Teaching Baby to eat with utensils isn’t as urgent for most parents as sleep training or potty training, but it’s still an important step toward helping them become a big kid! Baby will probably be eating with their fingers or letting you feed them for the first year or so of their life, but at around 18 months old, they will be ready for utensils to join the party, if they hasn&;t already started grabbing for them. Helping your toddler use utensils is going to make mealtime a brand-new activity for both of you.
Use toddler utensils
To get Baby started, try a set of utensils made specifically for toddlers. They’ll be a better fit for their hands and have a wider grip, making it easier for Baby to learn how to maneuver food from their plate to their mouth. Toddler utensils also come in bright colors and patterns, making them just a bit more fun that your average flatware.
You might be tempted to start serving Baby food similar to what you’re eating, but starting with small amounts of simple food is probably the best approach. Less food will be less intimidating for Baby, and it will be easier for you to clean up if things go awry. If Baby only has six pieces of fruit to stab with their fork, it will be easier for them to succeed in their mission. Similarly, start out with just forks and spoons – leave knives for when Baby has totally mastered the small stuff.
Some foods will be easier than others for Baby to eat with utensils. To help with spoon usage, try sticky foods like oatmeal or yogurt. With forks, start serving softer foods like boiled vegetables or fruit. And while you’re being selective about the food you put on Baby‘s plate, be just as selective with where you put that plate. You’ll want Baby in an area that’s easy to clean up, maybe with a placemat you can wipe down after the meal. If you’re not worrying about Baby making a mess, they will have more freedom as they learn this newfangled way of eating.
You’ll be using a little bit of your meal time to supervise and guide Baby, but having them eat at the table with you will make them feel like a big kid who is ready to eat with the grown-ups! It will also give you the opportunity to lead by example as Baby watches you use your utensils.
Using utensils is now second nature for you, so it can be frustrating when Baby doesn’t get it right away. Remember to praise them even when things don’t go exactly as planned. You want Baby to be excited about using utensils and eating on their own, so try to find things that they do really well and encourage them to do them again!
If you’d like, you can even serve Baby a special treat for them to practice their utensil use with. It might be a lot easier for them to get a grip on their food when that food is cake!