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Being a parent can be hard and having a child who is a picky eater can sometimes be overwhelming. That’s why learning to self-feed is such a big milestone for you and your child. Independent feeding has many benefits from nutrients to development of fine motor skills and sensory development. Follow these tips to learn how to help your child start eating independently.

When to start: When your child can sit up by herself and has started to practice pincer grasp, it is time for finger foods. This is a good opportunity to work on pincer grasp. Start by handing or placing snacks one by one to encourage her to pick them up. Practice this for a few minutes at the start of a meal then let her finish on her own. Once your child moves into toddlerhood, around two years-old, you can capitalize on her independent streak and encourage more self-feeding. Then it’s time to introduce utensils. Start by giving your child a spoon while you’re feeding her, so she can begin to associate holding a utensil with eating.

Stick to a schedule: Children, like most adults, prefer routine. Set up a daily mealtime schedule that includes three meals plus morning and afternoon snacks. Be sure to space out your snacks to avoid these treats too close to meal time. A hungry kid is a more motivated self-feeder.

Serve the right stuff: Start your baby off with soft, safe foods like cooked vegetables, bananas, puffed cereal and healthy squeeze pouches. To increase interest, introduce new foods one at a time. Pair a new item with something tried and true that your child trusts.

Make it a family affair: Just like with adults, you want your baby’s mealtimes to be times of family togetherness. Family mealtime should be a teaching and socializing opportunity. Your child will observe and pick up on the physical mechanics of eating and social interactions.

If you have questions about independent eating strategies you can employ at home, please contact us at 870-633-1737.