My 11 month old child will happily feed himself finger food, and is happy to let himself be spoon fed. However he doesn't seem to know what to do when I give him the spoon and bowl. Typically he'll just wave the spoon around, whilst scooping up the food with his hands.

I'm not expecting him to know how to do this correctly yet, but I wonder if there are any good ways of helping children learn to feed themselves properly?

  • If it's not working right now, why not wait a week or two and try again? Toilet-training is a model for lots of skills - - they are easy to teach when the child is ready to learn, and nearly impossible to teach (and a frustrating experience for everyone) if the child is not developmentally ready. Note that it's not intelligence I'm talking about. Children learn different things at different times.
    – Marc
    Commented Dec 31, 2013 at 20:53

3 Answers 3


New spoon feeders need training for the motor patterns of holding, scooping, lifting and placing a spoon in the mouth. It is quite an involved process for little ones involving visual perceptual skills, motor development and coordination of the fingers/hand, wrist, arm, shoulder, neck/head and mouth. Breaking the steps down, giving hand over assistant to program success, and practice, practice, practice will help the process.

You can begin with the following.

Help the child grip the spoon while you place your hand over his. Together scoop and lift the spoon with you releasing after the food reaches his mouth. Allowing the child to independently remove the spoon from his mouth will increase his awareness of his new role and build on his success.

Teaching him to place the spoon back in the bowl/plate and scooping again will likely require your hand over his to achieve at first. Continue helping him lift the spoon toward his mouth removing your hand at the point that he can be independently successful.

As you continue this process, fade the hand over his assistance to just holding the tip of the handle to assist with hand position (most will initially turn the spoon over upside down once it reaches the mouth until the wrist pattern is learned).

It is important that he has lots of time just to explore manipulation of the spoon independently with food too. You may just want to begin with giving assistance for part of a meal and allowing him to continue finger feeding and exploring with the spoon on his own.

Beginning practice with foods that stick best to the spoon will provide the most initial success.

Our occupational therapist sometimes recommends bent or curved spoons for children with motor difficulties, but promotes regular child-sized utensils for typically developing children to encourage the wrist development that is needed for these devices and later writing skills.

Be prepared for the mess and celebrate success! Most of all, watch with wonder the development of your little one at every stage of growth!


We have a curved spoon for our 12 month old which he can happily use to get food to his mouth.

He needs a bit of help to load the spoon up, but can poke around at the food himself


I say you show him how to use it. Stand behind him, put it in his hand, hold his hand, and scoop the food put it towards his mouth. With your hand over his, he will relax that arm and you won't have to force anything. If he is actively pushing against you then you have some other problem to deal with: not hunger, doesn't want this food, doesn't like you... oh wait.

The point is he'll learn it. Like anything else it takes time, effort and patience. Teach by example, and by literal hand-holding. You may have to do it over several sessions, so just be patient.

  • also let him observe you eat with a spoon
    – aldrin
    Commented Sep 22, 2011 at 14:45
  • yeah . . . there were several things i said here that i realized i wasn't describing well. the whole thing should be a very close comforting process. it will be new to him, so you should be very close, talking in encouraging tones and kind making a game of it. then after showing, sit down RIGHT NEXT TO HIM, not the other side of the table, and do it yourself. eventually, you'll be able to move farther away and he'll do it without help. but again: time, effort, patience.
    – monsto
    Commented Sep 23, 2011 at 14:38

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