The spoon and the fork. Most of us have forgotten what it feels like to wield these instruments for eating the first time. By not it is something we do without giving it a second thought. Placing these instruments in the unskilled hands of a toddler can be a mix of frustration, amusement, and, in some cases, despair on the parts of parents. All that aside, mastery of these utensils is a necessity for toddlers as they prepare for eating in the real world. This is how you teach your young child to use forks and spoons appropriately.
Choose Utensils Built for Little Hands and Mouths
Little hands are not only different in size, but abilities. Hand to eye coordination isn’t quite the same for toddlers as it is for the average adult and your toddler will need forks and spoons that fit into his or her hand to learn how to properly hold and use these items.
Don’t wait for mealtimes to allow your child to get a feel for these important tools. Allow your child to hold them often, practice picking them up, and mimic feeding him or herself while there is no food on them so he or she can learn the motions to make and experience what forks and spoons feel like in their hands.
Also, allow your child to pick them up with the hand he or she is most comfortable with. Many children struggle as parents attempt to encourage them to use one hand over another. Let your child lead the way in these types of decisions so he or she can go with what feels natural.
Allow Your Child to Hold them While Your Feed Your Child
If your child reaches out for forks or spoons while you’re feeding them, use it as an opportunity to guide your child’s hand to his or her mouth. This allows them to practice the motion while you are there to guide them. Don’t grab the spoon away, while at the same time resisting the temptation to let your child take the reins completely.
Go through the motions of bowl to mouth several times together before giving your child the opportunity to feed him or herself. Don’t forget to talk with your child as you’re doing this. Explain what you are doing as you assist your child, set an example by showing your child, and then as your child begins the process independently.
Be Prepared for a Mess
Don’t cry over spilled milk. These are likely to be the first of many, many messes your child will make at mealtimes and others. Embrace the mess knowing that these are the stumbling blocks on the way to better things for your child.
More importantly, be prepared. Consider putting a special floor mat down to protect the floor around your child’s chair. Also consider, weather permitting, removing clothing or using an oversized bib to protect your child’s clothing as he or she begins exploring the fine art of self-feeding.
Practice, Practice, Practice
You know how the saying goes. Practice makes perfect. The more your child uses forks and spoons the more adept he or she will become at using them. You get to enjoy the opportunity of helping a little in the beginning, but must, at some point, allow your child the freedom to make massive messes and have mound of fun while attempting to become familiar with these instruments. Don’t forget to let your child watch you use a fork and spoon so he or she can learn from your example.
Teaching your child to properly wield a fork and spoon is the first step in the process for other vital lessons about etiquette and table manners to come later in life. Don’t get too caught up in perfection right out of the gate. Instead, enjoy the show as your child learns a skill you’ve long forgotten learning and praise his or her accomplishments along the way.