Baby self feeding spoon age
When to Introduce a Spoon to Baby
Learning how to self-feed is an important milestone in your baby’s development. The messy, but fun, process of teaching your baby how to use a spoon will be the next step in your baby’s journey to self-feeding.
Teaching your baby how to self-feed is going to be a messy process, but will be worth it in the long run. Your baby's motor skills and development will benefit from learning how to self-feed so it is important to encourage this process to your baby. As you begin to approach the age where your baby is ready to start learning how to self-feed, here is everything you should consider.
Where To Start
Before you start to think about introducing a spoon to your baby, you first will want to make sure your baby has been introduced to finger foods. This first step will help your baby begin to develop their motor skills which are necessary to have before figuring out how to use a spoon.
Beginning with finger foods, start with soft foods that you can easily smash with your fingers. This will be the safest and easiest place to start for your baby. Foods such as soft cooked noodles, cut bananas, or steamed veggies are all a good place to begin. Choosing foods that can be cut up into bigger chunks will also make it easier for your baby to be able to pick up.
If you have only been feeding your baby soft foods and purees on your own, you should wait to introduce a spoon until after you have introduced finger foods. At around 12 months, most babies should be feeding themselves finger foods. It is around this stage that you can start to introduce a spoon.
Next Step: Introducing the Spoon
Now that your baby has gotten comfortable with finger feeding, you can take the next step on the self-feeding journey by introducing their first utensil, a spoon. The CDC recommends waiting to introduce a spoon to your baby until they are around 10-12 months old. However, there is no specific age or time that your baby should developmentally be using a spoon. There are many factors that can have an influence on the timing of your baby learning to use a spoon.
- Fine motor skill development
- Interest in eating independently
- Time they have been eating solid foods
- First introduced to finger foods
These are all factors that can influence when your baby starts to use a spoon to self-feed. Every child is unique so do not worry about whether or not your baby is successfully learning to use a spoon. They will get there eventually!
Signs They Might Be Ready
It can be tricky to know whether or not your baby is ready to take the next step in their development. One sign that your baby is likely ready to start using a spoon on their own is with their body language. Infants typically will turn their heads and clamp their mouth to signal they are full, after the meal. The opposite holds true as they get older. Toddlers will often start to get fussy or throw a tantrum before a meal. If you are noticing that they are appearing disinterested in the spoon you are trying to feed them, let themselves give it a try. This might be their way of telling you they are ready to be more independent.
Learn more from Pediatrician Dr. David Hill from the American Academy of Pediatrics about when your baby is ready for solids:
Depending on your baby, these milestones will be reached at different times than the families around you. However, here is a general guide to understanding when you should plan on your baby reaching these steps to independently self-feeding.
- 6 months: You can begin to start introducing finger foods to build your baby’s fine motor skills. Remember to choose foods that are soft and easy to squish to avoid any choking hazards.
- 12 months: Around their first birthday, your baby will likely begin showing an interest in using a spoon themselves. This is when you can begin letting your child feed themselves thick, soft foods like oatmeal, yogurt, or applesauce.
- 15-22 months: Your toddlers should be able to start getting the hang of feeding themselves with a spoon. Around this time, you should also be able to introduce using a fork to feed themselves.
Every baby is different when it comes to reaching these developmental milestones. You should never focus too much on whether or not your baby is “on track.” With both time and practice, your baby will get there.
What are the Benefits of Self-Feeding?
Self-feeding is your baby’s first step to independence. In addition to the new confidence and sense of freedom your baby is experiencing, self-feeding is beneficial to their overall development in the following ways.
- Learning to grasp and hold things firmly
- Gaining hand-eye coordination (learning spatial awareness, strengthening their “visual motor skills”)
- Refining Sensory Process skills (the different textures and sensations of the food they are touching will help to build their sensory processing skills)
Things to Consider
Picking the Right Spoon
In general, any spoon that is not too heavy for your baby to hold is the right spoon. However, it is probably a good idea to purchase a set of spoons that are actually designed to be used for babies. Look for spoons that have a wide, chubby handle that will make it easy for your baby to grab and pick up. A spoon made of rubber or silicone will also be better for your baby because of the soft texture and grippy material.
Foods to Start With
Get ready for a big mess when it comes to your baby learning how to use a spoon. At first, your baby will likely spend more time exploring and playing with their food, rather than actually eating it. Start with thick foods that will easily stay on the spoon as they learn how to balance and bring the spoon to their mouth. Here are some recommended foods to start with.
- Cottage cheese
- Mashed peas/carrots
- Mashed potatoes
Introducing the Fork
So, your baby has now mastered the spoon and is ready for their next big step: the fork. It is usually recommended to introduce the spoon before the fork, because a spoon is typically easier for a baby to learn at first. However, some babies do pick up on the fork easier because it requires less balancing and they can stab the food. You will likely want to introduce the fork at around 16-18 months, to give your baby time to first practice and focus on learning how to use a spoon.
With so many huge developmental milestones being achieved, your baby is rapidly developing. Once your baby has been introduced to the spoon and fork, you can consider moving them from the high chair to a booster seat at the table. By bringing your baby to the table to eat with you, you can help them develop their motor skills quicker. This gives them the opportunity to observe and mirror your actions.
How Can I Help the Process?
The best way you can help your baby is to simply let them experience and explore this new skill for themselves. At first, you'll probably notice that your baby spends more time playing and waving the spoon around. But eventually, they will start to pick up on how to actually use the tool for their self-feeding benefit.
This is a messy, but fun, process. Look into some rubber or silicone splat mats to make the clean up aftermath easier for you. Other than letting your baby explore and have fun with the learning process, here are some things you can do to help your baby with practicing their new skill.
- Demonstrate it for them: Your baby is looking to you for guidance, so show them how it is done! Have them watch you use a spoon to feed yourself the yogurt or oatmeal and then have them try it for themselves. Over time, they will continue to mirror your actions for how to self-feed.
- Hand-Over-Hand Method: First, let your baby grab for the spoon themselves. Once they are holding the spoon, see if they can dip the spoon and scoop up the food. You can place your hand over their hand and help guide the food into their mouth. Your baby is still learning all the basics like where their mouth even is and how to scoop food using the spoon so you can help show them the ropes for the first few times.
- Stick to Thick Foods: To make it easier for your baby to scoop and bring the food into their mouth, stick to thick foods at first. Avoid foods that can easily fly off the spoon (rice, cereal, etc.) until they have gotten used to the process.
Baby-Led Weaning: What is it?
Baby-Led Weaning is a popular form of teaching self-feeding. The process skips feeding soft foods and purees and goes straight to finger foods starting at around 6 months. Registered dietician, Clancy Cash Harrison, author of Feeding Baby, says “Baby-led weaning supports the development of hand-eye coordination, chewing skills, dexterity, and healthy eating habits,” she says. “It also offers babies an opportunity to explore the taste, texture, aroma, and color of a variety of foods.”
What makes baby-led weaning successful, is that your baby will recognize that in order to eat, they need to learn how to do it themselves. It gives an extra nudge into independence. However, parents can obviously step in when needed, in order to make sure their baby is getting enough nutrition from food.
Starting at about 6 months, or whenever your baby is able to sit unassisted in a high chair, you can begin baby-led weaning. Your baby might not have fully developed their chewing skills so breast milk or formula will still need to be their main source of nutrition until at least 10 months old.
The best foods to begin with are soft, easy to squish foods like bananas, steamed broccoli, or avocado. Try cutting the foods into bigger pieces to make it easier for them to pick up. By starting at 6 months, you will help your baby develop the pincer grasp. When considering foods to start with, texture is key. Since your baby does not have the fully developed chewing skills, you will want to make sure any food you are giving them is very soft to avoid a choking hazard.
If you are thinking of starting baby-led weaning, consider a mixed approach. The first few months of baby-led weaning might be more exploring, and less eating. Do not feel pressure to fully abandon breast milk, formula, or purees. Not all children will be ready for baby-led weaning and finger feeding at 6 months. Focus on making sure your baby is getting enough food, rather than trying to get them to self-feed.
The most important thing to take away from both self-feeding and baby-led weaning is to let your baby lead the process. Let them be the one to reach for the spoon, show their curiosity, and explore their growing independence. Your baby will be most successful if you let them guide you in this process.
All health-related content on this website is for informational purposes only and does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the advice of your own pediatrician in connection with any questions regarding your baby’s health.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
See the FDA Peanut Allergy Qualified Health Claim at the bottom of our homepage.
Teaching Your Baby to Self-Feed
Read time: 5 minutesWhat should I know about teaching my baby to feed themself?
Signs your baby is ready to self-feed
Ideas for first finger foods
Tips for introducing spoons and cups to your baby
As your baby becomes more experienced with eating, you may notice them becoming more interested in feeding themself. This transition to self-feeding usually starts between 7 and 9 months.1,2,3Signs your baby is ready to self-feed include
Grabbing the spoon while you are holding it
Reaching for food from their (or your!) plate
Even grabbing other objects, like toys, and bringing them to their mouth4,5
Once your baby starts showing an interest in feeding themself, it’s important to provide many opportunities for them to practice this skill. The key to mastering self-feeding is to let your baby try and try again.
Don’t wait until your baby’s teeth emerge to start finger foods! Babies do not actually need teeth in order to enjoy foods beyond purees. In fact, the teeth we use to chew are the molars, and those teeth generally don’t come in until well after baby’s first birthday.15
Babies’ gums are incredibly strong – if your little one has ever gnawed on your finger when teething, you know! And as long as the foods you present to your baby are size and texture appropriate, they can chew perfectly well without a full mouth of teeth.14
Ideally, the food you provide your little one should be soft and pea-sized to prevent choking. Make sure the food is ‘smushable’ between your fingers so that it’s soft enough to be gummed by your baby.How to start teaching your baby to self-feed with finger foods
A good way to start is placing a few small pieces of food on your baby’s highchair tray. Let your baby feel it. It may seem as if baby is just playing with the food, but touching and playing is a step in their learning process.2,5
Initially, your baby may grab for the food with a raking motion, using the entire fist to move the food toward their mouth. Grabbing the food in this way is called the palmer grasp, which is when baby’s fingers close over an object (such as your finger) in the palm of their hand.16
Around 9 months, your little one will develop the fine motor skill of grasping food with their thumb and forefinger, called the pincer grasp.5
Read more: Introducing Solids: First Foods and Advancing TexturesWhen to practice self-feeding
You can go about practicing self-feeding in many ways. First, try setting aside time at the beginning of the meal for practice. Since baby is hungrier at the start, this may help in motivating your little one to bring the food to their mouth themself.
Another way to try is to simply leave several pieces of food on baby’s tray to play and practice with while you alternate with spoon feeding. Allow your little one to try and put food in their mouth, then practice chewing and swallowing. Be sure that baby’s mouth is clear of food before offering anything from the spoon.
If your baby gets frustrated, allow them to finish the meal and eat how they normally would (such as with spoon feeding). Just remember to keep trying at other meals throughout the day (and every day).
Read more: Meal Plan for 6 to 9 Month Old BabyFirst finger foods
The foods you give your baby to practice self-feeding should be soft, easily ‘smushed’ between your fingers, and cut into small pea-sized pieces.
Here are some ideas for first finger foods:
Small pieces of ripe, soft bananas, avocados, peaches, mango, kiwi
Soft cooked sweet potatoes, carrots, butternut squash, turnips
Grated or soft cooked (skinless) apples and pears
Soft cooked whole grain pasta
Cubes, strings, shredded, or small pea-sized pieces of cheese
Cooked shreds, small diced pieces, or ground cooked chicken, fish, or turkey
Berries cut into quarters
Beans cut into halves or quarters
In addition to the above ideas, your baby can eat bits of what you eat (without added salt or sugar) including different fruits, veggies, grains, meat, beans, spices and seasonings as long as the foods are small and soft enough to reduce choking risk.
Foods that pose a risk of choking should be avoided. Examples include nuts, whole grapes, hot dogs, raw carrots, raisins, popcorn, and portions of food that are too large.14 Also note that honey should not be given to infants before the age of 1 year.
Read more: Preventing Choking in Infants and ToddlersTime to practice with spoons and cups
Learning how to use spoons and cups not only involves demonstrating how to use each one, but also allowing your baby lots of practice both with your help and without. Let your little one get messy as they step into their independence with eating and drinking!Teaching your baby to use a spoon
After your baby masters self-feeding with their hands, the next step is offering utensils. Most children become good at using spoons and forks to self-feed between 15 to 18 months, but that doesn’t mean you need to wait until then to start exposing them to utensils. 1,6,7
Just as your baby needed a lot of practice eating with their hands, they will also need many opportunities to attempt eating with utensils. A good way to begin encouraging this transition is to give them their own baby or toddler-friendly spoon or fork.Teaching your baby to use a cup
Learning to drink from a cup can also begin around this time.4,7 Use an open, sippy, or straw cup and allow your little one to practice with a small amount of water. Since formula and/or breastmilk will still provide a large amount of nutrition and all of the hydration for your little one at this age, only about 4 to 8 ounces of water total spread through the day are recommended.8
Letting your baby drink water from a cup on their own will not only build their fine motor skills (which may include lots of spills!), but will also help them form the important habit of drinking water. 8
Which should you use: cups? Sippy cups? Straw cups? Learn more here: Transitioning to Cups for Babies and ToddlersWhich foods to use when practicing using a spoon
Thicker foods like oatmeal, mashed sweet potatoes, or yogurt blended with fruit are good practice foods since they will more easily stick to the utensil. It will be messy for a while but just remember that practice makes progress.
Once your baby has gotten the hang of dipping the utensil into the food and bringing it to their mouth, consider giving baby their own small bowl. There are some bowls with suction cups on the bottom and some that are attached to a mat – these may help prevent too many spills.
Let your baby to feed themself from their bowl while still feeding them from yours. Soon enough they’ll be eating a full meal without your help!
Remember, it is a learning process; it will take quite a while before your little one is neatly and skillfully feeding themself. In the meantime, have fun and be prepared to get messy!Tips for teaching your baby to feed themselfSupervise your baby during meals
It’s important to monitor your baby as they begin to eat more independently. Your baby is not only getting used to a new way of eating, but new textures too. Remaining by your baby during meals will allow you to monitor their tolerance for new textures and the amounts they are putting into their mouth.9Know the difference between gagging and choking
Gagging is the body’s natural defense against choking and is very common when babies start eating solid foods.10,11 Gagging may occur if the baby has too much food in their mouth or if the food moves towards the back of the mouth before they have chewed it sufficiently. While your baby may look scared and be making gagging noises, baby’s airway is not blocked. The gag reflex helps baby move the food back toward the front of the mouth so they may chew it more before swallowing.
Choking is when a piece of food becomes lodged in the airways causing baby to stop breathing.12 Your baby will be silent and perhaps flailing their arms. Choking is life threatening and requires immediate attention.
Learn more: Preventing Choking in Infants and ToddlersExpect and embrace the mess
Teaching your baby to feed themself will be messy. Invest in a few good bibs or apron type smocks that can better catch the food. Consider placing an old towel underneath the highchair if you are concerned with food falling on the floor. Keep a damp washcloth or paper towel by your side to help with spills.Enjoy family meals
Babies learn from you! If your baby is eating meals with the rest of the family, they will observe how everyone else is using their utensils to feed themselves, eating healthy foods, as well as other appropriate mealtime behaviors. 4,13
Read more: Family Meals: Developing Healthy Eating PatternsBe patient
Learning to self-feed takes time. Allow plenty of time for meals and never rush your baby to finish. Your little one is eating at the pace they are most comfortable with, allowing them to boost their learning.Let's Chat!
We know parenting often means sleepless nights, stressful days, and countless questions and confusion, and we want to support you in your feeding journey and beyond.
Our Happy Baby Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitians certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too, which means they’ve been there and seen that. They’re here to help on our free, live chat platform Monday - Friday 8am-6pm (ET). Chat Now!
Read more about the experts that help write our content!For more on this topic, check out the following articles:
Introducing Solids: Signs of Readiness
Learning to Love Healthy Foods
Understanding your Baby’s Hunger and Fullness Cues: Responsive Feeding
Introducing Solids: Baby Led Weaning
Feeding Tips for Healthy Weight Gain in Infants and Toddlers
Nutrient Needs and Feeding Tips for 6 to 12 Month Olds
How to teach a child to eat with a spoon and at what age is it better to start
Usually, parents feed their children from a spoon not out of emotion, but for practical reasons: it’s faster and cleaner. Pediatrician Olga Kulakova explains at what age a child can handle eating with a spoon and fork and whether this process can be somehow accelerated.
Question. My daughter is already 1.5 years old, and she just can't eat with a spoon on her own. By what age should a child learn to use cutlery? And are there ways to teach him?
Answer. The first acquaintance of a child with a spoon begins in the first year of life and coincides in time with the beginning of the introduction of complementary foods. At 6–7 months, the baby may begin to show interest in the spoon as an object. This is an excuse to buy another baby spoon and put it next to the plate. Let the child turn it in his hands, examine it and try to use it for its intended purpose.
At around 9 months of age, your baby can start picking up a spoon on their own. But this does not mean that he will be able to scoop up food and bring it to his mouth. Rather, it is about the fact that the child is trying to copy the movements of adults.
A child usually masters a full-fledged spoon by about one and a half years. But here it is important to remember that everything is very individual. Someone already a year old is excellent at using a spoon, and someone is still fed by their parents even at two years old. And it’s not worth worrying that the child is over a year old, and he is still just learning and he doesn’t succeed.
Under no circumstances should children be forced to master this science. Aggressive training can cause a backlash: the child will no longer want to pick up cutlery.
How to teach a child to use a spoon:
- Have him sit at a common table, let him watch how family members eat.
- Do not force feed your baby. Let him eat with his hands. He will not be able to eat porridge and soup like that - he will have to try to master the spoon.
- Play role-playing games with him more often, in which the child feeds his toys from a spoon.
At this age, the child actively copies the behavior of his loved ones, and it is important that he sees how the whole family eats with cutlery.
Children learn to use a fork around the age of three: at this age they already understand that a fork is a sharp object and can be hurt.
Pay attention to how the child grasps cutlery:
- At 1-2 years old, he holds a spoon in his fist in the middle of the handle.
- By two years - closer to the wide back.
- From the age of three, he can begin to hold the spoon with three fingers: thumb, index and middle.
Sooner or later the child will pick up the spoon and fork on his own as it should be
Children are given large time intervals to acquire certain developmental skills. For example, some children can learn to walk at 9 months, and others by one and a half years, and both will be the norm. The same story with cutlery: one child may become interested in them at 7–8 months, another at 9 months or after a year. All of these are variations of the norm.
However, by the age of two, a child should normally pick up a spoon and try to eat on his own. This does not mean that he will eat all the soup in the bowl, but at least a few spoons he should be able to bring to his mouth.
Ask your question to Mel, and the editors will find someone who can answer it. Write to our social networks - we read all messages on the pages on Facebook, VKontakte and Odnoklassniki. You can also write to us on Instagram. Answers will be published in order of priority in the "Question - Answer" section. By the way, we do not disclose names, so questions can be anything (feel free!).
Prepared by the trainee Anastasia Shirokova. Cover photo: Shutterstock / FotoDuets
What time do children start eating on their own?
Many mothers and fathers are often interested in: what time do children start eating on their own? There is no single answer to this question, everyone is individual. But it is important for parents to know: how to discern the first impulses for independence in time, at what age you can give your baby a spoon, how to teach him to eat without outside help, and what accessories will help the baby master this difficult science.
What time do children start eating by themselves with a spoon?
It depends on the character and development of the child, as well as on his parents. Some children already in the year flatly refuse to be fed with a spoon. But there are those who start eating on their own only at the age of 3, when they come to kindergarten (in a team, children involuntarily imitate others and the learning process goes faster). In large families, children learn self-service skills at an earlier age.
But overprotection hinders the development of the baby. If an overly caring mother tries to do everything for the child, then he will not strive to eat himself, even if he can do it. If parents are too much in favor of accuracy, and porridge smeared on the table causes them stress, then the learning process can slow down. After all, the baby feels the mood of adults, and prefers not to experiment at the table. The lack of independence can also be associated with an unwillingness to grow up. For example, another baby has appeared in the family, and the child, feeling that they are paying less attention to him, tries to “stay small”, wants his mother to take him in her arms more often, feed him from a spoon, etc.
From the age of 7 months a child usually learns to grasp and hold objects between thumb and forefinger, such as a dryer or a piece of bread. The child can be offered a spoon when he is already receiving complementary foods and sits well in the highchair. At first, the baby will only try to take the spoon in his hands and play with it, but later he will try to use it for its intended purpose. For drinking to a baby up to a year, a drinking mug is convenient.
At 12 months the child still does not hold the spoon correctly, but he knows how to bring it to his mouth, and some of the contents can reach the goal. Closer to two years, coordination improves significantly, the baby is capable of more precise movements and misses less and less. The kid can already hold a regular mug, but only with two hands.
From the age of 2 years a child can eat by himself with a spoon, although he does not always do it sloppy. He already holds a mug with one hand and knows how to use a fork.
From the age of 3 the baby becomes more dexterous and accurate, his fingers are getting stronger, and his movements are more and more confident. It is quite possible to give him a non-sharp children's knife, having previously shown how to use it.
Accessories to help children learn to eat on their own
Buy a baby plate with a suction cup so that the dishes do not run away from the child. It’s good if the child’s favorite character is drawn at the bottom of the plate. To see the picture, the baby will try quickly and eat all the food to the end.
The non-spill cup is the best option when switching to adult dishes. Choose a model with two handles, it is more convenient for your baby to hold. An additional advantage is the presence of a rubber stand, which gives the cup stability.
A special anatomically shaped spoon with a rounded non-slip handle and a curved fork with rounded teeth are best suited for babies up to a year old.
Paper napkins or towels should always be at hand. This teaches you to be careful, helps to avoid the temptation to wipe your hands on clothes.
It is good if a grown child eats at a common table. He will be able to watch adults, copy their actions. To do this, the baby will need a special chair that can be attached to a large table (for example, high chairs from IKEA, “growing” Stokke Tripp Trapp, Kotokota, KidFix, etc.)
Buy your baby a soft silicone bib, oilcloth or apron. This will help parents save their nerves and spend less time on laundry and cleaning.
How to teach a baby to eat without the help of adults?
If, during feeding, the baby seeks to take away the mother's spoon and tries to eat by himself, then “the time has come”. Use this moment!
At first, it is difficult for the baby to eat liquid food on his own, such as soup. And he probably wants to take pieces of fruit or pasta with his hands. Therefore, the ideal food for the first workouts is porridge or vegetables, which must first be kneaded with a fork.
The game will be a good help in learning. You can train the skill in the sandbox. Help the baby to scoop up the sand with a spatula, carefully pour it into the mold, make a cake. Buy a set of toy dishes, let the child feed dolls and teddy bears with a small spoon. This improves coordination, develops fine motor skills and will help him handle real cutlery.
At the beginning of training, one spoon should be in the hands of the mother, and the second - in the child. She feeds the baby, and the baby is only trying to collect food himself and send it to her mouth. Thus, the baby will not remain hungry and at the same time will gradually improve his skills.
Support the child at this stage of growing up, do not scold for mistakes and praise for successes.