It’s easy to preach and difficult to practice. So let me start the article with a disclaimer. I know that no one likes advice and nowhere in the article I am pointing fingers and judging anyone’s parenting style. I am just suggesting ways which I myself employed for an easy transition to get my child to self feed her.
As per my experience and my observations, mostly kids who are fussy eaters also tend to remain dependent on adults for feeding them. But I would also like to believe that basically kids love to eat on their own. But just to avoid the mess that they would make and also to hurry up the process we adults tend to avoid letting them. And that sometimes tend to make them fussy eaters too.
Aren’t we nodding our heads in affirmation? I did that. But better sense prevailed as I dreaded to keep feeding my child for a longer time and wanted her to be independent. So my daughter started eating by herself at 18 months.
I shall discuss here few ways that I employed to encourage her to eat independently.
- Switch off the television and keep away the gadgets: Don’t we just switch on the cartoon on the television, tablets and phone so that kids eat faster and do not crib while eating. Stop doing that. We are unconsciously getting them glued to gadgets. It hampers brain development.
- Let them try: Kids as young as 8 months can try and eat by themselves. So let them try. Give them a cheese cube or a soft fruit like banana or a cucumber to eat independently. It is easier to hold at an early age. By the age of 10 months they develop the finger grasp and can be given finger foods too.
- Ignore the mess: Don’t worry about the mess they make. Toddlers tend to throw food around too if they don’t like what they are offered. So in order to make them develop independent eating habits first offer them food that they like. It could be home cooked potato fries. Kids generally like potatoes.
- Demonstrate and supervise: Always be with the child while you are trying to teach them to eat independently. Demonstrate how to hold the spoon or the fork. Help them out while eating. Also make it a point to eat along with them. As they learn a lot by observation. It also helps to make them enjoy food as they eat with family. It helps in instilling healthy eating habits. I strongly insist of having at least one meal together as family.
- Use attractive cutlery and plates: Let the child choose the plates of his choice to eat. Get attractive cutlery, this helps a lot to encourage them to eat and they look forward to meal times.
- Praise them: However shabbily they ate, yet praise them on their attempt. Positive reinforcement helps them develop good eating habits.
Kids generally eat by themselves by 18 months using spoons and forks too. You just need to make them enjoy eating. Start at 8-9 months and they will be independent eaters by the time they reach 18 months.
My other articles on developing healthy eating habits:
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