Letting your baby feed themselves can be messy and frustrating, but it is an important stage of development. It teaches them about taste, touch and texture. Your baby might show signs of wanting to feed themselves by reaching for the spoon or taking food off your plate. This is normal and you should encourage it. This is a sign of your child developing fine motor skills.
Where to start
Finger foods are the best place to start. You can offer soft, bite-sized pieces of food that are easy to pick up and mash between gums or teeth. Try:
Small pieces of soft fruit – e.g., banana, ripe pear
Soft-cooked vegetables – e.g., pumpkin, potato, carrot
Always supervise your child while they are eating, and ensure they are sitting up.
Avoid whole nuts or hard foods, like chopped carrot, while your baby is learning to eat. These foods can be a choking hazard.
Cut food into strips so they are easier to hold and eat.
Use a plastic-backed or scoop bib to catch some of the mess. You could also place a plastic sheet under their chair to help minimise mess.
Feed your baby outside to help reduce the mess.
It is normal for babies to drop or throw food. Start by placing a few pieces of food in front of your baby and add more when they have finished them (or dropped them). This will ensure that all the food does not end up on the floor from the start. Try to ignore food being thrown, making a fuss might make them think it is a game.
Most babies won’t master using a spoon until about 18 months. Letting them hold and play with the spoon much earlier will help them develop these skills. Try giving your baby a spoon to hold while you feed them with another spoon.
Using a cup
From 6 months old your baby can start using a cup to drink water. Allowing them to play with the cup will help them learn how to hold it. Start by guiding your baby or showing them how it is done by drinking from a cup yourself. Fill the cup only half full to help minimise mess from spills.
For more information visit Raising Children Network
[Source: Raising Children Network, 2019; Pregnancy, Birth & Baby, 2020.]