Self-feeding skills in your toddler are very important and it needs certain efforts from your end to develop well. The capacity to place objects into his mouth is the first sign to show that your toddler is preparing to feed himself. Pay attention to your toddler’s desire to self-feeding with fingers since it is the first way that toddlers learn to feed themselves.
Your toddler may be ready to help feed himself when he sits with stability in his high chair, puts objects into his mouth and has begun some chewing motions.
Teaching your toddler to feed himself will be messy but it is worth it.
Encouraging self-feeding skills at every meal right from the start is so important because:
Finger feeding is the essential practice for finger coordination with very small objects. Remember, it is only through the process of finger feeding that the pincer grasp (the ability to grab small items with thumb and forefinger) emerges.
Your toddler practises hand-eye coordination skills by learning to pierce a soft carrot cube with a fork, scoop porridge in a spoon and put it in his mouth. He feels great attempting his fingers, body and mouth cooperate as he tries to quench his hunger.
Feeding himself stimulates all his senses and provides a wonderful learning experience. He will rejoice the taste and the smell of the food as he puts the food into his mouth, chews and swallows the food. When he touches the food, he will feel the texture and the temperature on his fingers. The bright colours of the food will be a visual treat for your toddler. He will be enthralled with the sounds of the spoons and forks on the dish and the plate.
It is this sense that enables your toddler to learn where his mouth is and gain muscle memory for the arm movements to bring food in the spoon or his fingers to the mouth
The jaw stability encourages the neck control for the head to tilt appropriately to sip and the usage of two hands (bilateral coordination) to hold the utensils. Cheer him up when he drinks from open cups and straws instead of sippy cups.
Independence is an important aspect of early childhood. By permitting your toddler to be an active participant in mealtimes, you assist to get rid or minimise potential mealtime behaviours and power struggles which includes throwing of food. Learning to stop eating when you are full is a lifelong skill for health and wellness. This skill will empower him to determine how much food he should eat.
There are mainly three ways to teach self-feeding in your toddler.
-Eat with a spoon
-Use a cup to drink
Each of these feedings is developed by his own independent skill which is achieved at different ages.
Around eight months of age, your toddler will start to feed himself with his fingers.
There are three techniques to offer finger foods. You can try any of these and follow:
Make it a ritual to wash your toddler’s hands before every meal.
You can hold the piece of food and encourage your toddler to grasp from your fingers. This manner often brings out a pincer grasp which is crucial for effective self-feeding, before he uses this fine motor skill to take food from a flat surface
You grasp a piece of food and let your toddler bring your fingers to his mouth
Place a chunk or two on a plate in front of your toddler, for self-attempts
Here are a few tips and tricks that can help fast-track your toddler from fussy to foodie.
Follow these simple tips to help your toddler start his foodie fix:
Starting with snacks is a smart way to get your tot to aim his food at his mouth and not up to his nose. Cut small pieces of vegetables like cooked carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes and soft fruits like banana, watermelons, breadsticks and raisins and offer them. This will provide some sort of ownership overfeeding himself.
Gradually move on to proper meal time like cooked pasta, stewed vegetables, idlis, dosas, rotis and chapathis, pieces of cheese. Offer them in small pieces on a plate and encourage him to pick them with a spoon.
Toddlers love learning by example. The best way to teach your toddler to feed himself is to, first feed yourself to show your toddler how it’s done. Eat your food with the spoon and let your toddler follow you
To begin with, offer foods that dissolve easily such as mangoes, bananas, peaches, cubed tofu, small bites of cheese. Give bite-sized pieces of foods that are easy to chew and swallow.
Mealtime is a great session to interact and help your toddler to learn and expose to family members’ eating habits. First, demonstrate self-feeding and encourage him to do the same.
Offer the soft foods in different shapes (cut them with different moulds) and foods of different colours like cooked carrots, beans, pumpkin. You can also play the game “Feed me” by encouraging your toddler to feed you while you feed him
Get ready to gear up the mess involved in your toddler’s self-feeding. Tie a bib around his neck, cover his thighs with a napkin and spread a sheet or old newspaper around his high chair. Keep some wipes handy to wipe his messy hands and mouth with water.
-Always be cautious to prevent choking when your toddler is learning to feed himself.
-Notice for the signs that your toddler is ready to use the spoon.
-Around 15 months of age, your toddler starts to finger feed efficiently. You can see him grab the spoon from the table and use it.
Go for special baby spoons which are lighter, rounded at the top and plastic(BPA free)
Give one spoon to your toddler while you have one to feed him. Do not worry if your toddler uses the spoon to bang on the plate, high chair and dribble the food around
Each child is unique and learns things at a different pace
Around seven months of age, your toddler will be ready to drink from a cup. Initially, this is a slow and messy process.
Here are few tips to enable you to teach your toddler to use a cup.
-Show and guide your toddler to hold the cup
-Give a non-breakable, small cup with a grip to hold
-Let him explore and get a feel of the cup by playing with it
-Fill the cup only half with water
-Train him to drink from the cup by copying you
-Praise in abundance for every right move of your toddler.
Patience and perseverance pay the reward. Some toddlers pick things fast while some take their own pace. For more updates about your child's health and development, check out the Parentlane App today.