19 answers

Eating with Utensils

At what age is it inappropriate for a child to not eat with utensils? My son is going to be 2 in January and he absolutely refuses to eat with utensils. I give him a fork or spoon with every meal. He'll start off with what I put on it, but then it goes flying across the room, and he starts shoveling food into his mouth with his hands. I've tried using the gerber lil dippers, and the same thing happens. I know he is physically capable, it just seems like he's too impaitent to eat properly. How old should he be when I need to put my foot down? How do I go about getting him to eat properly? We've been working on this since he turned a year old, but he's not responding to my techniques, I need new ones.

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Thank you so much for everyone who answered. A lot of great advice for me to put into motion. I really appreciate everyone's support. To the other moms who are going through the same thing, good luck to you as well!!! :)

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In addition to all of the great advice here, try heaping praise for each time he uses the fork/spoon for each bite (I also agree that he might be super hungry and that shoveling in with hands is simply faster!) Rewards often work better than punishments and kids get the attention they crave.

There's no innapproiate age for him to learn. When you start training him with utensils, you can' stop. You must be firm. Hold his hand grip on the spoon and guide it to the mouth. If he throws it, pick it up and do it again. If he persists, take the food away while you're eating and let him throw his fit. Tell him when he behaves, he'll get his food. After a couple of minutes, try again. It's all tral and error. Just keep with it mommy.

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I have a 7 and 10 year old. When my girls did things like this it was because they enjoyed my attention. Imagine: "If I through my fork across the room mommy will come running and do all sorts of stuff for me". They are smarter than we are at getting attention. It's hard, but I'd ignore it. Let him use his hands. I assure you he will use utensils, he will grow out of it. He won't be able to go out on a date unless he does ;)

1 mom found this helpful

Hi J.,

I have absolutely no advice for you, but I love your question because I'm going through the same thing with my boys. Honestly, I don't know that there is a "magical" age when kids eat with utensils. All children develop at different times/ages. I think Beverly's advice is very useful, and I will also try out some of her suggestions. Best of luck to you. Just know, you are not alone.

J., Eating with a spoon is a pretty sophisticated motor skill which requires fine motor development, eye hand coordination and patience. Most children slowly begin using the utensils more and more. You mentioned "puttiing your foot down" which usually doesn't work well with twos as you may have found out. You don't want to make meal time negative either because it could spill over to feeding issues.

My advice would be casual about the utensils. Present them and reward him for the couple of bites he takes with the spoon. Before he throws it say, "Are you tired of using the fork/spoon now?" Take it away and let him continue with fingers. Eat at the table with him so he can see everyone role model using utensils. I think these behaviors are better encouraged with "gently nudging" rather than being strident. On his wedding day he will be using a fork at the table!! A.

We use regular utensils for our kids (1 and 3). Our 1 year old gets a spoon or fork to try but eventually tosses it. At 1 year I just ignore it if she drops the utensil and she finshes eating w/her hands. She tends to clear the table (imagine broad sweeping motions here) of food when she's thirsty so you might want to look out for that also. I do not allow her to dump her plate, I hold it down at this age and tell her the rules (even though she doesn't understand all the words yet). Starting around 18 months if they dump their plates or throw food, we take the food away, end of story (no "snack" later, if you're feeling really guilty, you can provide more "dinner" later). It only took our older daughter 2 times to figure out we were serious about it. Our 3 year old starts with utensils and sometimes uses her hands to help or to finish the meal. I think you can find real forks, etc. for children (I'm not talking about the plastic bulky ones, I mean real silverware) which might help them manipulate the utensiils better. Don't underestimate the value of talking to him about what's going on. Tell him you understand he might be frustrated (that it's ok, it's part of learning) and that you'll help. We had to help get the meat on the fork for a long time with our oldest. We use lots of praise for trying too. Good luck!

I think I'm actually disturbed by some of the suggestions to take the food away from your child and not give it back. Kids are just that, kids. They're learning so much everyday. He's not even 2 yet. Let him be a kid. Our society places so much attention on kids growing up so fast and they forget the fun stuff. My 3 1/2 year old uses her spoon and fork now but still loves to eat some things (especially spaghetti) with her hands because it's fun. We honestly haven't even started silverware with our 1 year old yet. I agree with the poster that we shouldn't compare our kids and we really should pick our battles. Sure I have more clean up at the end of dinner but we spend our dinner together and happily. We're not chasing silverware around the dining room or making our kids cry by yelling at them to hold a spoon or fork when they don't understand more than half of the words we're saying. Good luck and enjoy them while they're small.

Hi there, I agree with the other moms that it might be to early to expect this but its never to late to start. I saw this children's cutlery set at One Step Ahead and until he learns it might be worth a try. It sticks to the table so he can't throw it and its the appropriate size. I have always liked the product from One Step ahead so go have a look.

http://www.onestepahead.com/catalog/product.jsp?productId...

There's no innapproiate age for him to learn. When you start training him with utensils, you can' stop. You must be firm. Hold his hand grip on the spoon and guide it to the mouth. If he throws it, pick it up and do it again. If he persists, take the food away while you're eating and let him throw his fit. Tell him when he behaves, he'll get his food. After a couple of minutes, try again. It's all tral and error. Just keep with it mommy.

of course he's going to use the utinsils as a sling shot, that's what they do, at first. what you have to do, because you started kinnda late in the training, is sit whith him hold his hand with the utinsil and show him how to use it and then let him do it himself when he goes to put it down or sling the food stop him then show him again. it takes a little work and a little patience, it also helps to sit and eat with him and let him mimic you. he's just eating the way he's been use to eating all this time. traing him now he may get frustrated after a min. because the food aint makin to his mouth as fast as it would if he uses his hands, and they see the utinsil as a toy (a new way to entertain themselves)

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