheduled dinners and peace of mind. Even though it might feel like your life revolves around spooning baby food into your child’s mouth, the day will come where you can let them eat by themselves. Repetition and patience are the most important things you need. Your little one is slowly but surely turning into a little person!