How to Support Self-Feeding in Toddlers

Messy mealtimes are all the rage when your little one starts learning to feed. While weaning has all the hallmarks of a ‘You’ve been Framed’ video waiting to happen, mess is part of the experience, as you enter this new foray into mealtimes and wonder what healthy kids food you should be serving. You're not alone.

To feed, or self-feed, that is the question?
The NHS recommends that you can start baby weaning around six months old. At the start of the process, it’s all about getting them use to the idea of eating, as it’s usually secondary to milk.

You may choose to introduce solids from the get-go, or later on. Every child is different and it’s best to work to their individual needs.
 
As the name suggests, self-feeding allows children to feed themselves.

Some of the benefits of self-feeding include:

  • It teaches kids how to feed themselves, as well as when to open and close their mouth and how to bring food to their lips.
  • Children can be fiercely independent. Self-feeding nurtures your child’s independence, allowing them to feel a bit more in control of mealtimes.
  • Eating is a new experience to children, so allowing them to explore new tastes and textures supports their sensory journey. Freud defines this period as ‘the oral stage’.
  • It may help with coordination skills.

 
Self-feeding tips
There’s some helpful ways to get your little one to embrace feeding themselves:

  • Start slow with a small amount of food and build up.
  • Since they have a tendency to throw foods around, use kid’s plastic plates.
  • Allow your child to touch and hold food for themselves at mealtimes.
  • Buy them their very own children’s dinnerware and get them a kids plate they'll love.
  • Let little one’s use their fingers to feed themselves initially.
  • If they show no interest, don’t force feed them.
  • Avoid adding sugar or salt to meals and always check food isn’t hot before giving it to a baby.
  • Never leave a baby unattended eating.
  • Make kids mealtimes fun with songs, games and play.
  • Choking is common when babies start out weaning. Watch this important video by St John Ambulance about how to save a choking baby.

 
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