Teaching your child to feed themselves is an essential milestone as your baby grows and develops. There are many benefits that they gain from this, such as:
- Improving hand-eye coordination skills
- Refining touch sensory processing skills
- Establishing muscle memory from the arm movement of moving food to their mouths
- Obtaining independence and controlling how much food they eat.
Be sure to continue supervising your children as they teach themselves to self-feed. Not only does the learning process benefit your child enormously, but once they have mastered the art, you will find that you will have a lot more free time on your hands!
When should I start teaching my child to feed themselves?
Once you've been feeding your baby solids for a while, you may start to notice signs that your child is ready to self-feed. These signs include trying to grab the spoon when you hold it, reaching for food on their plate or bowl and grabbing other objects like toys and bringing them to their mouth. When you see this happening, you may start thinking about giving your child finger food!
You can begin the learning process by introducing a spoon for your baby to hold once you start feeding them solids. This allows them to associate the spoon with mealtimes and allows them to practice their hand-eye coordination.
TOP TIP: Haakaa's 100% Silicone Self Feeding Spoon Set is perfect for this stage! With ergonomic handles specially designed for little hands to hold, this set supports your baby's natural feeding technique while being soft and safe for them to chew on while they teethe as well.
When should I start giving my child finger food?
At around 8 months, your baby will start grabbing food by themselves. Encourage this and let them play with their food – this is how they learn! They will slowly begin using multiple fingers to pick up food and eventually develop a pincer grasp where they hold things between their thumb and forefinger (which is used for fine motor skills later on in life like writing).
During this stage, you can give them finger foods big enough to pick up but won't let them choke. Good examples include chunks of banana, mango, steamed vegetables, cheese cubes, and peeled cucumber sticks. Let them participate in family meals so they learn this is a time when everybody eats – they can watch how other family members use utensils to feed themselves too!
You can also start introducing them to a regular cup now. Give your child only a few sips – you will probably have to help them out with this – while they're sitting upright. They may not be able to manage fully for another year or so, but it's crucial to let them keep practising!
TOP TIP: Our Silicone Baby Drinking Cup is fantastic for teaching your child how to drink from an open cup. It's made of 100% food grade silicone, which means it's light to hold but durable for rough little hands who might accidentally drop it too!
When should my baby learn how to use a spoon?
After they're a year old, many babies will start trying to feed themselves with a spoon (albeit with varying degrees of success)! You can begin giving them their own little bowl or plate while you feed them as well. At Haakaa, we have created the Wooden Mushroom Bowl, an excellent alternative to plastic and melamine tableware. The suction base keeps it firmly on the table, making it ideal for preventing any accidents or spillages your child might cause. It also comes with a silicone lid that doubles as a plate itself.
You may start with scooping food for your child onto their own spoon before they slowly teach themselves how to do it. Begin with thicker foods like mashed kumara, oatmeal or yoghurt, which are easier for your child as they stick onto the spoon. They might make a mess as they try to put it in their mouths, but it's all part of the process! Keep a damp washcloth nearby if you are concerned about this. Although it can be a tiring process, be patient - it may take another year until they are fully independent in feeding themselves. You will be able to tell when they show good control over the spoon.
When should my baby start using a fork?
At around 18 months to 2 years, your baby will begin honing their mastery of the spoon. This can be an excellent time to introduce forks! It's important you choose a safe fork for your toddler as sharp edges can potentially hurt them while they learn how to use one. Knowing this, Haakaa has created the Natural Bamboo Kids Fork. Not only are they the perfect size for your little one, but they are also recyclable and biodegradable – helping to protect the environment for your child's future too! They are incredibly safe to use as they're well-polished with smooth edges and have no chance of leaking harmful chemicals in your baby's food, unlike with plastic.
There's also the Bendy Silicone Cutlery Set containing a spoon and fork that feature a flexible handle, which can be bent and twisted to any angle. The soft silicone is gentle on little mouths, while the bendy handle helps your little one practise self-feeding from the angle that works best for them.
At this stage, you can also give your child a Silicone Divided Plate if you're serving them several different foods. The three compartments keep them separate in easy to eat sections, and your child can learn whether to use a spoon or fork with the different foods! The 100% food-grade silicone is soft and drop-proof, with a one-piece design that prevents bacteria growth as it has no joints. Using it is a breeze as it is oven, microwave and dishwasher safe.
Feeding your baby is more than just providing nutrition. It's also using the senses to explore food – feeling, smelling, tasting. Self-feeding is a messy journey but very important for their growth and development. Try to enjoy it and have fun with it!