• Shalyn Yamanaka MS, RD

Why toddlers should feed themselves


Often I see parents feeding toddlers and young children, helpers chasing around young children to get them to eat, or teachers and teaching assistants feeding children at schools.

I get it – you’re worried about your child eating enough or in the case of helpers and teachers, they are often worried about getting blamed or yelled at by the parents for not feeding the child in their care.

I also get the times when you are in a hurry and just. Want. Your. Child. To. Eat. Faster. I’ve been there and caught myself with spoon or fork in hand.

Some parents who follow programs like baby led weaning let their children feed themselves by either utensil or hand from around 6 months. Others who try more traditional weaning methods sometimes wonder when their child is ready.

Children from around a year old should be trying to feed themselves on a regular basis. This may be via utensil or using their hands. When kids are young and learning to eat, it is messy. There is no way around that. If you have ever tried to feed yourself with your non-dominant hand while blindfolded, you may get a better appreciation of what your child is experiencing. They are still learning coordination, and don’t necessarily have the strength to balance food on the spoon yet. Remember, they are learning. You as an adult have had thousands and thousands of opportunity to practice. They are just starting. Expect it to take them some time to perfect this skill.

If your child prefers to eat with their hands, let them enjoy as they are learning more than just eating – they are feeling the texture, and experiencing their food with all their senses. If you child wants to eat with a utensil, let them try that as well as it is a skill you want them to learn and they need to practice in order to improve. Either way, plan for plenty of time for meals and allow your child to learn to feed themselves. It is a skill they want to learn at this age, and it will produce a self sufficient toddler.

If you are a parent with a baby or toddler who doesn't feed themselves, let me know what your concerns and issues are. I'd love to hear whats' going on for you.

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