Encouraging Independence, Part II



Feeding our children correctly is a massive part of parenting. There is a wealth of information out there on how to prepare tasty nutritious meals for our infants, toddlers and children. Equally, there is a lot of emphasis on when to introduce solids, the guidelines these days being six months. However, I have seen that age move from 12 weeks to four months to six months so am sure it will change again. In all this information around feeding your child, there is surprisingly little on how to go about getting your children to feed themselves!

Letting your child do as much for themselves as they can is so important for their development into a self-led and confident adult. Teaching your child to feed themselves is a big part of this. You can encourage independent feeding from well before your baby starts on solids. It seems so simple, but encouraging your baby to hold their own bottle is a good step on the road to independent feeding. So, when they are dextrous enough, give them their own bottle to hold during feeds – they can still be snuggled up in your arms, but allowing them to do this one little thing is very good for them and also means that if you need to do something else at feeding time, you can! Do not mistake this with propping their bottle up so they can feed themselves as this is far from an ideal situation!!

When it comes to starting our children on solids, a lot of us find it quite nerve-wracking as babies have a very strong gag reflex which a lot of us mistake for choking. It is very wise to be aware of choking as it is a massive hazzard for young children; having said that, once you are preparing age-appropriate meals (referring to the aforementioned ‘wealth of information’) it is extremely unlikely that your child will choke on their food!

When you start solid feeds, allow your baby to hold a spoon during meal time, and encourage them to put their own spoon into the bowl. Beware – this WILL get messy but it is very important in encouraging independence. Once your baby gets the hang of the spoon, allow them to feed themselves every second spoon, until confidence grows and they are feeding themselves  spoon! Likewise, when your baby reaches a year and they are moving to beakers, allow them to feed thesmselves their own drink.

Other ways you can encourage toddlers and older children to feed themselves are:

Allow them to hold their own fruit (bananas/apples/grapes) and feed themselves
Teach them to drink from a beaker with no lid – put a small amount in until they get the hang of it (remembering that spills will be a part of everyday life!)
For older children, let them pour their own drinks and butter their own bread etc.

Normally what holds us back from encouraging independent feeding is the fear of choking, and also the fear of the mess they are going to make. Accept the messiness and trust your child’s instincts when it comes to eating and chewing – they know what they are doing!

Thanks for reading

I love feedback, please leave any thoughts and comments below.


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