Mealtime Independence: Strategies to Encourage Self-Feeding
Self-feeding is important because it teaches babies how to coordinate their fingers to grasp objects, offers opportunities to work on hand-eye coordination, and helps children gain independence! Self-feeding stars as early as 4 months.
4-11 months: children typically are able to hold and bring food to their mouth
8 months: children typically begin to hold spoons and attempt to feed themselves with spilling
8-11 months: children typically begin and master drinking from a closed cup
11-24 months: children typically begin to drink from an open cup with assistance from an adult and master drinking from an open cup with little spilling by 24 months
15 months: most children can feed themselves with a spoon
Below are general suggestions on fostering independence around feeding.
For babies, offer bite-sized pieces of food on a plate from the palm of your hand or on flat surfaces in front of your child
During parent-child feedings, provide a spoon for your child to hold onto. Dip the spoon in sticky foods (e.g., yogurt, oatmeal, sticky rice, etc.) and assist them to bring the spoon to his mouth.
Once your child masters control with a spoon and successfully brings the spoon to her mouth, introduce a fork. Spear foods for your child and have her feed herself.
When you are ready to wean your child off the bottle, offer closed-lid cups (sippy cups) with two handles. Gradually introduce cups that foster more independence (i.e., open cup with straw, bottle, and cup).
Motor development and feeding skills go hand-in-hand. If your child is advance in motor skills, he will likely have an easier time with hand-eye coordination during feeding opportunities
If there are concerns with your child’s social development, this includes imitation of facial expressions or behaviors such as feeding, these possibly skill-deficits could impact independent feeding. If this is the case, please contact your child’s pediatrician to see if a developmental assessment is warranted.
[untitled photograph of a child finger-feeding]. Retrieved from https://toponlinebabygoods.tumblr.com/