Encouraging your toddler to use silverware
Mealtime with Baby is always an adventure. Not only does they keep you guessing about what they will end up putting into their mouth, but it’s also a mystery how it will get there.
When Baby was a younger toddler, it was cute when they used their hands as utensils. Maybe it’s still pretty cute, but as Baby gets older, and they are more able to using silverware to eat, you might start hoping they will start to use that ability a bit more. While they have likely perfected using a spoon, convincing them to eat with a fork can be a bit more of a challenge.
Here are some tips for encouraging Baby to use their hands for holding silverware – not just for picking up food directly.
- Set a place at the table: For some families, sitting down to eat together isn’t always in the cards. However, if you eat beside Baby when you can, they'll have the chance to watch you using your silverware, and maybe that will make them try using theirs, too.
- Model how it’s done: You’re no stranger to eating with a fork, but when you’re dining with Baby, let’s pretend you are. Use slow, exaggerated motions so they can have a good look at how you hold your silverware and bring the food to your mouth. You may also use your hands to guide their utensils as they eat.
- Start with the right foods: Certain foods (here’s looking at you, peas) can be difficult to keep on your fork. When Baby is still learning, stick with foods that are easy to keep on a fork once they’ve been pierced, like meat or cheese. This will give them the chance to practice without getting frustrated.
- Choose silverware wisely: Toddler silverware should allow for a wide grip, and should easily pierce pieces of food. For Baby’s tableware, look for forks with metal prongs as opposed to plastic, which will let them more effectively pick up the food on their plate.
- Be a cheerleader: With foods that are harder to eat, like noodles, it’s normal for Baby to get frustrated, and to gravitate toward using their hands. After all, it’s quicker, and the end result is the same. When they do try to use silverware, be sure to provide lots of support to encourage them to keep trying. Practice makes perfect, even if it does take a bit of extra time!
Learning to use silverware is an art, not an exact science, but it’s one that most toddlers master before too long. Now isn’t the time to worry too much about table manners – Baby is learning the skills they'll need for when it’s time for those manners, but they isn’t quite there yet.