I was pretty motivated to teach my own kids how to feed themselves from an early stage, because that meant I could sit back and enjoy my own meal again... well, mostly. Using utensils takes more fine motor control and coordination than most toddlers have. In fact, some children won't master the use of cutlery until the age of four. With a little planning, patience and positive attitude, parents can successfully introduce and encourage their toddler to use their utensils!
Research has shown that, by introducing finger food and allowing your child to feed themselves from six months, you will have a better outcome than starting your child on finger food later on in the weaning process. At this age your child is more accepeting of new things. It may, however, take until seven months before your child truly grasps the idea of finger food.
Allow your toddler to hold a spoon while you are spoon-feeding them. Prepare a small bowl of the food so your child can attempt to feed themselves. Hold a bowl in your hand and feed your child from this.
It’s important to accept the mess! As your toddler begins to learn to self-feed, things will get messy. Try not to clean up until after the meal - no wiping, cleaning of the table, etc. It should be fun experience for your child.
Get the right equipment. Make sure you have no breakables or utensils that might hurt your child. If your child has moved on from plastic spoons, there are great metal utensils on the market for small hands, that won’t hurt your child.
Try to stick to foods that are semi-sticky. Food that easily falls off a spoon will only cause frustration as your child is learning. A bowl of porridge in the morning is a good place to start.
It is also a good idea to pratice during playtime. Host a tea party and pretend to feed dolls and teddies. You will be surprised at how much your child picks up from meal times. Praise your child - "aren’t you feeding your dolls well?"
Most of all, be patient; it takes time and there will be times your child refuses to feed themselves. If there is a stand-off, suggest that you will feed your child every second spoon.