Teaching your toddler to feed themselves
Toddler self-feeding – from 1 year +
From around your toddler’s first birthday onwards, they’ll probably have enough teeth to happily chew on a variety of healthy finger foods. They’ll also be keen to get their little hands on the spoons and forks you’ve been feeding them with.
It’s the first step towards your toddler being able to self-feed. And you can have plenty of fun helping them develop the coordination they need to eat by themselves.
So here are some tips to help your toddler get to grips with their first spoon and fork:
- Watch and do. Using toddler bowls, cups and spoons to pretend to eat. Your toddler will love watching you and before you know it will be copying what you do.
- Make lots of ‘yummy’ noises. Your toddler will understand that eating is a really enjoyable time.
- One step at a time. We take it for granted but getting food onto a spoon and bringing it to your mouth is actually quite tricky and takes a lot of coordination. So help your toddler master each step in stages. To begin with, scoop the food for them and help bring it to their mouth. Once they get the hang of this part, you can move onto practising scooping and forking.
- Easy-to-handle foods. Let your toddler practice with foods that are more likely to stay on their spoon or fork such as mashed potatoes, macaroni cheese, yogurt, bananas, and porridge etc.
- Let them play! Toddlers are fascinated by food. Touching, holding, squishing – it’s all part of learning about food and all its lovely colours and textures. It’s a bit of a messy stage, but it’s also the best time to start teaching good table manners. So a firm ‘No’ if they drop food on the floor or wave their spoon around could mean less mess in the long run!
- Focus on the food. Your toddler is probably easily distracted, so make sure the radio and TV are off when it’s time to eat. This helps them concentrate on the meal and being together, which should help them learn faster.
- Plenty of praise. Remember to give your little one plenty of encouragement along the way, be patient and praise every success, no matter how small.
Between the ages of 1 and 3 toddlers gain around 50% in weight! So it’s really important to give them food that’s packed with the right nutrition. Find out more in our guide to ‘Healthy Eating for Toddlers’.