Teaching your little one independence with feeding

Emmy Samtani

Emmy Samtani

Emmy is the founder of Kiindred and mother to 3 little ones. Over the last 4 years, she has worked with some of the most credible experts in the parenting space and is a keen contributor on all things parenthood.
Updated on Jun 14, 2024 · 4 mins read
Teaching your little one independence with feeding

After months of using the aeroplane method feed your baby, you might be keen 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 start teaching your little one independence with feeding, here are some tips.

When should my baby be eating with their hands?

Around the age of 8 months, your little one enters a delightful phase where they begin to eagerly shovel food into their mouths, displaying a charming lack of, shall we say… finesse. You’ll find yourself laughing at the adorable sight of their chubby little hands grasping food, determined to grab as much as possible before stuffing it all in!

As they grow, they should gradually develop their finger dexterity and master the art of the pincer grip, using their thumb and forefinger to pick up food more skillfully. Encouragement plays a vital role in supporting their progress during this stage. Set an example by demonstrating how to use fingers effectively to reach the desired destination. Allow them to practice frequently, even if they make a mess (which they absolutely will) and encounter difficulties along the way. If they are struggling, you can slow things down by offering their food one piece at a time. This approach helps them focus on the correct movements and refine their abilities. Remember, practice – and patience – is the key!

Additionally, it’s important to create a positive and engaging mealtime environment. Introduce colourful and visually appealing foods that capture their attention and stimulate their curiosity. Offer a variety of textures, flavours, and shapes to enhance their sensory experience and encourage exploration. Make mealtime a fun and interactive moment by engaging in conversation, singing songs, or playing gentle games. By turning mealtimes into enjoyable and memorable experiences, you can foster a healthy relationship between your little one and food. This goes a long way in nurturing their enthusiasm for independent eating and promoting their overall development.

What’s the next step in teaching feeding?

If you’re up for the challenge, it might be the perfect moment to introduce the trusty spoon into your little one’s culinary adventures! Once again, allow them the opportunity to explore and discover the movements on their own. Place a spoon in front of them and offer encouragement for any attempts that don’t involve tossing it to the floor! Motivate them to pick up the spoon and demonstrate its usage yourself, then gently guide their hand as you both navigate the motions together. Gradually, by taking small amounts and bites at a leisurely pace, they will start to develop the motor skills required.

More feeding independence

Once they grasp the concept of using a spoon, you can take a step forward by introducing a suction bowl for their own meals. This will hopefully minimise the mess while helping them make the connection between their spoon and their bowl of food. The best way to help them master the spoon is to provide gentle guidance with your hands, allowing them the time they need to figure it out. Above all, keep the atmosphere light and fun!

As your little one continues to explore self-feeding with utensils, it’s important to remain patient and persistent. Expect occasional setbacks and frequent messes along the way, but remember that each attempt is an opportunity for them to develop and refine their skills. Celebrate their progress, no matter how small, and provide a supportive environment that fosters their independence. Encourage them to embrace the joy of self-feeding and let their curiosity and determination shine through. Before you know it, they’ll be confidently wielding a spoon and exploring the wonderful world of food with ease.

Fork time!

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 they 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!

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