Toddlers and silverware regression

Baby is a little too young to really learn to ride a bike, but more than that, they're too young for the phrase “like riding a bike” to be able to apply to any of their skills. They are learning new things all the time, but the process of toddler learning doesn’t move in a straight line down the sidewalk of their experience. Instead, it may veer in and out of driveways, and can look like it’s wobbling dangerously close to the road as they swerve before finally finding their balance.

This means that Baby may pick up a skill – like eating using silverware – and seem to be getting better and better, and still end up going through a phase sometime during toddlerhood when they could seem to stop wanting to use that skill for a while. In most cases, these regressions are short-lived, harmless (even if they can be frustrating for parents), and end on their own. Silverware use is just one common type of regression. Other toddler regressions that happen fairly often are sleep regression (which can take the form of waking up during the night after a toddler has already started sleeping through, or by adding naps back in that have already been phased out), toilet training setbacks, or regressing back to using baby talk.

Why does toddler regression happen?

Often, when a toddler starts to regress, it’s a way of coping with the stress of changes in their life. In other cases, regression can be a sign of a medical or developmental issue.

Unlike other common areas of regression, silverware use isn’t a specific type of toddler development. With sleep regression, the problem could be that a toddler is feeling overwhelmed, and is reaching out to be babied a little, or it could be that they are having trouble sleeping for a medical reason. With language regression, a toddler might be retreating into the way they acted when they were younger as a way of coping with something, or it could be a sign of a developmental issue. With silverware regression, though, unless a toddler is also having trouble with, or refusing to participate in, other activities that use their fine motor skills, it’s probably a question of their emotional state, rather than a physical or developmental one.

In cases where regression is a response to stress or emotional turmoil, common events that can set off a regression include:

  • A new sibling, though this can happen at many different points, including hearing about pregnancy, the new sibling’s birth, or even a baby sibling’s development of mobility or language, which can affect a toddler’s life in the way that just getting a new sibling might not have.
  • A change in childcare, including just starting to go to daycare, getting a new childcare provider, or moving to a new childcare location.
  • Other major changes in environment, including a death in the family, divorce, or a recent move.
  • Emotional changes in the home, like parents arguing more often.

What should I do about silverware regression?

Since it’s best to get help as soon as possible for regressions caused by medical issues or developmental problems, checking in with the healthcare provider about any persistent regression can be a great first step. In the U.S., Early Intervention services can also perform evaluations to rule out developmental problems.

Regressions with emotional roots generally pass on their own, though they can be a little frustrating as they’re happening. If a toddler is regressing because they are feeling stressed, many parents find that playing along, and not making too big of a deal out of the regression, is the best way to keep the regression from turning into a power struggle.

For silverware regression specifically, you can encourage your toddler to keep developing their fine motor skills in other ways by doing art projects and by playing with blocks and other building toys.

  • Clara Lerner, Rebecca Parlakian. “From Baby to Big Kid: Month 23.” Zero to Three. ZERO TO THREE: National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families. May 13 2016. Web.
  • “Regression.” Healthy Children. American Academy of Pediatrics, November 21 2015. Web.
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