ASK AN EXPERT: Help, my baby won't use their spoon to self-feed!

Blog by Melanie Potock.

"Does your baby love to self-feed with fingers, but isn’t keen on using a spoon?  

While self-feeding using fingers is an important skill, so is learning to use a spoon. It’s a developmental milestone that kids achieve shortly after the 1st year & gain refined skill by age 2. 

Kids may prefer using their fingers because they get feedback through the skin, muscles & joints that helps them feel safe. With a spoon, the feedback is primarily via the lips, tongue & mouth. That’s why it’s so important for babies to go through 2 stages of mouth play: generalized mouthing in infancy & discriminative mouthing at about 4 to 5 months of age. That means baby is gaining the motor skills to intentionally move teethers & toys in her mouth as she explores the shape & texture. Most importantly, she gets to experience exactly how her body responds to that stimuli before food is introduced!

By 9 months of age, when kids aren’t comfortable with a spoon in their mouths, they may have missed out on this type of exploration.  Offer opportunities throughout the day (always when your child is safely seated) to mouth safe, flexible mouth toys. The grabease 2-in-1 self-feeding silicone spoon is a bit smaller than the grabease utensils, flexible & has a texture handle.  It’s a great first spoon for dipping & building confidence in a child who is hesitant.  

Got a toddler who isn’t keen on self-feeding with utensils? Offer the slightly larger grabease utensils during pretend play & let her lick & bite without the sensory component of food in her mouth. Keep offering the spoon at snack/mealtimes, too.  Give it a month & if your child is still hesitating, contact an occupational therapist or a speech language pathologist who specializes in feeding to offer specific strategies for your older child."