From Spoon-fed to Self-fed: How to Teach your Kids to Eat Alone
Being a mom is difficult and challenging. You have to make sure that all your kids’ needs are properly attended to and at the same time, teach them the necessary skills they need as they grow up. As a new mom, I had lots of challenges and parenting mistakes as I raise my daughter. But I’m still happy that despite those mistakes, I was able to learn a lot of things that will help me as I raise my second baby. One of this is how to teach kids to feed themselves.
I don’t really want to call my two year old as a spoiled child (yes, I am that defensive). Before she turns two, she is still being fed by me or her yaya and doesn’t want to eat by herself. And when she does, she uses her hands which can be pretty messy.
So I was browsing through different sites about tips on how to teach children to eat alone. Here are some things I learned – based from what I read and what I experienced – which will be helpful to all the mommies like me.
Tips and things you should know and learn on how to teach your child to self-feed.
1) It’s going to take time. I know the feeling, mommies. As much as possible, we want to see our kids walk and run or hear them speak or let them do things on their own. However, everything has its own time, including self-feeding. According to Super Duper, 12 to 14 months is the time when the child starts to use the spoon and moves it into his/her mouth. By the time the child reaches 15 months onwards, s/he wants to feed himself/herself without any help. It is only by the age of 3 where the child will start to eat alone, minus the spills and mess.
I saw this kind of transition with my daughter. At first, she wants to eat using her own hands and eventually, she learned the importance of using the spoon. At 28 months (as of this writing), she is already eating on her own with still spills all over.
2) Expect (a lot of) mess. I definitely hate mess. As much as possible, I want to keep the house clean at all times. Apparently, that is not the case when you have toddlers in the house. In my case, my daughter spills a lot of rice on the floor every time she eats. It’s like in every 10 grains of rice, only 3 of them will go straight to her mouth, which is pretty annoying for me. Still, I can’t do anything about it. She’s still learning to control her motor and coordination skills at this point. At the same time, letting her be messy while eating (at least for now) help her gain confidence and become comfortable with everything around her.
3) Choose the right tool. I used the spoon and fork from Avent – which is very convenient, by the way. But when my daughter turned 18 months, I realized that the spoon is too small for her. So her nanny used our teaspoon to feed her which is too heavy and sharp for her. Good thing I saw feeding spoons from Nuby which are properly shaped for toddler hands. Surprisingly, she started to eat on her own using the spoons and the mess was minimized. Plus, it comes with attractive colors too which is appealing to my daughter’s eyes.
In other words, choose feeding supplies which can be easier for the child to handle. I don’t recommend buying spoon and fork all the time but if that helps, especially when there are utensils that are tailor-fit for the child, then why not.
4) Let them try and try and try. You must be familiar with the saying “try and try until you succeed?” Same goes with self-feeding. If you really want to teach your kids to eat on their own, then give then the opportunity to do so. It may be a constant war between the two of you but that is the way for them to learn to self-feed. It may be hard for your child to control it at first but s/he will get better eventually.
5) Start slow. I was so excited to see my daughter eat on her own. However, I have to understand that everything should not be rushed. I started with something that is easy for her to scoop such as rice and pudding. Foods with thinner or slippery textures will be difficult for a child to handle. Also, watch out for the servings. Do not put too much food in her plate since there is a tendency to either throw it on the floor or just play with it. Hence, give your child a separate bowl where she can practice.
6) Be their guide. One thing I noticed about my child is that she loves to eat when she sits beside us. And during meal times, she imitates whatever we are doing. We used this to help her eat on her own. We showed her how to properly hold the spoon and put it in her mouth, which she gladly imitates. I also guide her hands from the plate to her mouth when I see she loses control while eating.
7) Do not force the spoon. Again, it’s going to take some time. Forcing your child to do something s/he doesn’t like will make him/her hate food even more. Learning and practicing a new skill can be pretty tiring for kids. If my daughter is cranky or does not want to hold the spoon after a few tries, I still feed her. I think that is her way of saying, “I still need your help, Mom.”
8) Learn to praise and appreciate. Kids love attention, that’s for sure. Every time my daughter puts the spoon in her mouth, no matter how much mess she made, we still applaud her for a job well done. I noticed that every time we clap our hands, it excites her that much and makes her want to do it again. Therefore, praise your kids. Even if it is not working quite right yet, you need to assure your kids that they are doing a good job in eating by themselves. This can encourage them to keep trying until they are able to do it right.
Always remember that self feeding will take some time. Eventually, your child will learn this skill, after a lot of mess and tantrums of course, and you’ll be surprised to see that finally, your child is eating on its own.