Eating by themselves?

[deleted account] ( 192 moms have responded )

My daughter will be one year old on the 4th and people keep telling me to let her try eating on her own or she will never learn. I let her eat things like noodles or cut up hot dog, but I just don't want to clean up a mess when I already slack on other chores around the house. When do children usually eat by themselves? Am I doing something wrong by not letting her try it more often?

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Karla - posted on 06/26/2010

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"the more I let him feed himself, the neater the process became in the long run" --- That's exactly right! Also - tarps can be heavy and expensive - the old shower curtain works great, and will usually stand a run or six through the washer - unless you have a clothesline, and can just hang it and hose it. They have to learn, and learning is messy.

Sherri - posted on 06/24/2010

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Anything messy I still fed them. I can't stand the ENORMOUS mess. UGH!! They will learn when the time is right. I see no problem with feeding them.

Bonnie - posted on 06/24/2010

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Buy yourself a good sized tarp. Place it under her highchair, and let her feed herself...I understand the whole not wanting to clean up big messes, but it is important for babies to get that time to feed themselves, to learn mechanics, and another way to start learning to rely less on parents/caregivers, to do everything for them. You can always put them in a bath, and wash clothing, etc.
Sure feed your child at the beginning, then hand over the spoon. She will be so excited that mum gave her the spoon, and if she is hungry enough, that food will get eaten.
I have experienced both sides. Trying to keep the place and child from getting too messy, and letting them at it. It takes patience, but you will soon see it is worth it.
Kids have no set timetable for when they are supposed to be feeding themselves, but hopefully they learn before entering kindy/preschool. Unless they have a disability that requires further assistance...
There are so many things that a kid needs to learn to do for themselves, dressing, potty, speech, how to feed themselves, sleep habits, etc. We can help them get started, and then, let them learn how to do these things by themselves too. You will learn when to back off and let them make messes, and mistakes, within reason. It is so nice when kids are able to do more for themselves, gives parents more time to clean, and do other things that need to get done. I can't get everything done around my house, in one day, and things get left for another day, something I had to learn when the kids came along. Oh, also buy some big bibs, the kind with a catch all tray, so if she drops some food down her front, she can still pick it up and eat it.

Becky - posted on 06/26/2010

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I bought a cute plastic table cloth to put on the floor under the high chair for easy clean up. We also have 2 dogs that like to help with the cleanup. I wouldn't give your baby hot dogs. they are such a choking hazzard. At first giver her colorful foods to pick up with her fingers. When you start with a spoon, give her food that will stick to the spoon so it is more rewarding when she does get it in her mouth, like mashed banana, apple sauce or potatoes.

Stina - posted on 06/24/2010

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Sure the mess is a pain (speaking of which, kids in bed, after this post I'm getting the dining room floor swept up)

But it is soooo good for them to let them feed themselves. Good for their motor skill development, self esteem and confidence. Not that I think doing it for them will set them back by that much but- I'd rather a baby who feeds herself whatever she is able to. Even if it is messy.

So. When my current baby refused purees, I went ahead and gave her some very very soft veggies. Figured if she could pick it up, she could mush it in her gums. She's been self feeding her self from the time she mastered the pincer grasp. Sure I would sneak in a spoonful of oatmeal here and there, but I often kept two spoons for her at mealtime so we could swap them.

I prefer my baby feeding herself because it gives me time to dish up the rest of the family and feed myself.

It's a BIG mess sometimes. The mess can be minimized by giving the baby only a small bit of her meal at a time. Keep a plate of what you'd like her to eat in front of you and place a few bites on her tray at a time. When it starts to become floor ammo, you can take the tray away, give it back for another try and then assume mealtime is over if it goes overboard again.

At the end of the meal, take the bib, wet it, strip the clothing if she was wearing any and mop her off. You'll be surprised at how quickly she goes from messy monster to adept self feeder.

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Viktoria - posted on 07/08/2010

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I hate to say this in the way that it comes out, but as moms we need to put the needs of the kids before our own. None of us like to clean up a huge mess. I don't really recall when my son started eating on his own but it started out with small things like cereal. And worked its way up from there. If the mess is a really big issue, start out with dried food and small veggies, like peas and carrots. They're small enough to grab and colorful so they would grab her attention. It is very important to get her started early. If you decide to put her in a daycare program, or any early childhood program in the future she will have no choice but to feed herself. It is not the teachers job to do it. I saw that for myself in my son's school. A little girl, 3yrs old just sat there when it came to eat lunch because her mom still fed her at home. She did'nt know what to do, and by that age she should have been doing it for a while.Hope this is helpful. good luck.

[deleted account]

A child will normally choose when they are ready to eat by themselves. One hint that a child shows is watching carefully at the dinner table, while others are eating. Another is place a spoon in reach for the child, if she/he reaches for it inspire them to eat the food. Most children respond to big girl or big boy. My grand-daughter is 1 1/2 years old. She is beginning to potty train herself and feeds herself. She eats pizza whole, she doesn not like it cut into little peices. The reason she is able and ready for these things, is because she watches others and wants to do it herself. Give your child a chance to tell you not in words, but with gestures. Some children take longer than others, but this does not mean they will never learn. Every child is different and every child does let you know, WHEN THEY ARE READY. DO not let those people discourage you and make you feel like you aren't doing it right. There is no rush, some children do not even walk until they are 1 1/2 to two years old. Just enjoy every minute you have with the child and the rest will come at its own pace.
Good Luck, ): o ) Beth

Amanda - posted on 07/08/2010

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my son is 15 months old and he loves to feed himself, only sometimes do we feed him. And that is when we are not in the mood to clean up or he is really tired. I believe you will know when the time is right. we also have to dogs that like to have the food dropped on the floor for them. we also have a high chair that can be lowered to their level. they pretty much do all the cleaning. we just give the high chair a wipe with a cloth before feeding him again.

Dionne - posted on 07/08/2010

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My daughter is 22 months and i let her eat some things by her self and she's doin fine.i want her to learn so when she go's to school it wont be hard for her,but i don't mind cleanin behind her all day it gives me something to do.so u should try letting her eat by her self.

Gail - posted on 07/08/2010

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Yes, you should let her try eating on her own more. How else will she learn otherwise? Messes are part of rearing and training up a child, it's a package deal. However, as she gets older and is able to eat with her utensils, also teach her about not making messes, and when she does make them, have her clean them up. She'll learn very quickly not to make those messes on purpose! Good luck!

Toni - posted on 07/08/2010

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if thats how YOU want to do it then do it like that of course they'll learn eventually so dont fret . i mainly feed mine myself jus put a few bits here an there that they can try an pick up so that its not a major vac cus im sure we've all got time to vac 3 times a day

Laura - posted on 07/08/2010

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The only way babies learn anything is by practicing - it's the same with learning to feed themselves. Just get her a big bib and feed her on a clean drop-cloth or something. I've been giving my daughter her spoon to play with after each meal since she was 6 months old and that has really helped her to work on the mechanics of the spoon. She's 10 months now and I've never let her actually try to feed herself yet. We may try that in another month or two since she has mastered feeding herself with her fingers.

Andrea - posted on 07/08/2010

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One thing that I always did was to give my daughter lots of foods that she could eat by herself, and for things like spaghetti (that gets messy) I would give her a spoon to hold so she could try if she wanted, but then I would feed her most of her dinner...

Cherie - posted on 07/08/2010

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My first son was eating off a plate with a fork when he was one. My second son was not so neat, but we did let him eat by himself (mostly with his hands) that early, too. Yes, it's messy, but it was nice to eat again all at once, instead of stopping to try to take a bite myself, or not eating until later.

Kathy - posted on 07/08/2010

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I'm so glad you posted this, my daughter is 9 months and I've been wanting to try more than just puffs, cheerios and mum mums for her on her own for a while, but I'm nervous to because my dinning room is carpet... only rooms that aren't are the kitchen and the bathrooms.I've seen mats for under the highchair and thought of something plastic under it but I'm worried that it'll make it unstable and I really don't want her high chair to tip. The hubby wants to keep her in there and not have her eat in the kitchen. Any thoughts if a mat would be ok on carpet?

Shannon - posted on 07/08/2010

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My daughter has been eating small things on her own for a few months and she is nine months old now, to avoid mess, just have her wear a diaper and place a garbage bag on the floor to roll up when she is done, your daughter will need to learn how to feed herself as once she has teeth she should be eating real food rather than baby food. we give our daughter all kinds of food cut up in small pieces to improve her fine motor skills (ie using thumb and forefinger to pick up pieces)

Rebeca - posted on 07/08/2010

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I know I posted once but I have to say something after reading this forum and a few others, I begin to wonder why are some parents in such a hurry to rush their children? Life is not about you any more or making things more convienent for you. I get so upset by hearing people say I started them early and that 4 year olds are completly taking care of themselves let kids be kids if they are ready help them but by gosh don't force them or hurry them they grow up fast enough with out you pushing them out the door

Lori - posted on 07/08/2010

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Always remember that a child will not go hungry. If you let them feed themselves, it may not be as much as if you were feeding them, but they will eat enough. What they feed theselves may be the right amount, and what you think they should be eating could be too much. Like I said they will never let themselves go hungry. Give them good choices, naked or not, and let them try. My son is 18 months and when he first started eating on his own, he would have it in his hair, and right down to his toes! when he was near done he would start to throw his food. He is much better now. When I think he might be done, I ask him, and he usually hands me his plate.

Your child will let you know when they want to do it, but always encourage it.

Patricia - posted on 07/08/2010

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i had more control over what my son ate when he was 6 months and under until some people told me to start giving him finger foods like cheerios good for their small motor skills. but the nutrition went down so i feel that the small motor skills would've been better developed with something besides food.
for anyone to say she won't learn how to eat on her own is just ludicrous! do they have you worried that you'll be in pre-school with her feeding her? people are just so funny!
if you hve a dollar store table cloth put it under her and let her make the best mess she can. it helps the child's creativitiy and intelligence to be able to make a mess. and her development is muh more important thatn being too clean.

Jenny - posted on 07/08/2010

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My daughter, 17 months old, does pretty well with her spoon and fork. She was in day care from 7 months until 16 months (during the school year) so she had extra incentive to work with the utencils. Personally, I'm greatful that she is being independent. Yes, we have messes to clean up but it's not all the time or that bad. Not only is she learning to feed herself, she's also learning about the textures and even consequences when she throws food on the floor.
Bottom line, do what works for you. There really is no right or wrong answer. She's only a year and there are plenty of oportunities for her to work on self feeding.

[deleted account]

I'm a bit like you. My son is now 19months and can kind of feed himself if he is really hungary, but most of the time he just ends up playing with his food! We were a bit slack and just kept feeding him, until he went to child care at 15months old and all the other kids there were already feeding themselves! He has picked up a lot from them, but still isnt very good at it, and I hate cleaning up the mess!!
But my biggest problem is that he doesnt eat very much if I leave him to feed himself. I think he gets bored, and then he wont even eat it if I try to feed him...

Eva - posted on 07/08/2010

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Stop listening to people because most of the people that or telling you that do not have children or has not experienced that particular situation. Use your mother wit which God has given us from the beginning of time. Use your best judgment.Children have their own set time to do things such as:potty training, holding a spoon, fork etc...Trust me, you are doing nothing wrong!

Becky - posted on 07/08/2010

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You should definitely let her try. Do it on a Saturday or Sunday when you're not rushed and everyone is still in PJs. They sell plastic mats to put under highchairs for just this reason if you want to protect the carpet or rug, but linoleum or tile or hard wood is easy enough to clean, so don't worry about it. Strip your daughter down to her diaper, stick her in the high chair, and let her have a go. You can also get plates and bowls that suction to the tray so you don't have to worry about them getting dumped. She'll have to either use her fingers or the spoon to get the food from the dish to her mouth. And don't forget to grab the video camera. :)

Amanda - posted on 07/08/2010

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I found with my first child I tended to feed him myself a little longer and my second child when she started eating baby food we let her hold a spoon while we fed her. Looking back now, seeing how we did things seems to have played out a little on how independent they are. My son, who is 12, prefers us to still do all of his meal things for him, whether it's cut up an apple, pour cereal, or make a meal. My daughter, who will be 8 soon, would much prefer to do everything in the kitchen herself. Very rarely does she ask us for help regarding food. I guess looking at my experience, I would ask yourself, in 10 years do I still want to be preparing everything?

Kelly - posted on 07/08/2010

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She will let you know when she is ready and you will have no choice! It will be a mess but remember that she is just learning, you don't want to be spoon feeding her forever and it lasts for such a short time! You are doing just fine, people comment on the silliest things!

Sue - posted on 07/08/2010

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She absolutely WILL learn. I fed my son way past that age and he has no trouble at all. How many school age children do you see that don't know how to eat by themselves? You are not doing anything wrong. Honestly, I don't know why people even say the things they do!

Carol - posted on 07/08/2010

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I like the tarp idea then you can just pick it up & throw the mess inside it out the door or in the garbage..
Little ones learn everything very fast whether good or bad, that's why it is so important to watch what they hear, watch what they put into their mouths, & pay attention to what they see Mommy & Daddy doing etc.It is very important to let them have little bits of freedom in their lives @ bits @ a time, eating on their own & early is one of these times. I would start right now, no delay.

Katrese - posted on 07/08/2010

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I have to say I was the same way with the mess but I had to learn to lighten up. My daughter had to learn this function and I just split clean-up with my husband. I also have a plastic mat that I place under her which we can also use when sitting in the living room at trying to keep food off of the carpet. Right now we eat outside and that is wonderful because I can hose the deck off. I have to admit I have some of the best pictures of her learning to eat. My favorite is the spaghetti...diapered little girl with spaghetti sauce from head to toe.

Angie - posted on 07/08/2010

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Take a trash bag cut it open and put that under her chair. I made it a rule for my kids by 15 months they were eating my themselves with silverware. I started them both early with eating by themselves, cheerios, gerber puffs, little things cut up small. I hate messes too, trust me, my son almost 2 makes a big mess every night at dinner. I am a full time working mom, I am tired from work and then having a house to take care of, a husband and two little kids. Put her in a highchair or booster and let her explore, it will give you a little extra time to get something done or just sit with her and enjoy this time, this next milestone. Good luck.

M-Shel - posted on 07/07/2010

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Hello my son just turned one also. I usually let him eat alone in his highchair for all his meals. I have hardwood floor maybe that makes an easy clean-up. But He is leaning quite fast on how to use a spoon & fork. But I seen one of thoses mats you can place under a highchair to make for an easy clean up. Maybe that will help.

Shirley - posted on 07/07/2010

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Definitely let her feed herself at least some small things (cheerios, puffs, dried blueberries, etc.). Like others said, just get a shower curtain, table cloth, a large sheet, whatever and stick under the high chair to catch the droppings. At some point, you should let her play with the spoon even if something is messy. Let her pick up the spaghetti noodles....ooze her fingers through the apple sauce and yogurt. She's exploring and learning by doing all of that. And, get your camera ready too - sometimes they are just so cute when they are a total mess!

Erika - posted on 07/07/2010

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i still strip my daughter to her diaper at home for some meals, but honestly, you can't always be somewhere where stripping her is acceptable/possible. mess is inevitable. finger foods, finger foods, finger foods! feed your kiddo easy to grip bite-sized pieces of fruit/veggie, cheese, meats (if you do dairy and meat) and easy to pick up grains like toast, waffles, pancakes, sandwich bites, soft tortilla triangles, etc. you can't get away from the mess...it's part of your child's development. they're learning textures so they need to be hands on with their food. and utensils come later. don't stress...they will learn. but until they do, you'll just have to grin and bear it.

Rebeca - posted on 07/07/2010

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I just hate messes all together but you really have to let them try if they want to but you can do it with neat things and then help with the messy stuff. Like let her feed herself cheerios those are easy to clean up she will get the practice you don't get the mess

Kelly - posted on 07/07/2010

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Get used to it. You will have many years of mess. It is time to let her learn some skills. Let her start some finger foods. Drink out of a cup with assistance. Your fear of mess will only delay her learning.

Lori - posted on 07/07/2010

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You should let her start. It will help develop the fine motor skills she needs in life. A mess is inevitable, so put a sheet or tarp like some suggest down to make it minimized. To give you an idea what delaying a milestone can do. My neighboor delayed feeding her son more solids foods (crunchy) when he was early in eating and to this day he does not like crunchy foods like cereals, and raw vegetables. If your daughter is ready to feed herself, let her, she is ready. Just remember, she will not be messy for life, just until she masters the task. She may surprise you. My middle son has been feeding himself for some time, and is pretty good at it. He just turned 18 months. Yes he can still make a little mess, but each day more full spoonfuls are getting into his mouth. If all else fails, get a dog, I know some people love the living vaccuum cleaner!

[deleted account]

I was a late bloomer when it came to letting my daughter eat more solid foods too. Thank goodness for my babysitter. she showed me it was all good to let my little one try new things and oh so much easier for me too. yes I had to clean up after but I learned to put an inexpensive shower curtain under her highchair so clean up was a snap. besides...she'll learn to like more foods if she gets to do it herself!!! And spoonwise... a little at a time. i did a combo- i spoon fed her and helped her to spoon feed herself. if she started to play with her spoon a little..ok but when the food started flying i just put it off to the side for a few seconds and then we started the process again. it takes time but it's worth it.

[deleted account]

Just give her finger foods and only put one or two things at a time on the high chair tray - Feeding herself will give her practice at many skills, but also help build her confidence.

Tiffany - posted on 07/07/2010

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I have twins and let them eat many things by themselves, things that aren't too messy of course. They usually get cheerios, cut up bananas, sliced baked apples, graham crackers, basically anything that isn't to squishy. They don't make to big of a mess for me to clean and the other 1 or 2 meals I feed them and give them the spoon when I'm done.

Jamie - posted on 07/07/2010

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My son is 16 months and can feed himself with fingers, spoon and fork. (spoon is tougher than a fork)
As a childcare provider, teacher and Mother, I would start encouraging it. Yes it's messy at times but with the proper encouragement and modeling it's quickly overcome. Be encouraging when she makes a mess, tell her she's doing a good job and show her how. Show her how to hold the spoon and fork, and then have her help clean up.

That got our son to not throw food, by making him responsible for helping to clean up his mess.
Best of luck!

[deleted account]

Also if you have a highchair that has a cloth cover or is hard to clean, take the cover off if possible. I did that with my sons, and it is a real quick clean-up, when you can just wipe it down.

September - posted on 07/07/2010

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I'm sorry but not wanting to clean up a mess is a poor excuse IMO. Our son was eating finger foods by himself at 6 months and spoon/fork feeding himself by 11 months. Yes it was messy at first but what a disservice I would be doing him had I not let him explore and learn on his own. I would encourage you to let your daughter feed herself; it is the only way she's going to learn. Good luck!

[deleted account]

I started my son at 1 eating with a spoon and a fork, started with the toddler ones that are deep, My son is 1 1/2 and eating with a regular fork and spoon now. They are capable of learning to eat with utensils at that age, and I have seen parents who wait longer and have a harder time teaching them. They seem to learn it better at an earlier age. My daughter was 1 1/2 also when she was fully eating with spoon and fork. My son started out making sort of a mess, but now does great!!!! I made sure I started in the summer so I could strip him down to diapeer, and had a box of wet wipes near, so when he was done, could just wash him up throw it away, if he got stuff in his hair, would just wash his hair in the sink or give him a quick bath. Much easier to give "Quick" baths to a younger child, than older also, when older, they want to stay in and play, but at 1, will be happy with just a real short wash up. But is good for them to learn motor skills and independence.

Emma - posted on 07/07/2010

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My 22 month lil girl is just now starting to eat by herself I started off by just letting her eat finger food by herself then I would feed her most of her food then when their was only couple of spoonfulls I would. Give her the spoon at first she just played with it so a wipe clean mat came in handy soon she was eating her food well and dosent make much mess now she more interested on eating every thing on her plate hope this helps

Charlotte - posted on 07/07/2010

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to save the carpet i have brought a wipe clean mat that i put under the high chair the one error i have made is my high chair is fabric and not easy to clean i had a go at steam cleaning it but it didn't really work,

Jswingle - posted on 07/07/2010

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If she is showing interest, I say let her eat on her own. It seriously pays off. It is not fun always having to sit and feed her so you can't even eat your own supper or lunch. It is really nice to just plunk her food down, and sit down at the table next to her and eat with the rest of the family.

[deleted account]

Don't let "others" upset you. I'm a mom of 4 and the youngest is just 15mos. He feeds himself finger foods, but I don't bother with spoons right now either. She'll learn to use a spoon eventually. Let her have a spoon when you have time and energy to deal with it. You can feed her with 1 spoon while she plays and tries to eat with another. That way, she doesn't have as much time and opportunity to make big messes, but still starts learning.

Tara - posted on 07/07/2010

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Jodi- My daughter has always been fascinated by spoons. I have no idea why but that was her favorite toy from about 6 months to a year. I actually had a bucket of spoons she would play with them for hours. So all it really took was showing her how the spoon actually works and letting her practice. Since she always had one in her hand it wasnt hard to practice.

Nicole - posted on 07/07/2010

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You will have to just let her make a mess. That is what kids do and it is healthy for them. That is what they have to do to learn. And trust me once she gets the hang of it you will be sooo... glad. It is so much easier!!! Just sit with her while she is eating for example yogourt with a spoon and guide her and say no when she tried to play with it just don't get mad at her if she makes a mess.

Christina - posted on 07/07/2010

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I let my 10.5 month old eat with a spoon. It gets a little messy and requires a lot of patience, but she is getting better at it and can actually feed herself!!! I think you should try at least once a day with something thick that won't splat as much and put it on the spoon for her.

Scarlett - posted on 07/07/2010

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my daughter will be 2 in august and just started eating by herself with a spoon.

Samantha - posted on 07/07/2010

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If you weren't willing to take on more they why were you willing to have a child? It may seem crass but its not going to get to be less work. Make it part of eating for her to help you clean up. I have 5 kids, three with special needs. i know what its like to have a lot of work. You have to learn to accept that things get messy,but at least they can be cleaned up.
Yes you are harming her development. You are teaching her that she can only so things she is perfect at. This harm their ability to try new things. She needs freedom to explore things like food and other messy things too! Besides think of how much fun it will be to watch her learn. Its a blast!

Jodie - posted on 07/07/2010

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the spoon...haven't introduced that one yet, other than for my daughter to chew on...when did you start teaching your child to use a spoon?

Tara - posted on 07/07/2010

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Do you have a dog?! I depend on mine to help clean up the mess. My daughter is almost 15 months old and has been feeding herself for a few months now. I usually feed her things that I can cut up and be finger foods. She is still perfecting the use of a spoon but I think that letting her try and figure it out is a great way to learn!

Jennifer - posted on 07/07/2010

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When it came to messy foods I let my 6 year old start eating at like 10 month, but he had all his teeth! I would completely undress him, put a bib on him that catches food and keep him away from anything he could grab, so all you have to clean is the highchair and the baby! Sometimes I would put him straight in the bath, especially after speg. and mac and cheese cuz he would have it all over is head and arms and legs! Unfortunately you have to clean up messes kids make. My oldest which is 6 is still messy and I am always cleaning up after him!

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