February 13, 2008,
A.G. asks from Honolulu, HI on January 23, 2008
When Should Son Feed Himself with Spoon?
My son is 8 months old. Lately during feeding time, he's been grabbing the spoon and trying to put it in his mouth, so we (his dad and I) have been encouraging him to try to feed himself. I admit, not all the time, because it's VERY messy and time-consuming and requires infinite patience, but with our help, he can do it pretty well. I decided to ask his daycare giver if he does that at her house and if she lets him and she said no way he's way too young for that. She said she just recently started letting the almost 2-year old she watches to spoon feed himself. She said my kid should only be eating finger foods by himself. She has watched and helped raise a lot of kids and I trust her judgement b/c I'm a first time mom, so is she right? Do I have this all wrong to let him try now, and what are the reasons why he shouldn't as long as he's supervised and eats well?
So What Happened?™
Thanks so much for all the responses! I have been doing the two spoon method and it's been working well! When my mom was last in town, she bought these wonderful Gerber spoons that have a really fat handle and an oversized, deep bowl and the whole thing is rubbery so I don't worry about him sticking it down his throat or breaking a tooth. Now he holds that one and chews on it while I put food on his other spoon. Then he uses his other hand to grab the spoon with the food and we both guide it into his mouth, then he sticks the other back in his mouth! It solves another problem I was having - getting him to LET GO of the spoon after he takes a bite! We are having a good time and he's learning fast. As for the babysitter - I understand if she doesn't have the time to help him at this point: she does have other kids to watch, and he is young and has plenty of time to learn. We will work on it at home and I'll just let her be pleasantly surprised when one day he can do it all by himself! Thanks again for all your help and support!
C.R. answers from Los Angeles on January 24, 2008
I believe the only way they get good at feeding themselves is with practice. I gave my daughter the spoon as soon as she started reaching for it. Granted, I put a huge sheet on the floor (I have carpet in my diningroom)and stuck a towel on her lap, but it certainly was messier than when we fed her. A lot of times, she would stop using the spoon to just use her hands, or she'd use both. What a great thing for their dexterity and hand/eye coordination. So, if you have the time, I recommend you let him try. Sometimes it helps if you hold onto the baby food container/ bowl, etc. to keep it from sliding. My daughter is now 20 months old and learning to use a fork to stab food. She still reverts to using fingers when it gets too frustrating, but she still keeps trying :o)
J.H. answers from Los Angeles on January 24, 2008
my 11 month old is doing that too. Sometimes I give him an extra spoon to play with, but sometimes he just wants to "feed" himself. I sometimes try to guide him or just let him try for a short while. I think it's ok to let him at least experiment, even if he's not really ready to truly feed himself.
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B.S. answers from Los Angeles on January 24, 2008
I have a son who is 19 months old and he eats with a spoon and fork. My experience has been that is is a little messy and takes more time, but I did not want to hold him back because it would be more challenging for me. I will put food on his tray and let him eat on his own. I also will feed him myself. My experience is that some care takers want to take the easy road. I think it's great that you are allowing him to discover his skills on his own.
B. :) :)
B.R. answers from Los Angeles on January 24, 2008
First of all, if your childcare provider is that off the mark you may want to consider looking for a new one. I'm not saying that because of this one problem, but if you value independance and she doesn't think that an 8 month old should be trying to use a spoon then you have an obvious difference of opinion.
As a child development professional I am really steamed about this, even though it's a small thing. I think it is infinately important to let children try to do things themselves, even if they can't do them very well, and especially if they show an interest, which your child obviously does. My daughter started trying to use a spoon at the same age, and at fifteen months could use one pretty succesfully. That is a little early, but most children should be using a spoon by 18 months, which means they should start trying by at least a year, if not sooner.
To briefly explain why I feel so strongly about what seems like a tiny issue- if you look at Erickson's stages of psychosocial development (which you don't need to know, but any child care provider should be relatively familiar with) the second stage, which your child will be moving into soon, is autonomy vs. shame and doubt. Basically what that means is that your son will be asserting himself as an individual, and will start showing the desire to do things himself. If you (or his child care provider) discourage this and tell him "you're too little" or anything along those lines when he tries to do things there could be repercussions down the road. And like I said, I'm looking at this problem as more of a symptom of her general attitude towards children. But basically it comes down to what you want- do you want your child to be dependant, or do you want him to be a self sufficient individual? At the very least you should discuss this with your child care provider, possible with some literature on development stages that should very plainly state that a child should be using a spoon before 2.
So, in short, your child is not too young to be using a spoon! A hint for you at home- give him a spoon, and use another spoon to feed him. It will take less time. And consider yourself lucky- Izzy was so over baby food at 8 months, so I had to come up with really creative finger foods so she would get enough to eat (she mostly ate fruit and veggies cut up really small and cooked well, cubed tofu, cheerios, and well cooked rice).
PS Not all kids need to be fed up to 18 months. I haven't fed my child since she was 9 months old, and she's only 17 months now and eats full meals between finger foods and what she can scoop with her spoon.
1 mom found this helpful
H.F. answers from Los Angeles on January 23, 2008
If your son is showing interest in feeding himself with the spoon then by all means let him have at it. It doesn't matter if he is only 8 months old.
A.D. answers from Honolulu on February 13, 2008
I think you folks are doing the right thing in encouraging him to discover new strenths and refine his skills. I think that you should continue working with him on your own time, and his daycare provider can continue at what she's doing in helping to feed him the way she feels comfortable. All in all, he's growing and he's fed well....I don't think you should worry about it. Everyone will have their own advice, but he is your son and you know him in your own light. Learning both ways and at that same time will only (I feel) increase his fine motor skills and give him the ability to do both, recognize his personal strengths, and ultimately make everyone proud! Keep up the good work!.........A.
J.C. answers from Los Angeles on January 24, 2008
I am constantly amazed at what kids are capable of. I never thought that at 12 months My daughter would use a spoon, and she didn't really, but we'd let her play with it at meal time. By 14 months she was eating yogurt and oatmeal with a spoon, things that stuck to the spoon pretty easily. At that time we also started her in day care and the woman who takes care of her makes homemade soup for the kids everyday. So now at 19 months (though she's been doing it since around 15 months) she eats everyday with a spoon and sometimes a fork. She is also eating soup with a spoon, and barely spills a drop. I think your day care provider is probably right that at 8 months, finger foods are appropriate, but her two year old should definitely be able to use utensils by now. If your son has an interest in the spoon and you are supervising, I don't see any problem with it. As always, trust your gut, and don't underestimate your child's dexterity!
K.H. answers from San Diego on January 24, 2008
My son began spoon-feeding himself at around 5 months. He showed the same signs of readiness as your little guy, reaching for the spoon, so we let him try it. He did great with it! He is now 18 months and uses a spoon and a fork. I would be a little concerned about your daycare provider's opinion for the simple fact that, if a child displays readiness for something, we shouldn't hold him back simply because others were unable to perform at a later age. She may not want to deal with the mess when he is with her, but I think you are doing the right thing by allowing him to learn and experiment when he is with you. Continue to follow your instincts!
M.S. answers from Los Angeles on January 24, 2008
I'm a mother of 2 and grandmother of 6. I've never heard the opinion expressed by your day care provider before. My experience has been the same as what you propose. If you want an answer with research behind it, I suggest you ask your pediatrician for resources to check out. You go Mom!!!
L.W. answers from Los Angeles on January 24, 2008
Let him feed himself if he wants to- Yes, it's messy- but a spoon won't hurt him and this is how he learns. I have 21 month old twins who are VERY profcient with both a spoon and a fork now because I let them try to feed themselves as soon as they were interested. I used to use two spoons, one for me and one for baby and we'd switch back and forth so I made sure they actually got some food in their mouth. Good luck
T.O. answers from Los Angeles on January 24, 2008
If your son is showing interest in feeding himself, then by all means give him the spoon. But don't let that be the only way he eats. Give him one spoon, and then use another to feed him. He will get fed, while "practicing" with his own. You should always go by the cues your child gives you. Some are ready to hold a spoon early, and others are not. It also is affected by how much of a mess you are willing to put up with. My hubby was so against giving our first son Spagetti because of the mess, and how he refuses to eat it with sauce. Out youngest, I gave him spagetti with sauce from the begining, and even though it is messy, he eats it! Every child is different and will be ready to do thigns at different times. Also don't be concerned if he gives up wanting to do it on his own as he learns other things. Kids will start doing something, and then stop while they learn something else, but will pick it up again. Have fun with your son, and enjoy, these times go by so fast! :-)