Get ready for a mess. Just get ready for it. Learning to use a spoon and fork equal tons of squishy, gooey, juicy and sticky foods all mixed up from head to toe. But before you cringe, know that self-feeding is a great skill to support the development of visual motor coordination and the beginning of a whole new world for a child.
What to do Before a Child is Ready for a Spoon and Fork
Remember to let children finger feed themselves as soon as they have the coordination and can eat starter foods. As always, don’t force it or stress over it. Children should naturally be inquisitive and hungry enough to begin when they’re ready. Picking up small pieces of food is a great fine motor task for learning to target where to direct the hand/fingers. It’s also great for reaching and grasping, two really important fine motor tasks. This all lays the groundwork for the coordination of using a utensil.
How to Introduce a Child to a Spoon and Fork
When you’re first introducing a spoon and fork to children, I recommend starting with a spoon. Children around the age of one have the ability to start using a spoon, however, all children are different, so be flexible in this timeframe. Also, keep it positive and fun! You will be a natural model for the skill. It is good to introduce a spoon first because of its lack of pointy tines that a fork has. Let children develop the skill of successfully directing the spoon to the mouth before introducing the fork. Use foods that are easy to pick up such as yogurt and oatmeal with a spoon, sliced bananas and, eventually, pancakes with a fork. You can see all my fun tips in my video by clicking here.
Remember, the mess is washable, this is just the beginning of a progression of fine motor and visual-motor coordination development. These and other tips are in my Fine Motor Skills: Let Me Lend You a Hand day training. Enjoy the process!