Independent Eating: How to Teach Baby to Use Spoon?


When your baby starts trying to eat by themselves, it will be messy and will take time until they know how to do it properly. Once they’ve got that down, you can slowly introduce utensils.

Usually, when a baby is 10-12 months old is when they should be given a spoon. Giving them a pre-loaded spoon or fork is a good idea since now, the baby will have less work to do. A very common and effective approach to teaching your kid how to use a spoon is the hand-over-hand method.

What Is a Hand Over Hand Method?

The hand-over-hand approach is a technique used in a variety of activities to support or guide someone, especially if they are learning a new skill or activity. It requires one person physically directing the hands of another person, generally by putting their own hands over the learner’s hands and exhibiting the necessary movements or actions.

In terms of parenting, a parent can help their babies learn the right movements and build up their muscle memory with this method. It gives the baby the necessary experience, which allows them to feel the right hand position, pressure, and movement required for eating. Over time, the parent can remove their hand and let the baby take over slowly.

When Are Kids Able to Eat by Themselves?

Every child is different and learns things at his or her own pace. However, there is a general guideline for when children are able to properly eat by themselves:

  • 0-6 months old: Babies, during the first six months of their life, rely solely on breastfeeding or formula-based diets for all their needs.
  • Solid food introduction (about six months): Usually, when a baby is 6 months old, he/she is able to eat purees or mashed foods, but they cannot eat by themselves at this stage.
  • 6-12 months old: As their motor skills continue to develop, babies learn how to grab food with their hands and bring it to their mouths. Although it will be very messy each time they do this, it is an important developmental milestone for them.
  • 12-18 months old: At this age, toddlers can handle and use spoons or tiny forks. However, their coordination and precision will be lacking.
  • 18-24 months old: Most toddlers can self-feed by this age, although they might still need some assistance and monitoring. They can use a spoon to scoop food and hold it to their lips, although messes are still going to be common.
  • 2-3 years old: Usually, 2-3 years old kids know how to eat using a spoon or fork.

How Can I Introduce Utensils to My Baby?

Introducing utensils to your baby can be a gradual and interactive process. Here is some help to introduce utensils and promote self-feeding skills:

Select the right utensils: Begin by picking utensils suited for your baby’s age and developmental stage. Look for baby spoons and forks with rounded edges and handles that your infant can easily grasp.

Simply demonstrate how to use: Show your kid how to use the utensils by taking food with a spoon or fork and bringing it to your mouth. Try to get them to copy you by holding the utensil in front of them and then slowly bringing it to your mouth.

Allow them to explore and practice: Allow your baby to use the utensils on their own, even if they use them wrong at first or just use them as toys. This helps in the development of their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Over time, they will start dipping the spoon in food or scooping with it.

Give them pre-loaded spoons and forks: When your baby seems ready for the next step, load the spoon or fork with a tiny bit of food, such as a soft puree or mashed meal, and then give it to them. They will try to lick the food from the spoon or bring it to their lips. This technique teaches them how to use the utensil and how to synchronize their actions.

Be ready to help them: Be prepared to help your child as needed during the learning process. You can provide directions by putting your hand over theirs to help them with movement or to guide the utensil toward the meal. Reduce your help gradually as your baby learn to control the utensil.

Be patient and encouraging: It will take time and practice for your baby to learn how to properly use utensils. Expect some hiccups and frustrations along the road, but remember to stay patient and encouraging.

How Can I Prepare to Introduce a Spoon to My Baby?

To be well-prepared to introduce a spoon to your baby, follow these:

Choose the Right Spoon 

Choosing the right spoon is very important to avoid injury. The special spoons with softly rounded tips are the best for babies. They help avoid injury while being the perfect size for your baby to fit into his or her mouth. Choose spoons that are BPA-free and made of food-grade materials.

Look if they are ready

Before giving your baby a spoon, make sure he or she is actually ready to start. Some common signs are having complete control over his/her head, the ability to hold things properly, the ability to sit up straight without any help, and the interest in self-feeding

Let your baby get used to a spoon 

When you give your baby spoons and forks, there is a chance that they might stay away from them because these are new things for him/her. Let your baby slowly get familiar with the utensils. Give them a spoon or fork of bright, attractive colors, and let them play with them a little first. This will let your baby get used to the spoon.

Put food in the spoon yourself

When just starting out, put their food in the spoon yourself. Show them how they can pick up their own food using the spoon. At first, they will just play with the spoon, but over time, they will figure out how they can use it properly.

Help them when needed

Sit in front of your baby and help them understand how to use a spoon. You can either choose the hand-on-hand method mentioned above or hold a spoon and pretend to eat something in front of them slowly so they will copy you.

Be patient

As mentioned before, learning how to use a spoon will take time and practice. The journey will be filled with food messes and dirty clothes. Remember to be patient because all this mess is necessary for your baby to learn how to properly use a spoon.

What Is the Perfect Age to Start Teaching Your Kid to Eat?

Babies should not be given any solid meals before 6 months. Some babies can start to have solid meals at 4 months of age, but the most common recommendation by experts is to wait 6 months, and this will be under your watch. Your baby will try self-feeding when he/she is ready for it. Until then, slowly get them used to holding spoons and forks and get them to mimic eating by doing the eating action repeatedly in front of them during meal times.

Best Methods to Teach Spoon Feeding

Methods to Teach Spoon Feeding

When it comes to teaching spoon-feeding to a baby, there are a few different methods you can try. Here are some popular methods:

Parent-led method

This is no different than feeding your child. You will pick up the food using a spoon and place it in front of your baby’s mouth to eat. This basically helps your baby learn about the proper use of a spoon. You can try to show your baby the spoon and then slowly pick up the food with it in front of them to get them better used to the purpose of your spoon.

Baby-led weaning method

BLW is a very common method to get your baby to eat their food themselves. Instead of feeding your baby yourself, you give them finger foods to eat. Since babies always try to eat whatever their holding anyways, this method makes it easier for them to learn.

The combination method

Some parents first use the parent-led method, feeding their child purees and mashed meals and then slowly giving them solid finger foods to eat once the baby gets used to eating the purees.

The gradual transition method

Unlike the parent-led method or the baby-led weaning approach, where either babies are spoon-fed mashed meals and then given a spoon to eat themselves or are directly given finger foods respectively, the gradual transition method is just as its name sound. It is a gradual transition from extremely smooth foods to slightly heavier, thicker foods to solid foods. 

Tricks to Learn Better and Faster

To help your baby learn to eat by themselves better and faster, you can try the following tricks:

Start early

When you notice that your baby is showing signs that he/she is ready to self-feed, let them eat their meals by themselves. The sooner they will start the learning process, the sooner they will master self-feeding.

Include finger foods in their diets

Finger foods are a great way to promote self-feeding in babies. Finger foods must be soft foods cut into small enough sizes for your baby to hold and chew.

Make sure the utensils are safe

Whether you decide to give your baby a fork or a spoon, make sure that they are specially made for babies. If you give your baby the normal, everyday utensils, he/she might get hurt from them, and this will hinder their progress towards self-feeding.

The more texture, the better

Remember that your baby is still getting used to eating solid foods. Give them foods of different textures. 

Let them make a mess

Know that self-feeding will always be messy. That is how babies learn things and grow. Just make sure they don’t somehow hurt themselves during the process.

What If My Child Is Not Compliant?

If your child is not compliant with self-feeding or reluctant to eat independently, here are some things you can try:

Give them options

A very common reason why babies are reluctant to eat themselves is simply because they don’t like the food. They will eat it when you are the one feeding them, but whenever you’ll try to get them to eat the food themselves, they’ll just use the food as a plaything. When you give your baby options of different types and kinds of foods, your baby will not only get used to different textures but will try to eat the ones he/she likes.

Bring some colors into the scene

The normal utensil we grown-ups like to use every day are very boring. All of them are the same color in different shades. If you want your baby to want to use the utensils, pick the utensils with bright colors so your baby would want to use them.

Lead with an example

Babies love to copy those around them, so lead by example. Maybe bring a little food for yourself when trying to get your baby to eat or make them sit at the dinner table when the entire family is eating. Your baby will watch and learn what to do with spoons, forks, and food.

Follow a pattern

Create a set timetable for your baby and stick to it. Select a place where your baby is going to eat, and give them their food on time.

Ask for their feedback:

Include your kid in dinner preparation or supermarket shopping. Ask about what foods they would want to try or include in their meals. This involvement has the potential to boost their engagement and interest in the meal.

Get expert help

If your child’s aversion to self-feeding persists, or if you have concerns about their eating habits, visit a doctor, registered dietitian, or occupational therapist. They can offer specialist advice and techniques targeted to your child’s specific requirements.

Bottom Line

When your baby starts eating solid foods by themselves, i.e., by grasping food in their hands, then you should try giving your baby utensils. Feeding the baby yourself is much less messy than when the baby practices self-feeding and starts eating meals on their own, but it is important that they practice self-feeding. As a parent, you should focus on supporting and guiding your baby through this transition. Just be patient, and your baby will learn to eat their own food using a spoon in no time.

Stephanie Edenburgh

I'm Steph, a mom to 3 beautiful children and lover all things having to do with my family and being a mom. I've learned a lot raising my own children and working in education and healthcare roles throughout my career. Living in beautiful Southern California I enjoy documenting and writing about all of the hard work us mom's do on a daily basis.

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