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How to Teach Your Child to Eat Independently
After a long period of feeding my son, I noticed him getting more experienced in feeding himself. These signs of independence and readiness to self-feed included grabbing the spoon while I was holding it, reaching for the food plate, and even grabbing other objects, like toys, and bringing them to his mouth.
Once the child starts showing an interest in feeding himself, it’s critical to provide many opportunities for him to practice this skill. The key to mastering self-feeding is to let him keep trying. A good way to begin is by placing a few pieces of food on your baby’s highchair tray. I did so too, and let my son feel his food. He started by playing with it, but that’s how he learnt. Initially, he would grasp the food with a raking motion, using the entire fist to move the food toward his mouth. Eventually, he developed the fine motor skill of grabbing the food with the thumb and forefinger, also known as the pincer grasp. I just kept trying during all meals throughout the day.
The foods I gave my baby to practice self-feeding were soft and mashed like-
- Small pieces of ripe, soft bananas, avocados, peaches or kiwi
- Soft cooked sweet potatoes, peas, or carrots
- Grated or soft-cooked apples and pears
- Soft cooked whole grain pasta
- Cubes, strings, or small pieces of cheese
- Shreds or small diced pieces of cooked chicken, fish
- I avoided foods that pose a risk of choking.
When my son learnt to eat by himself, I offered him cutlery.
Once he got the hang of dipping the cutlery into the food and bringing it to his mouth, I started giving him his own small bowl. He now sits with his bowl alone to eat, and is always up to some mischief! But I love seeing him having his meals on his own.
My advice would be to take it slow. Don’t rush while training your children, and you’ll be rewarded!