When travelling through Asia I learnt that when hunger sets in and there are no knives and forks available, you quickly learn how to use chopsticks. The way babies learn how to eat on their own is much the same.
The best way of teaching baby how to feed herself is by throwing her in the deep end and giving her the opportunity to figure it out on her own, regardless of how messy this process may be: hunger is a great motivator By doing this, I could proudly say that my baby can feed herself with a spoon at 15 months of old. Taking a similar approach with teaching baby Alisha independent drinking, at 18 months of age my baby can now drink from a cup on her own as well.
When it comes to teaching baby how to eat on their own, count on a lot of mess and don’t expect any degree of mealtime etiquette for at least the first couple of years. Nonetheless, it is a valuable skill all parents must eventually teach their kids and sooner is better than later. Learning how to feed themselves is a vital part of baby development, helping to develop hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.
Teaching baby how to feed herself begins on day one, when we teach her how to latch onto the breast or bottle in order to gain sustenance. As a newborn’s internal iron stores diminish and their appetite grows along with their level of physical activity, our next task as parents is teaching baby how to eat solid foods. Although there is some disagreement among baby development experts, I think solids are best introduced at 4 months of age. This gives baby the time she needs to learn how to eat, so that she will have the hang of it by the time she actually requires the nutrition at 6 months of age.
By 9 months old, most babies have the skills to start feeding themselves finger foods: this is where the real fun begins. From this point I let my daughter Alisha to feed herself as much as possible, despite having to clean food off the floor, furniture, walls and windows on a daily basis, if not several times a day.
As her coordination improved, I began serving her things that could only be eaten with a spoon – foods she loved eating which like yoghurt and breakfast cereal. I would put the spoon in her hand, hold her hand to guide it from the bowl to her mouth a few times to show her how to get her food, then let her figure out the rest on her own. Just like my experience with the chopsticks in China and Japan, it wasn’t before long that Alisha learned out how to use her spoon in order to fill her hungry tummy. Now, if only I could figure out how to stop her from using her yoghurt for finger-painting and giving herself facials during mealtime.