Using a Fork or a Spoon

Updated on June 09, 2013
R.M. asks from San Antonio, TX
30 answers

My daughter is 18 months old. She is a fairly good eater. She can feed herself like a pro (with fingers) but not with a fork or a spoon. That is where we are having issues. She wants to feed herself but she gets easily frustrated when the food falls off the spoon or fork or she cant get it into her mouth. HELP! She doesn't like me to feed her - she wants to do it herself. Is there anything I can do to help her become a better self feeder with a fork and spoon?

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So What Happened?

Thank you for all your wonderful advice. I will try some of your suggestions!!

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L.B.

answers from Corpus Christi on

cut any of the food into pieces that will fit on the one you choose.
Mac. and cheese
cut up hot dogs etc.

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B.E.

answers from Houston on

I cut up the food really small and put it directly on the high chair tray. I gave her fork and let her be. Then I would eat usuing my fork and she would watch. After awhile they start usuing the fork, it takes a while...my daughter would use her hand to grab food and hold the fork in the other hand, even through she wouldn't use the fork she wanted to have one. After a couple months she started trying the fork with different foods, a different forks have better pick up so she dosen't get as frustrated now.

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L.M.

answers from Houston on

Use a spoon so she doesn't stab herself with the fork. Try using foods that stick to the spoon. Practice makes perfect. This is a coordination process that she has to learn on her own. You might try letting her hold the spoon then directing her arm. Don't hold her hand, she sounds independent enough that she won't like that, hold the arm.

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M.A.

answers from Houston on

Hey,
I see that you have all the answers...we are currently traveling with a two year old...the ONE thing that made Grandma and Grandpa happy was when I told my toddler that the reason why I loved her was because she ate a waffle with a spoon. Isnt that great!?! When she celebrates her ABC's..that's a celebration,too..

Margaret :)

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J.T.

answers from College Station on

Give her a REAL fork. Not one of those stupid baby forks that are good for nothing. She will not hurt herself, she will be fine. Show her how to spear the food with the fork.

Also a broad spoon is good. I gave my boys those spoons you get at the asian restaurants and they did well with those. The bowls are deep and the spoon is chunky for their little hands to grasp.

Good Luck!

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G.9.

answers from San Diego on

Less Mess Super Spoon - it teaches kids how to eat while creating less mess for the parents.

www.lessmesssuperspoon.com

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S.R.

answers from Beaumont on

only encourage her by telling her the great job she is doing which I am sure you already do and explain to her to keep practicing and it will get easier

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V.K.

answers from San Antonio on

Congratulations on your little girl! We are about the same age, but I have five kids, and my youngest is 21 months old. She uses various kinds of utensils, and she is still struggling to eat neatly with all of them! If you're worried about table manners, that will come with time and your modeling. If your concern is coordination/skill-level, that too will come -- with lots of practice! Your daughter sounds like she is on track developmentally.

In the meantime, I would advise allowing her to be messy while she learns to do it "herself," something she wants and needs to do anyway! Hurray! Secondarily I would minimize clean-up time by giving her a big, wipeable bib (or letting her eat in just a diaper, followed by a quick diaper-wipe cleansing or sponge/bath) and buying an inexpensive vinyl tablecloth and using it as a drop cloth under her eating area. They make after-meal (post-craft, etc.)clean-up a breeze. After all, like the Bissell people say, "Life's messy; clean it up!"

Have fun, and trust that she will soon learn to eat sans fingers. Everybody does (or at least CAN!). Blessings to you on your mothering journey.

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S.S.

answers from San Antonio on

One thing I recently read was that toddlers learn to twist their wrists around this age, making the act of bringing food from plate to mouth successfully possible. You might try showing her by taking her hands and going through the motions a few times. Let her try it for a while to feel the difference and then show her again. It worked really well for our kids (2 1/2 & 1 1/2). They are both pros now--until they get tired and just grab with their fingers again. Good luck!

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M.L.

answers from Dallas on

For my 18 month old, we use Sassy brand spoons with curved handles and little holes in the spoon. It sounds weird, but the tiny holes give the food some "grab" so it doesn't slide right off when they turn the spoon wrong. I also use "pickle" or appetizer forks from my regular flatware set. They are small forks with 3 small tines. We have had ZERO success with the plastic kids forks, they don't spear much.

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J.M.

answers from Houston on

The only way she will learn is by doing it herself and with practice, practice, practice. Letting her get frustrated is difficult, but necessary. Allowing your daughter to experience frustration and work through it is such a necessary skill. Sometimes as parents we inable our children by assisting them too much. Hang in there. Good luck.

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K.C.

answers from Austin on

Hi R.,
I am so glad you are asking for guidance....a sign of a wise mom! This is completely normal behavior for her age. I am an occupational therapist and a parent educator and had an extremely independant child who never allowed herself to be fed. The trick is patience as she learns how to manage utensils...may not happen til she is closer to 3....while helping her be independant and minimizing the mess. I have copied an article and also a link for a helpful bowl to increase her independance. At her age it is as much about play and exploration and growing independance (for her) as it is about nutrition. It is so important not to make a battle out of it. Give her finger foods as much as possible....instead of her using a fork....you cut things into tiny little bites that she can pick up with her fingers and cannot choke on. Let her use a special toddler spoon....my daughter did best with one with a bent handle...and a bowl with a high edge and that stuck to the tray for thick things....oatmeal, applesauce, etc. that would stick to the spoon to give her more success and practice....once she gets the hang of the spoon she can handle thinner things like yogurt Make sure you are being good to yourself as you let go and let her be more independant...it is hard to do that and let them make messes at any age! This lesson happens for us as parents over and over.
http://www.ehow.com/how_###-###-####_minimize-mess-feedin...

http://www.babyearth.com/sassy-less-mess-toddler-feeding-...
Blessings,
K.

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J.T.

answers from Victoria on

heres what we did...we got a very small metal fork as a gift. ( its small, like those pickle forks ) if he was willing i held his hand that was holding the fork and guided him to show how to poke the food. i also said "poke it" which he found funny. some days he wouldnt want me to touch his fork at all so i got a second fork and poked a food and left it on the table once he had that peice to his mouth i took the other fork and poked food...rotation. positive great job excitement when all this is going on. i find the plastic baby utincels did not work very well. good luck.

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K.P.

answers from Houston on

We just switched to metal fork and spoon. My son likes it a lot better. We showed him how to stab green beans and nuggets.

For apple sauce we get the ones in individual containers. He can eat out of them on his own and it stays on the spoon. At first I would have to hold the container still but now he pretty much can do it...he takes huge bites.

Practice makes perfect. Give the utensils with every meal and encourage use. It will come with time.

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D.B.

answers from Houston on

R.;
It is appropriate for her to be eating with her fingers and hands at this stage of development, as she is not yet muscularly- or brain-developed to use spoons and forks. Exploring the textures of food with her skin/fingers is developing her brain. Developing and using her pincer grasp to pick up food and bring it to her mouth is a precursor to writing, cutting, drawing, turning book pages, and more. She will eat better and learn more without the spoon and fork at this time. From BabyCenter on the web: "Using a fork and spoon: Some toddlers may start wanting to use utensils as early as 13 months, and most children have figured out this all-important skill by 17 or 18 months. By the time she's 4, your child will probably be able to hold her utensils like an adult, and she'll be ready to learn table manners." So you can see it is a slow process, just beginning at toddlerhood.
Give her time, have the utensils there near her, and allow her to develop the skill at her own pace----no pressure. You have to be prepared to allow the messiness of it as well. Give her a warm cloth at the end of the meal to wash off her face and hands and another to help you wipe off her eating area---another part of her growing independence and "I do it myself"-ness.

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D.G.

answers from Austin on

It takes time to learn how to use a spoon or fork. My son is 15 months old and when I offer the spoon or fork with his meals he begins to play with his food unless I help him scoop the food onto it for him to then put it in his mouth, otherwise he eats better with his fingers. Give it time, it will be mastered soon enough.

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C.W.

answers from Waco on

Hi R.
Be sure she has the little spoons and forks and not the regular adult sizes- then let her learn by herself. Don;t worry about the finger feeding- she will eventually learn by watching you to use the utensils properly.
good luck and blessings

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A.K.

answers from Houston on

My daughter is 25 months and we still have this problem. We have used every utensil every made. The only thing we found that helps is to stop using spoons. Everything falls off no matter what. We use forks and I taught her to stab the food instead of scooping. It works well although she would still rather use her fingers. It just takes time. I still give her forks at every meal and she uses it as much as she wants. It is an important for them to start developing those fine motor skills early so don't stop using utensils and make sure she colors or draws. This is also helpful. They all tie in together.

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K.B.

answers from Houston on

Hi R.-

My son will be 2 next month and does not use a fork or spoon yet. He uses his fingers for almost everything. For practice, I give him a cup of yogurt or pudding with a spoon. That way he can just dip the spoon into the yogurt or pudding and it will stick while he tries to maneuver it into his mouth. It can get messy, but it's a way to practice without them getting frustrated about everything falling off. With other foods I don't even bother to give him a spoon or fork, just let him eat with the fingers. By the way, I have 2 older children (7 and 5) who also did not use a spoon at this age and are both ok with the utensils now.

Good luck,
K.

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M.H.

answers from Houston on

Let her eat with her fingers she'll hold a fork or spoon when she's ready...chill out...quit worrying and rushing her, let her grow and learn at her own pace...after she learns to use the fork and spoon then you'll be thinking about something else that she's not doing yet that you think she should be doing...don't do that...that takes the fun out of it...just enjoy whatever she's doing and the way she's doing it. You could be at the emergency room fighting for her life wishing for a chance to see her eat with her fingers again...count your blessings.

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S.O.

answers from San Antonio on

Old fashioned spoon with a curve or loop in the handle...
Bowl or plate that has curved up edge to help the food onto the spoon/fork...
Let her make a mess!!!

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E.B.

answers from Houston on

To help her? She's already a good eater, the utensil part will come. She's still very young and it takes a lot of motor skills to get that tiny spoon into that tiny mouth. Fingers are good for eating. Spoons and forks are good for practicing. She will get it,it just takes patience on everyone's part. Good luck.

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S.T.

answers from Houston on

Eventually...they learn. :) My oldest has always had fine motor skill issues, though, and she was nearing three before she could do it. I have since seen some neat spoons on the abilitations website/catalog made for special needs kids. You might want to look into that if she reaches 2 and is still not any better with spoons.

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M.F.

answers from El Paso on

Sorry, but it just takes time on her part and patience on yours - it will happen!

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M.L.

answers from Houston on

Have you tried the training spoons and forks? They have shorter, fatter handles, and, the spoons are a little fatter and almost flat to help it stay on. Like little trays almost. They have other kinds as well.

Really though, this is normal. They do learn eventually, but, I think both my girls used their fingers mainly until they were almost 4! My 5 year old is still messy, but, she does use her utensils now.

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D.S.

answers from Houston on

My daughter is 2 today and can feed herself pretty well with certain foods. I got her the Gerber utensils that are easier to hold and the forks are rounded at the tips so they aren't sharp. When she gets tired of trying to use the utensils, she uses hands. She won't let me feed her anymore, BUT if i have something she wants, then she will let me feed her from mine. So sometimes i just trick her if i want her to eat something and act like it is mine and sometime she will let me feed "my food" to her.

Everything does fall off of a spoon. For a while, if i wanted her to eat yogurt or something with an applesauce like consistency, i would mix whole grain baby cereal to thicken it up so it was easier for her and wasn't everywhere( like eyebrows, hair, lol.)She has since decided she doesn't like that anymore, but it worked for a good 9 months.

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G.G.

answers from Austin on

I started my kids using spoons to eat thick foods like applesauce, pudding, yogurt, etc. It made a huge mess but at least a little sticks to the spoon so they didn't tend to get too frustrated.

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C.H.

answers from Houston on

It's a hard skill to master. Give her time and keep reminding her to use them and praise her when she does (ex. clapping). No worries...both the 20 month old I babysit for and my son who is 2, still use their fingers at times.

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N.S.

answers from Houston on

Mom - please realize your child is already a good self-feeder....she can feed herself with her fingers. She's 18 months old - the technique required for hand-eye coordination and feeding herself with a fork / spoon will happen within the next 6 months or so.

It will happen - relax and let it.

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K.R.

answers from San Antonio on

Hi R., Congratulations on your little girl ! Patience is what we learn as mothers. All in good time. If you encourage her, she will get the hang of it. It takes time to learn skills. I gave my daughter chopsticks at that age and she learned to use them quite well. If you don't know how to use them yourself, how about learning together ? If she is hungry, she will learn. Your modeling of confidence in her is her best tool ! Good Luck ! Grandma K.

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