Transitioning Your Child to Eating on His or Her Own
Tips and advice for teaching your child to feed themselves — and how to make mealtime fun
Keywords Table Manners For Kids, Teaching Kids To Eat, Family Mealtimes
Tips for Success
When teaching your child how to feed themselves, the key to success is by leading by example. Children will often mimic the actions of those other people around them, watching how people hold the spoon and bring it to the mouth. They will also pick up on your habits, too, so be sure to use good eating habits yourself and don’t expect your child to feed themselves and demonstrate good table manners all at once — it takes time (and practice).
Make Mealtime Fun
As with anyone learning something new, children learning how to eat need to have a little fun, too, often by smearing puréed vegetables all over their face and hair. Don’t worry — this isn’t a setback. “Most babies go through a food smooshing phase; that’s just part of the fun of learning about the taste and texture of food,” says McCord. And as with the rest of us, kids learn by using their senses, so hands and mouths play a big role in understanding the world around them.
Family-Favorite Mealtime Games
In McCord’s home, a game of happy and sad is a favorite way to make mealtimes fun. “We all go around the table and say one thing that made us happy that day and one thing that made us sad. It's a great way for everyone to get involved from the youngest to the oldest.”
Other family mealtime favorites include talking about colors that are on the plates or at the table. “I’ll ask something like I have green peas on my plate. What else do you like that’s green?” Getting kids involved at mealtime with games like these really helps with establishing good eating habits, encouraging curiosity when it comes to new foods, and of course staying focused on family time.