Importance of Self-Feeding in a Toddler
“Me do it, Mommy!” You know it’s going to be another load of laundry as your toddler learns to feed themselves. However, the importance of self-feeding in a toddler is more than merely learning to put food in their mouth. In fact, self-feeding is much more than you may have even realized.
As your toddler grows up, they’ll begin to learn independence. They’ll want to do more and more for and by themselves. They are beginning to realize that they’re a separate being from their parents. Once they’ve come to complete realization of this fact, look out world! Your toddler will try to exert their independence in every area even though they may not be ready for some skills.
Self-feeding usually begins when infants reach six months. They can focus on items in front of them and can bring it to their mouth. At first they’ll use their entire hand because they don’t have the skill to grasp small objects with their index finger and thumb, but it won’t take long. Now is the time to offer easy-to-grasp foods such as dry cereal, diced bananas, or canned diced peaches. Avoid giving infants this age foods like hot dogs, nuts, or grapes because they could choke on them. Congratulations – you’ve watched your infant take their first step toward self-feeding prowess.
Once your infant has mastered self-feeding by eating with their fingers, they’ll soon be ready to start using a spoon. This skill generally begins around eight months, but could begin sooner or later depending on the child. Watch to see if your baby is trying to take the spoon from you; this is a sure sign they want to try to do it themselves. You can encourage this stage by giving your baby a spoon to play with while you do the feeding.
Expect the child to get messy as they begin dipping their spoon into their food and attempting to get it into their mouth. Don’t stress out about the mess too much. Consider putting plastic floor mats under the high chair while feeding to make clean-up easier.
Older toddlers like to mimic their family so you can expect that they’ll try to copy everything including how and what you eat. Don’t worry about buying only prepackaged foods for your toddler. Let them start experiencing the tastes and textures of the foods you eat. Be aware, however, that food pieces that are too large could be a choking hazard so you’ll want to cut them into small pieces or fork-mash them to make them easier to eat.
Don’t forget to plan for on-the-go snacks while you’re out and about running errands. This will make traveling with a toddler easier as they will be able to feed themselves when they’re hungry and you don’t have time to stop.
You can expect to hear, “Me do it, Mommy” more and more as your toddler gets bigger. They’re growing up, learning to be independent, and can begin to take care of self-feeding. You’ve done a wonderful job, Mom, take pride in it!
For more help, check out Dine Without Whine – the menu mailer for families with kids!