Encouraging Independence: Eating with a Spoon

Learning to use a spoon is a dirty job.

There’s no way around it…this skill set requires on-the-job training.

As much as it makes you cringe to think of the impending disaster that awaits you, your little one, and your walls for this “life lesson”…hand it over (the spoon…and the teeny bit of control you think you have, that is).

And the bowl. And the yogurt.

Let ’em have at it.

That’s really the only way that I’ve found that works (chime in if you’ve found a better way). No matter how “ergonomic” the spoon is (and believe me, we’ve tried about every kid-spoon on the market in an attempt to find a “mess-free” alternative), the mess will happen. Just embrace it.

So grab a nice, wipeable bib and some wet paper towels. And let your little one exert his independence to his little heart’s content!

Believe it or not, this is the face of a seasoned pro with several months experience!

(By the way, if you’re wondering what age…I think I’ve read that at about a year you should introduce the spoon. It was more like 15-18 months with Big Brother…I had a hard time surrendering control with this one. But Little Brother ate with a spoon waaaay sooner than Big Brother did. Mostly out of necessity, I suppose. Having two little ones to take care of, I didn’t exactly have all the time in the world to sit down and spoon-feed by youngest like I did with my oldest.)

Do you have any suggestions? How did you teach your little one to eat with a spoon???


  1. How very timely. I just “surrendered the spoon” to the Boy this morning. Most of the yogurt ended up on his chin, hands, chest, highchair, etc. But it was so great to see him get excited when he got some into his mouth. You’re right — this is the only way they’ll learn.

  2. My little guy just loves feeding himself. He’s been doing so for about 4 months, I think. He’s 15 months now and he still makes huge messes, but he’s gotten really good with thicker types of yogurt. The thing now is that he thinks he’s too big for the highchair, just wants to stand on a regular chair. So if anyone has tips on getting active little boys to sit, I’m all ears!

  3. I guess my suggestion is to baby step it. When my son turned 1, we gave him yogurt and oatmeal on a spoon and let him pick it up and feed it to himself. Recently we bought him plates so I don’t do that anymore. He sorta scoops it up himself and if he struggles he uses his fingers. I agree with Sonya, it’s going to get messy so using something that thicker helps (like oatmeal which seems to do well if you make it thicker).

    Sonya, distractions. We went through a phase (sorta still in it) where my son wouldn’t sit either. I find if I give him a little bit of his meal and strap him in he’s usually to busy chewing it to protest. Then I give him bigger bits. He forgets that he’s sitting. Oh, I use a booster seat with straps made for toddlers. The same for the car seat and the diaper changes. He gets to choose a toy (rotate them). Sometimes he still protests but that just means you need to find something else to hold his attention. Hope that helps.

  4. LOL! I had a hard time with this, too!

    We surrendered the spoon at about 9 months of age, when our girls refused to let us feed them anymore. Yes, it’s messy, but it’s also great learning for them (and maybe for us, too!). They learn so much by touching, squishing, and generally playing with their food, as well as learning gross and fine motor control using utensils (at 16 months Sweet Pea now uses a fork, too). The result is that she is a completely independent eater and has been since she was about 10 or 11 months old. Which frees me up to eat my own meal! (Yay!)

    Some tips: Get some long-sleeved, waterproof bibs. We love the ones by Kushies best. They cost more than regular bibs, but you’ll save the cost of replacing stained clothes. Also, we have a handheld vacuum that we keep in the dining area for quick crumb clean-up. You can even get wet/dry ones, though ours is dry only.

  5. The best way I found to teach kids to eat with a spoon (I do daycare so I have seen a higher number of little ones) is to put applesause on their Cheerios and let them go for it. My second was a great eater and was eating like a champ very early…better than his older sister for quite awhile! I also try giving them a spoon to hold and have as early as they are interested. They start by playing with it and it gets in the way, but it doesn’t take them long to realize what they are suppose to be doing with it.

  6. At around 15 months or so my son stopped letting me feed him and grabbed the spoon from me and started feeding himself. I guess he was ready :) He’s still messy even though he will be 2 soon, but he’s really good at using the spoon.

  7. Our son has been feeding himself since 6 months old as we did Baby Led Weaning. He’s just starting to experiment with a spoon now! Yes it’s messy, but watching him eat is one of my favourite things in all the world :D

  8. We surrendered the spoon/fork/bowl/etc. around 12 months when our son didn’t want us to feed him anymore. We still have to help him every now and then. Right now (I’m sure we will go through a phase) he has learned that if he throws something off of his tray, he is finished with it. Knock on wood- he doesn’t throw his bowl and plate off his tray anymore. Now tomorrow morning he will! lol.

  9. My grandson is 15 months old and just today I was feeding him cottage cheese and relinquished the spoon to him. I held the bowl and guided the spoon until he got the hang of it. Made a mess but he giggled the whole time and was so proud of his self!! So worth the mess!!

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