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Is Baby Ready to Feed Himself?

If your 6-month-old is eyeing your forkful of pasta as it travels to your mouth, take note: He may be close to trying to feed himself.

"It's gradual," says Stefanie Powers, child-development specialist at Zero to Three in Wash-ington, DC. "Children usually begin at 8 months by raking their finger foods and moving them into the palm of their hand."

To help, let your baby play with his food. Start when he can sit in his high chair without using his arms for balance (usually at 7 or 8 months). Offer banana slices, well-cooked beans, pasta, or other easy-to-handle foods on his tray. Be prepared for him to mash it in his hands at first-or even in his hair! After all, part of learning is exploring textures, looks, and smells.

By the time your baby's 9 to 12 months old, he'll be nimble enough to pick up small items like Cheerios and pop them into his mouth. He'll also be able to crush food with his tongue, gums, and teeth. Giving him a kid-size spoon to hold is good practice at this point, but he won't get food into his mouth very neatly until he's closer to 2.

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