45 answers

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?

What can I do next?

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!

Featured Answers

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)

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.

Hi A.,

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. :) :)

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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

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.

Hi A.....

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.

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!

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!

Hi A.:

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!!!

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

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! :-)

I don;t know the exact month. However, I would say whenever your child wants to do something independently and it's not going to hurt them, encourage it while monitoring them. With that said, I have a 17 month old and he expressed a desire to feed himself approximately at 11-12 months so there are times when I feed him, but then he stops accepting food from me and picks the spoon up himself. Sure it's messy and like you said, takes patience, but I encourage (appreciate)his need for independence (while I monitoring it ...of course).

So if you have the time and your son wants to explore his world let him.

I think you should trust your instincts and let your son start to feed himself. These are the little issues that everyone sees a little differently, but the earlier your baby does things for himself the more independent he will be. We have three kids and let all of them begin to spoon feed themselves at this age. The mess is worth the motor skills development and the independence. They sell great bibs that have full long sleeves, and other plastic bibs that have trays on the bottom to catch dropped finger food. We have sometimes put both on our kids at the same time, to really ensure they stay clean, or we will just take our baby's shirt off for mealtime, because skin is easier to clean then clothing!

Hello A., I am also a first time mom.
I don't see a problem with letting your son try and feed himself with a spoon. When I started feed my daughter soild food she would always grab for my spoon so I bought extra baby spoons and would give her one also. By the age of 10 months she was able to put food by herself on her spoon and put it in her mouth..Yea it was alittle mess but I would also still spoon feed her so I knew she got enough. Visiters that would come over were amazed at how young she was but could spoon feed herself. My daughter is now 15 months old and does very well with feeding herself..there are times that I still sit and feed her if she will let me..Because I miss that..I hope this helps..

Hi A.,
There's no danger in letting babies try to feed themselves, but neurologically they aren't ready to control the arms and legs. Don't rush things...they grow up too fast and you should savor each stage. It's nice to have some fun with food and then hit the tub!!! but no one wants their baby to have a black eye from a spoon!
again...don't rush!!!

Dear A.,

Your babysitter probably would have hated me - especially when she saw me give my 8 month old babies corn on the cob or a whole (peeled) pear - which they LOVED! (Or when I let my three year old help feed my one year old!) I see no reason at all to stop what you are doing. And no matter how many children one has raised, just as with everything in life, there are ALWAYS different ways (not wrong, just different) of doing things. There is such a broad range of normal in baby development! Shame on her for not being more positive, open-minded, and encouraging. If she doesn't want to do it your way when he is in her care (because it takes too long and is too messy), fine! We rarely find caretakers who do it exactly the way we do - but don't let her make your choices for you. Trust yourself - first time mom or not - YOU ARE THE MOM! You are doing a great job!

Best wishes!

i think that if your son is showing such interest, now is a good time. i never much paid attention to "milestone rules" when raising my daughters, now 21, 19, and 12. your daycare giver is not in the position to dictate to you, no matter how much experience she has. each child is different and must be treated as such and encouraged, no matter how inconvenient for the daycare giver. we gave each of our girls a spoon when in their highchairs immediately. sometimes they used it, other times not. eventually (and sooner than expected, i assume), each of them fed themselves throughout the entire meal. children are sponges. they will absorb whatever we subject them to. as an interesting p.s., we gave them toothbrushes with a little oragel when they were teething as opposed to "teethers" as well (supervised in a high chair, of course). i must say that each of them have excellent oral hygiene habits these days! in my opinion, your son's interest in the spoon is ripe for developing an excellent habit! there is nothing harmful about it.

Hi A., my name is C., I am a child development teacher. I specialized in infant/toddler amd two's. Your son is showing interest in feeding and helping himself. he is not to young to try to feed himself. If he wants to try on his own, please let him. I recommend that you offer him a spoon, and you have spoon to help him. He is at a stage where he is very curious and interested in different things. Of course, he will get messy, just make sure to have a wet wash cloth handy to clean up and wipe up the messy area. Stay consistent when introducing to new things.

A little about me: I love children, I love to teach them. I have been a child development teacher for over 10yrs. I am a mother of 4 wonderful children, and happily married.

I think if your son is showing interest then by all means, let him try feeding himself. I know it's messy, but it's always going to be messy. My daughter is 5 and she still has issues feeding herself sometimes. My son is 17 mos. and started showing interest a few months ago, but recently refused to be fed unless he was the one feeding himself. I try not to give him food that can be too messy (i.e. with sauces or soup-based dishes), but if I do cook spaghetti, I try not to put a lot of sauce and will also help him a little with putting the spoon in his mouth. He'll let me do that. As for seeking advice from your daycare giver, it's good that you did that, but also know that not all children are the same. Her advice is her opinions on the matter and that's it. A child is never too young if he/she shows interest in it. I understand that feeling of being a first time mom, but my mom always told me to go with my gut instinct. It was hard for me to trust it because I had never raised a child before, but she was right. You know your child more than anyone, so you'll know what's right for him. Good luck & hang in there!

They are never too young as they are always learning. I do this as much as I can take, haha, for my daughter who is also 8 months. I also watch an 18 month old and she uses utensils very well, if she gets any on her hands I have to wash them! Babies are a lot smarter than some may think. Mine is infant potty trained and says 3 words and 3 signs so far, I work with her everyday, altho shes just started to scootch. Definately go for it, like I said they are never too young!

I say bull to that lady. My son has been spoon feeding himself since he was about 10 months old and I must say, most days he's neater than myself. :) If your son is showing signs of wanting to spoon feed himself, let him have at it. Get him soft spoons that wont hurt his gums and feed him yourself at the same time. Sneaking a spoonful of your own in there will help reassure you that he is actually eating enough. Also if you stand behind him and guide the spoon to his mouth a few times, he might pick up on it faster. Right now his brain has to process it backwards and turn what he sees around in his head to get the coordination down. Watching you is like watching a mirror image eat and it may be why he is SO messy. But it could also just bee that he's messy cause he's learning. Which may be why she doesn't want him spoon feeding himself, she may not want to clean up the mess. I think anyone will tell you that a child who is telling you they are developmentally ready for something means they are not too young. I mean think about it, lets just say hypothetically that experts say children are not supposed to be ready to walk until 1 year old and your son starts trying to walk at 9 months are you going to tie him down on the ground and not let him try and walk? NO, you are going to encourage him to walk because his brain is telling his body that it is ready. Make sense? Hope that help. :)

If your son wants to do it, let him. This is a good sign that he feels confident and wants to be independent (as much as an 8 month old can be). My son started using a spoon as soon as he started solids, he reached for it and I gave it to him. There is no medical reason your son shouldn't feed himself and developmentally, you want to encourage self help whenever he expresses he wants to do it. Waiting for a child to be two years old to use a spoon is silly, they are very capable of doing so much earlier. I have a degree in Child Development and worked with infants and toddlers in a lab school (where we taught adult students to teach as well as teaching the children in our care) for several years before staying home with my son. At the school we had 12 month olds sitting in small chairs at a table their size, using cups with no sippy lids and feeding themselves with spoons, while using sign language to tell us what they wanted - children are very capable! :) Good luck approaching this your sitter!

Definitely let him try. Always follow the prompts. I would give him a spoon and keep feeding him with another spoon as to let him have the freedom to try along with getting the feeding rolling and ending before it's time to start all over. Two years old is way to long to wait, the daycare provider is avoiding the mess of letting all the kids eat on their own, she would never be able to get anything else done.
Good luck, your doing the right thing.

I think he is old enough to hold a spoon while you feed him. On occasion, he will try to do it himself. He simply wouldn't get enough food if he was to feed himself before 18 months. At that point he could, with some help, eat enough.

I think that if he's trying to use the spoon, then let him. Kids learn from watching others, and he's watching you feed him with a spoon. It sounds like he's very bright to be trying it so soon. It's good for his hand-eye-mouth coordination to use the spoon.

You are right to let your son atempt feeding himself if thats what he is interested in. You are allowing him to develop his fine motor skills and as long as he is getting enough to eat their is no problem. As long as you are supervising him and giving encouragement he should be fine.

Dear A.,

I raised 3 of my own and helped raised over 20 child care kids over the years. Your baby is interested in feeding because everything goes into the mouth at this stage. Let him help and direct him, but don't have the expectation that he will be self feeding with the spoon on his own. Your friend is right , developmentally motor development - using little fingers to grasp finger foods is so important.

Definitely not too young. If he's interested in it - give him the opportunity!

Oh if he wants to then I say let him! I didn't want the mess and had no patience for letting my son feed himself and he was still begging me to feed stuff to him at THREE YEARS OLD!! Needless to say I learned my lesson and let my second feed herself as soon as she began trying :) There is no "right" or "wrong" time and an independent eater is wonderful when you need to load the dishwasher real quick etc. :) You are doing a great job - know that sometimes your intuition will trump other mama's practical experience! Happy feeding!

I would recommend you do what is best for you. It does not hurt a child to get messy. Put a plastic table cloth down on the floor under his high chair and let him feed himself - when it is convienent for you. When he is done, just stick him in the bath and give him a bath. This is not going to work everytime since schedules change. When you are in a hurry, give him dry cereal or such. Not all kids are the same. All kids develope at different levels. Do what is best for you and your child. I can guarantee your next child will be different from this one. Just don't leave him unattended while he is feeding himself.

You are doing good to ask your daycare giver but, she has a different purpose than you do so filter it through your mom-purposes. Your are so right-on. Very messy, time-consuming and infinite patience are the ingredients of being a mom. Every time you have the time for the mess, give him a spoon to hold and you keep feeding him to make sure enough good stuff goes in and skip the spoon when you need the meal to stay clean. Just make sure you make times (and a wet clean-up rag) to mess with the spoon. Eventually he will get enough nourishment in his mouth with his spoon and YOU have taught him to eat with a spoon.

If he wants to try it, let him! It's great that he's expressing his independence! Your daycare provider is just afraid of the mess. BTW, don't trust everything "experienced" people say. You've got mom's intuition now.

Hi A.,
Congratulations to your little advanced boy!!! I have one myself he is now 10 months and also wanted to feed himself around that time. I respect anyones oppinion, but, if you are sitting there watching over your son I do not believe there is anything wrong with him wanting to feed himself. The spoon thing is definitely messy at times, but my son is now eating the organic pasta pick ups and we cut them in half and have a spork(spoon/fork):) We feed him ourselves but will stab a piece of food for him and help him guide it to his mouth. We found he was not eating as well, and once we allowed him the freedom to be a big boy with his own utensil he would eat more. Of course he needs help and we were the ones who mainly got the food into his mouth, but each feeding he is getting a little better at it and I know in the long run we will really appreciate being able to sit down for dinner and have him be able to feed himself. I have a 2 1/2 year old neice who was feeding herself very early and is now eating soup on her own. If you can handle the mess I say let your baby enjoy his learning experience!!! Good luck!!!

Hi, From time to time I help my son with my grandson, who also started grabbing for the spoon WAY before he was coordinated enough to really use it. For about a year we used 2 spoons: one large-handled flat-bowled one for him and a long-handled, deeper-bowled one for us. Sometimes we had to firmly remind him whose spoon was whose, but this worked great! Good luck! Grams P.S. Some kids don't get good at silverware until between 2 and 3 years. Some learn large muscle control first and some learn small. No set rules here!

Go for it! Too young? Who says? Every child is different. Whenever you feel you have the patience for the mess, let him do it! He'll have a blast!

An almost 2 year old just starting to spoon feed himself? I would never wait that long. It might be that she is a daycare provider (has limited time to be cleaning up all day) that she discourages self feeding with spoon/fork. The more exposure he has the better he'll get at it.

Developmentally, kids should start using a spoon by 18mo and be pretty good at it by 2yr. Forks take a little longer. If you want to do this earlier, fine. Probably he is mainly playing at 8mo. My daughter is 17mo and she has used a spoon for about 2-3mo but it is not neat and tidy and only works with foods like yogurt or oatmeal that stay on the spoon. Don't worry about doing things differently at home and daycare.

My daughter wanted to do it herself the first time I ever fed her, and I decided to just go with it. Yeah, it was messy, but you're going to deal with that at some point when they learn to feed themselves.

When I didn't have enough patience, or whenever I was feeding her something that wouldn't stick to an upside-down spoon, I'd give her finger food to keep her hands busy while I fed her alternate bites from a spoon. Sometimes she'll go along with being fed, but usually she at least has to have a spoon of her own to hold.

She's now 16 months old, and she can feed herself with ease - and surprisingly little mess!

My only rule is that she can't run around while she eats - too much of a choking risk.

All kids are different and if your son wants to feed himself then i don't think there is a certain age that he should start. The sooner the better i think. Your daycare provider should know that if she's raised that many kids. I'm sure she's great but even though your a first time mom trust yourself more than anyone else. You know whats right for your child.

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.

8 months is a great age to start encouraging your baby to use a spoon. My youngest is now 20 months and she has been an independent feeder since she was a year old.


My daughter is 13 months and definitely cannot spoon feed herself but she has been trying to grab the spoon for a while. Sometimes I give her a spoon for herself and she dips it into the jar and puts it in her mouth. Sometimes! She likes to dip her fingers in food and put it in her mouth as well. I remember my son at around 1 year old was able to put the spoon with food on it into his mouth but it probably took a while longer to perfect it. I think 8 months is pretty young to expect your son to feed himself. Maybe just give him an extra little spoon and let him handle that while you try to feed him with your own spoon.

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)

My thought is that every child is different...what works for one doesn't always work for another. An idea might be to give him a spoon for him to try himself, while you are using a spoon to feed him as well. Maybe put some finger foods on the tray at the same time too. I have 2 kids & if they were ready to start trying something, then I let them (within reason, of course).

Hi A.,

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. :) :)

I think it really depends on your son's pace and readiness. If he already shows signs, you should encourage him to eat and practice more with a spoon. My son was born on May 29th, but he hasn't shown sign of wanting to hold a spoon yet. He doesn't even know how to use his sippy cup yet. I am figuring out ways to let him practice it more.

As a mom I've found that there is not one way to do anything right. However, even though someone may have had 10 children, they are not the mother to your child. Follow your intuition and instincts for your relationship to your child. As parents it is easy to look to others to find out how your child is doing or what is right or wrong. That is what our culture supports. With my kids I really value looking to them for what they are ready to do. I find my son doing things that most don't do for years older than he. My daughter may be a firecracker with a streetwise intuition, but as far as learning, she may not be ready for certain things that she "should be" ready for. I feel this and respect this. So, trusting your children to follow their instincts may be one of mom's most challenging moments, but it is also where I've seen the most magic. Good luck, be curious about your son and let him explore now while you still know where he is!!!

just a little advice, but you'll know what to do trust yourself,

I don't think there is a right or wrong answer with this one. If he wants to try to eat with a spoon at his age, what's the harm? She's probably right in that they should at least be trying to eat with a spoon by the time they are two years old, but I don't think there is a minimum age. I say, as long as you have the patience to clean-up the mess, go for it!

I think the tough part is if you decide that you want your caregiver to let him try to use a spoon while he's at her house. Is she open to the idea? You'll have to decide if that's a battle worth fighting. Good luck!

of course you should let him. i agree with all the rest who answered you that your daycare giver is way off the mark. i too run a daycare and children should always be encouraged when they want to try something new when it is safe and as you said supervised.

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