35 answers

1 Year Old Who Will Only Use His Hands Not His Utensils to Eat With.

Hello Ladies
Dinner time at my house has been a struggle or me getting to eat doesnt alway happen because
I have a 1 year old son that I had bought utensils that were made for small hands, and mouth so he would be more comfortable to eat with them , and also for him to learn how to use instead of him using his hands to eat. I want him to learn the concept now because his mind is still fresh and he can learn things easier at a young age like this, but it also for the fact its soemthing he needs to learn so that he is not using his hands when he gets older, also I want to be able to take him out to eat at resturants with me but dont want to because I get stared at when see hes using his hand and not his utensil ,its like these people think im a bad parent for this , but im not because I have insited and been continuing to put his utensils at the table every meal we sit down to eat, I have showed him countless times how to use them by putting it in his left hand and showing him how to use the utensil I even have showed him this how mommy does it lets try and see if you want to use your utensil properly, but he always puts it down and uses his hands instead, im not sure if he understands or is just having a hard time with this. I get fusturated and want to give up but I dont because I really want him to learn this skill. Im just wondering if anyone has advice or tips that they have used or heard how to fix my issue so I could at least eat a quiet hassle free dinner with my son for a change without this struggle , it would be greatly appreciated thank you

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thank you all so much for the good advice that you gave me
I now know that hes only 1 and im going to be more relaxed with him on this issue with him using his utensils and not force him to use them he will learn that skill properly later on with my encouragement and me teaching him how to use them properly , for now im going to stop freaking out and let him make a mess with his hands because now I know that its a stage that he is just learning his motor skills by using his hands, im not going to stop totally but im going to take my time and have patients with my son so he wont be afraid of using the utensils later on.
again thank you all so much for that advice it was really helpful.

Featured Answers

A 1 year old, at this age does not have the hand cordination to hold a utensil and "scoop" up his food onto the utensil. I would give him plenty of more time. Eating with his hands at this age is important. He is learning independence by feeding himself-even if its with his hands and learning how to pick up small objects. Keep giving him the utensils though, he will eventually try them on his own. It is completely normal to eat with his hands at one. Good luck.

I also have a one year old and I work with children. I think that you can relax a little bit about expecting him to eat with utensils at this age. You have already introduced the concept and have them available at every meal, eventually he will decide to try them out. You can also have him decorate large handled utensils to make them his own with stickers ect. and buy a bowl with a raised edge to help him get food on the spoon. You will probably just want him to start with the spoon because his skill for fork use is not yet refined. I would try not to make it a struggle because then he may loose all interest or worse start to fight you more. You may want to have him help you cook in the kitchen, stirring and helping mix things with his hands are great fine motor skill builders. You can also get games that build his fine motor skills, look for fun things that he will see as a game. Have fun with him while he eats and try not to worry too much what others think!

My daughter is 15 months and holds/tries to use utensils, but isn't ready yet. I don't think it's a big deal at all, and know that she's not going to use her hands forever, so I'm not at all concerned. I give her a spoon and rounded tined fork at most meals but I'm not going to push her. Try not to be affected by others staring and maybe let him go at his own pace. I don't know what the age is that kids start using them properly as my daughter is my first, but I think 1 is way early to worry. Practice makes perfect, I would just keep showing him how to use them, or maybe take a break for a week or two and try again.

Good luck!

More Answers

Oh dear S., who told you a one year old was capable of eating with utensils? And why should you be concerned what others think of your mothering? If you feel as if you are doing your best then you are fine.
Good grief, the child should still be at breast.
Put the spoon.(.oh we have a wonderful spoon with an offset bowl so what he gets on it he can get into his mouth,) dont force the left/right handed issue, at his age he should be ambidextrous..bit later put a baby fork down. In about six months maybe.
You can put the spoon into his hand (either one) and take up a bit of food and direct it towards his mouth..then let him be and experiment by himself. I wonder that the child eats at all, it must be very stressful for him to have you "at him" all during the meal about something he doesnt understand and is not capable of using. RELAX
Mostly at one year old finger foods is the food of choice.
Turn your head away if you cant stand to watch him. Its all a part of the growing/learning process honey. I havent seen many four or five year olds still eating with their fingers when their mums have given them spoons and forks to use.
I am amazed to see on Mamasource how sophisticated many mums expect their babies to be at way too young ages.
He will learn faster by himself, really...but you can try putting the FIRST spoonful in his mouth. Then let his brain work for him. When he is ready to eat with fork and spoon , he will.
Tincture of time and patience is needed here.
Wishing you the best and God bless
Grandmother Lowell

1 mom found this helpful

I think you may have very high exectations for your 1 year old son. It's admirable that you want him to learn how to eat properly, but at only 1 year old he probably isn't ready for this skill. Some kids will still choose to eat with their fingers up to 3 years of age! If you push this too much with your son he may become very frustrated because he just isn't capapble of holding a spoon or fork at his age. It's more natural for kids to eat with their fingers vs. using a utensil. Don't worry about people judging your parenting skills in a restaurant - I don't know of any small children who can feed themselves with spoon at this age. It seems like an unrealistice goal.

Hi,
I have 4 kids of my own, and have been in Early Childhood Education for over 20 years. As much as you would like your son to use utencils, it is completely developmentally appropriate at this age to use his hands. It is good practice fpr his fine motor skills to manipulate little pieces of food and manage to get them into his mouth. Just keep making the utencils available to him, and he will eventually begin to use them. I wouldn't force the issue or stress over it. Good Luck

S.-

He is only one. Children that age do not have the dexterity to do that yet. Developmentally he is just not there yet... like most his age. I would continue to show him and praise him when he does it. We have a 1 year old and she will hold a fork.. that is it. He will get there in his own time. Try to be patient. As far as going out to eat goes, I would bib him up and bring lots of wipes.
Good luck.
E.

My daughter is 15 months and holds/tries to use utensils, but isn't ready yet. I don't think it's a big deal at all, and know that she's not going to use her hands forever, so I'm not at all concerned. I give her a spoon and rounded tined fork at most meals but I'm not going to push her. Try not to be affected by others staring and maybe let him go at his own pace. I don't know what the age is that kids start using them properly as my daughter is my first, but I think 1 is way early to worry. Practice makes perfect, I would just keep showing him how to use them, or maybe take a break for a week or two and try again.

Good luck!

My son is 16 months old and just started really using a spoon so far. Don't rush it. It may take some time. Just keep feeding him with the spoon and one day he'll grab it out of your hand like my son did and started feeding himself, "Hey Mom, I can do this, give me that!" Ha ha.

He's one, I wouldn't worry too much about it. My son will be three in February and I am just now in November of this year clamping down on him about using his utensils.

Always offer them to him, have him use them for a few bites at least, and then allow him to eat how he is comfortable. You have to remember that the coordination of a one year old is not the best, and how frustrating it is to eat when you're hungry and at the same time be uncomfortable or have to take such small mouthfuls. Sometimes kids just want to shove it in. Not to mention that the messages we ourselves send with food are confusing.

I bet he's allowed to use his hands for crackers and raisins, but then not pasta? And where do you stand on chicken nuggets, fork or no? Nope, it's just not developmentally appropriate for a 1 year old to always use utensils like an adult would.

Things like that will come. But the time to worry about refusing to use utensils is more like 3 or 4... he's still a baby right now... I hope that helps. Stuff like that is never worth sweating. :D

EDIT: OOPS! I responded off the email and didn't see you had already responded! I'm glad you'll ease up on him. Trust me, mealtimes are much more enjoyable without the frustration. :D Happy munching!

My youngest is going to be 4 and she still uses her hands. No big deal, at least she is eating! When we go to restaurants, I usually order her food she can use with her hands anyway........don't worry about it, he is only 1!

I think your expectations are too high for a 1 year old. I also have a 1 year old and a 3 year old. My 1 year old occasionally will use the utensils mostly for things like oatmeal but it is a skill that takes a lot of practice and his motor skills are still developing. I don't think anyone will think badly of you if you son uses his hands in public, he is a baby after all, they are messy. My 3 year old took a while to develop the skills but can even use a knife on his own so you may want to cut yourself and your baby a break. Also don't freak out when the baby starts throwing the plate, cup, spoon etc that is a phase they all go through.

I didn't read all the responses so someone might have said this already and I did read your follow up but wanted you to know that it is good for them to use their hands as it works on their dexterity. My daughter is just 15 months and she is starting to use utensils. but just practicing.

A 1 year old, at this age does not have the hand cordination to hold a utensil and "scoop" up his food onto the utensil. I would give him plenty of more time. Eating with his hands at this age is important. He is learning independence by feeding himself-even if its with his hands and learning how to pick up small objects. Keep giving him the utensils though, he will eventually try them on his own. It is completely normal to eat with his hands at one. Good luck.

I have 4 well mannered children. Let him eat with his hands. It's one of the learning steps. You don't teach a child how to read words before they learn how to read what the pictures are showing. He will eventually venture out and use the utensils.
If I have one important tip to give every parent....it's to spend at least 15 minutes "every" night before bedtime reading to your child. They are never too young or too old. If you don't read to them when they are older, just ask them how their day went. Make that commitment and he will turn out to be a great kid. If you have more than one child, start with the youngest. Make it alone time.
Good luck!
S.

I also have a one year old and I work with children. I think that you can relax a little bit about expecting him to eat with utensils at this age. You have already introduced the concept and have them available at every meal, eventually he will decide to try them out. You can also have him decorate large handled utensils to make them his own with stickers ect. and buy a bowl with a raised edge to help him get food on the spoon. You will probably just want him to start with the spoon because his skill for fork use is not yet refined. I would try not to make it a struggle because then he may loose all interest or worse start to fight you more. You may want to have him help you cook in the kitchen, stirring and helping mix things with his hands are great fine motor skill builders. You can also get games that build his fine motor skills, look for fun things that he will see as a game. Have fun with him while he eats and try not to worry too much what others think!

Hi:

Just a suggestion. Serve him finger food that he can pick up. Even peas can be finger food for a one-year old. He may not be coordinated enough yet in small motor skills to handle a spoon "full time." Show him by example the proper eating habits. He'll pick them up when he is ready.

One year old is very young to expect him to grasp the concept of using a fork all the time. I have a two year old (and a 8yr old), my two year old will go back and forth between a fork a spoon and still uses her fingers too. Most toddler foods are finger foods anyway. I wouldnt push him into it and make meal time difficult for him or stress yourself out. Just put the fork out and let him do what he wants, the important thing at this age is he is eating well, not how he eats it. They are allowed to use their hands and they will make messes too!!

I betcha people are looking at him when you go out to eat cause he is cute as a button!! Not cause he is eating with his hands!!!

Its not unusual for a 1 year old to not be ready to eat with utensils yet. You will see that some kids his age can do it (although usually not consistently yet) and many kids don't. It takes such coordinated motor skills and a great amount of concentration and energy for little kids to eat with utensils, that they don't always have the patients or ability to do it yet. I think he might be sending you signals that he isn't ready yet (even if he has been able to do it occasionally). My advice would be to do one of two things: the first would be to have the utensils out at every meal, but not even so much as mention them to him. Eventually, when he is ready, you will see him start to try. Kids have such a drive to imitate and be like us so when he is ready, he'll try. The other idea you could try is to take the utensils away and bring them out again a few months from now to try again. They will be a novel, fun "toy" and he may have developed a little further and be more able to handle it. He will eventually learn to use them regardless of what method you use, but if you try to insist on it before it is ready, it will likely turn into a power struggle and delay things further (not to mention frustrate the heck out of you!). It takes lots of kids until they are 2 or 3 before they are able to use them so its o.k. to just let him learn at his own pace. Try to take the pressure off yourself that people might be staring at restaurants. There will always be those kinds of people and there will always be reasons for them to stare because they if there is one thing I've learned as a mom, kids usually wait to do the most embarrasing stuff until you are out in public!! Good luck, and remember, he will master this tricky skill when he's ready. :)

Hello!!! he's 1 year old, he's not going to know how to use utensils anyway for awhile!

Age 1 is awfully young to be expecting utensil use. Heck, my 4 year old still needs to be reminded to use utensils sometimes! Certainly nobody in a restaurant is going to freak out and call Miss Manners if your baby is eating with his hands.

Just a couple of thoughts, though, for when your DS is a little bigger: I don't think my DS was really able to get the idea with utensils until around 2. Something to note - I found the kiddie utensils to really be worthless for us. My DS mastered the fork before the spoon - much easier for him to spear stuff with the fork than to scoop with the spoon for some reason. After trying what seemed to be every child utensil known to man, we just started giving him a salad fork and a teaspoon, after age two or so. Also, early on, I'd pre-load his fork or spoon for him and let him work on the motor part of getting it to his mouth, then after that he was able to work on loading up the fork or spoon.

Cheers!

i understand you'd like to teach your son proper table manners etc., but he's only one. relax. eating with his hands at this age is not going to hamper his ability to learn with a fork and spoon when he is ready. the lesson being learned now is that he can feed himself. so again, relax and enjoy this time.

You've probably heard this a million times already, but here goes my two cents. Your son is 1 yr old, he doesn't have the control to use utensils correctly yet. It is PERFECTLY normal and appropriate that he wants to use his hands!!! It's ok and great that you're giving him and demonstrating the use of utensils, but he's not ready and his lack of interest is showing you that. Keep giving him the utensils and praise him when he uses tham. He'll get it and he'll grow up soon enough.

every child develops at a different rate, but I wouldn't expect a 1 year old to have the motor skills to actually use a fork or spoon at meals. here's just one take on it -
http://www.babycenter.com/408_when-can-my-baby-use-utensi...

Hi S.:
I think you may need to adjust your expectations of your son. To use utensils is a skill that he will learn, but should not be expected to have mastered it at one year of age. He will get it eventually. No one at a restaurant expects, or they shouldn't, expect a child to be eating with utensils. Part of him learning about food is to explore with his hands. It might be good for you to do some reading on child development so that you can know what is normal to expect. Dr. Sears has a book called The Baby Book and he explains what to expect at different stages of development. You could probably find it at a local library. Good luck!

Hi,
I have a 15 month old who is just learning to use utensils...at one year of age, even up to 18 months of age children do not have the fine motor skills needed to use utensils well...they are just developing their dexterity at that point, and will play/use a spoon while eating still. It is still necessary for him to use his hands if he wants to actually eat something! My suggestion would be to not push him, just introduce the utensils or you will turn him off of them...and when you go out to eat, give him foods that are easy to eat with fingers and forks....cut into small pieces. I can't imagine others expect your child to eat like an adult?????

He is only 1...I wouldn't worry too much. Keep giving him the utensils and show him how to use it. Put a piece of food on the fork and place it in front of him. He'll get the hang of it

My son is 18 months and always wanted to use a fork or spoon but of course is just now learning how to. What a mess! I wish he would just eat with his fingers, things would be a lot easier and he would be done with dinner faster. 1 year olds barely just try to hold on to the utensil, must less use them correctly. No one at a restaurant cares if he eats with his hands! I bet they are staring because they are wondering why you are forcing the issue. Also at one, he probably still needs help eating. I still spoon feed my toddler his mushed up food like babyfood, applesause, rice, small noodles because we would be at the table for 5 hours if he had to do it by himself. Please, give your son a break.

I think 1 year is still young for using utensils 100% of the time. I started making a spoon available to my daughter around 11 months of age, but she really only got interested in using it at maybe 15 months. She's 18 months now, and still misses her mouth a lot. She's getting practice with a fork too. Sometimes, when she is really hungry, she will decide a spoon is too slow and use her hands

I wouldn't worry about it too much. Keep providing the utensils with the meals, and make sure he sees you using them properly. Soon he will recognize that people eat with spoons and forks, and he will insist on using them too. Mostly, you will have to let him figure it out on his own. He will!!

Keep setting the utensils on the table or tray for him, don't worry if he uses his hands to eat he will use a spoon or fork when he is ready. don't expect to much from him. My 3 yr old started out using his hands and used his hands to put food on his spoon and fork. they learn at their own pace,don't give up and you will be surprised

Your baby is still a little baby. Skills are mastered over time and when the child is developmentally ready to master them. It's my opinion that you should be feeding him the really messy stuff. Finger foods can also be given. I don't believe anyone is staring at you because he does not know how to eat with utensils. Your baby is more interested in eating than learning a new skill. Don't rush the growing up stuff. It happens all by itself and very quickly.

He's only 1. 1 year olds don't use forks or spoons. They are still getting used to feeding themselves with their fingers. I would place a fork and spoon on his plate every meal and encourage him to use them (not force). He'll also see you using yours. Don't expect him to use them though at such a young age. I would say around 16 mths. they start to use utensils but not consistently.

i would suggest you not stress dont make it a struggle about this so much really i have four children and made a utensil available at every meal. they are all very proficient with utentsils do not make it a struggle honestly he will learn when he has a manual detexerity right now he is probally more concerned about gettign the food in his tummy not how it is getting there.mother of 13 11 8 and 18 mths K. d

I think your putting a little too much pressure on yourself and him. I don't think a 1 year old is supposed to master that skill yet, great if he does it sometimes, but don't make it a battle or it will take longer. And as far as other people are concerned looking at you at restaurants...that is ridiculous...it would never occur to me that a little child like that is even using his hands versus utensils...now if he was 3/4 I would scratch my head. Just relax...all in good time!

Hi S.,

My son is 11 months old and certainly cannot use his own utensils, but what i have done, since he was about 9 months, is to put the food on the spoon, and then let him hold the spoon while I guide it into his mouth. Now, at 11 months he can hold cleanly guide the spoon into his mouth after I have put the food on it. Most of the time he loves doing this, but at times he also prefers that I just feed him, and that's fine with me too. I know he's WAY to young to have that motor skill mastered. If you feel people in restaurants staring at you or your baby, it may just be that he's so cute and they enjoy watching him try to self feed, not that they are expecting a one year old to eat cleanly with utensils. If they do, they either don't have kids or don't have a clue!! That's crazy to expect at this age. Just keep teaching. When he's ready he'll get it. :-)

Have fun!!

He is only 1 year old, he will get the hang of it eventually. If he is happy eating with his hands for now you should let him. And if people are staring at you because your 1 year old is not using a fork they are crazy.

LOL, hes a year old!! I dont know too many 1 yr olds that use a fork and knife... My son is 16 months, and still uses his hands! It's no big deal. Trust me, no one thinks you're a bad parent because you baby doesnt use his fork. He will learn on his own when it's time. Just keep trying here and there. It seems like the more you force these things the more they DONT want to. With my son, we stick the food for him and hand it too him. He'll do that a few time each meal before the fork ends up on the floor with 1/2 of his food. He'll start doing it more and more if you let up a bit about it.

Good morning S.! VERY simple solution. Relax! This is a milestone, that's all....

Let him eat with his hands - he practices small motor skills and this is one of the best ways to do that. It's actually perfectly natural and normal!

Don't worry - you are not a caveman, so by your example, neither will your child be. First rule of parenthood - our children learn by our example. (Except when they are reaching milestones such as this - but his learning small motor skills is more important that table etiquette right now...)

I cannot recommend highly enough that you RUN to the bookstore and purchase "Your Baby and Child, Birth to Age Five" by Penelope Leach. It is really realistic, no nonsense, but human approach to child rearing and is by far the very best book out there!

In the meantime, relax. You're doing fine.

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