5 Reasons To Start Teaching Children To Feed Themselves Early

Cute Black Baby Puts Bowl On His Head

It is obvious that at a certain point in raising your child, the need to learn how to self-feed will become evident. All of us big boys and girls eat on our own so it must start at some time, but 'when?' is the big question. Timing the exact moment can prove to be difficult. 

In the classic 'What To Expect' series, Dr. Heidi Murkoff (along with many pediatricians) directs parents to begin on solids at around 6 months of age (5 at the very earliest). Even then, the usual first foods of warmed oats or rice cereal are hardly finger food; that goop would slip through those pudgy fingers like water. So the eating of fully solid, holdable foods really only begins at around 7 to 8 months. 

The transition will never be smooth. Unless your definition of smooth has a baby clutching a half cooked carrot like it's a rope at the end of a cliff, smooshing it everywhere, everywhere besides for its mouth. That's not my definition either. You'll be finding dried foodstuff in each crevice within a five foot radius of the highchair, wishing for the day when only 10% of a piece of bread tumbles to the floor in crumb-form, as normal adults do it. 

Baby Makes Mess While Feeding Himself Spaghetti

It's quite likely that all of this drama will garner very little satisfaction in the belly of the little one, so you'll be required to feed this munchkin as much as you did prior to giving the green-light for this solo-chomping. Which will leave you asking, "what's the point?"

Yes. You know what we're going to say. We're clearly biased. We're the toy company that encourages babies to explore freely, even with things that don't look like toys, so long they were made with baby safety in mind. Obviously we'd be encouraging parents to allow their babies to experiment with their food, breaking the hearts of proper suburban homemakers in 1950's. It's true. Nevertheless perhaps we can introduce some reasons to convince you more fully.

  1. It's about time you get a tiny break at meal-times. Do you even remember the last time you had a chance to focus on your own plate while the baby was eating? Admittedly, at the beginning there will be a gush of new cleanup jobs...
  2. Your baby's hand-eye coordination will improve greatly. The self-feeding motion is simple to us but quite a puzzle to a little one. The regular challenge to self-feed will improve coordination in other areas as well.
  3. Your baby will finally have full control over regulating when to stop or continue eating based on if they're full. While we are still choo-chooing spoonfuls of mush into their mouths, their aloof pie-holes will remain agape even after they've been satiated, thereby inviting many unnecessary mouthfuls (which they will likely purge).
  4. The child will learn so much about textures, shapes and tastes, while stimulating all 5 senses. Knowledge we take for granted will be gained by the little along with the sharpening of the tools to gain that knowledge. 
  5. The eating process and its ensuing mess will make for some adorable moments (and photos). At @Dont.Play.With.That Instagram, we regularly receive some unforgettable moments of children feeding themselves (some are included below).

Here's to hoping we gave you some food for thought on the self-feeding question. Please share your thoughts, opinions and, most of all, photos of your messy munchkins!

Sweet Baby Looks Confused Post Cake-Smash

Baby Eats Multiple French Fries At Once
Baby Boy Enjoy's His Food With A Messy Face
Thank you @journeymcp, @sincerely_samxo, @cathy__528, @raisingalexandria, and @bibsandnags for the photo submissions!

3 comments

  • is really hard for me to teach my con how to do it

    candice papke
  • I love that this is being discussed. We do baby led weaning and have gotten great results. Meal time is so easy because he eats what we eat, just in smaller pieces.

    Ferris Beashau Tanasijevic
  • I started feeding my son baby food and oatmeal at 3 months (with permission from his pediatrician of course) and at 6 months he was eating solids such as rice, toast, blueberries cut into tiny pieces, and chicken! He was already picking it up himself and feeding himself! He now eats whatever it is we are eating even pizza! He has a conscious of what bite is too big and Will correct it himself! He makes a mess, but he is so proud to be feeding himself! I’ve always given him a spoon to hold on his hand to help him with grip and with the sensation of a fork or spoon. Now he takes a bite with his spork and a bite with his hand! Progress is key! Children are so smart, and they love learning how to take care of themselves! My son is almost 1 for reference!

    Brooke Goodman

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