Is My Baby Ready to Feed Himself?

by Sarah Bowen Shea

Is My Baby Ready to Feed Himself?

How to encourage your child to eat by himself

Is the airplane game getting a little old? Your baby will be able to bang a spoon as early as 8 or 9 months but won’t really get its purpose until later. She’ll use it around age 2. (Forks will follow, but forget about knives for a while.) What to know to ease the transition:

Does she have the skills?

Think of all it takes to get food from bowl to mouth. Your child has to be able to:

  • Hold the spoon the right way up (even if she’s gripping it in her fist)
  • Get some food onto it (sometimes she’ll manage this by using her other hand to put it there)
  • Make the long, drippy trip to her mouth. Mastering all this takes manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination, which she’ll get better at only with a lot of practice.

What you can do to help:

  • Provide a chunky-handled spoon she can manipulate easily and encourage her to try it-but don’t push it. It won’t be long before she’ll delight in mimicking you and doing things all by herself. When she does start to feed herself, guide her hand if she gets frustrated.
  • Make sure she’s sitting close to the table and high enough that she doesn’t have to reach up.
  • Serve her thick fare, like applesauce, or solids in small pieces, like macaroni and cheese, and remind yourself: the first years of life are supposed to be messy.