Mother and Baby

5 ways to get your toddler to feed himself (and not the walls!)

Fed-up making food for your toddler only to see it smeared across the walls/the floor/their face?

We’ve got the pain-free plan to help encourage your tot to feed himself, while still preserving your sanity.

Weaning may have been easy to start with, but now that your little one is hitting the toddler stage mealtimes are set to become a whole lot more challenging. From flat out refusing to eat to simply throwing the food you’ve lovingly prepared all over your freshly mopped floor, the messy reality of toddler mealtimes will have you yearning for the days when you spent the best part of an hour feeding your six-month-old stewed parsnip!

But don’t despair because there are a few tips and tricks that can help fast-track your little one from fussy to foodie... 

5 ways to help your toddler to feed himself:

Expand Image

1) Start small

Snacks are a good way to get your tot used to aiming his food at his mouth and not up his nose: fruit or vegetables cut into handy sticks, breadsticks and raisins are great snacks to help give your child some sort of ownership over feeding himself.

Later you can move onto proper meal time foods like toast, small sandwiches and chopped up chunks of cheese, meat and vegetables he can try picking up with a spoon. 
Expand Image

2) Make food fun

When they’re just starting to self-feed it’s important to make sure food time is fun. Try playing ‘feed me’, chop up some finger foods and encourage your toddler to put the food in your mouth. Chew each bite enthusiastically, then feed your little one in the same way. Toddlers love learning by example.
Expand Image

3) Playing with your food

Yes, we did just tell you to let your toddler play with their food. But touching and playing with the food on their plate encourages your little one to be creative. Pop fruit on your fingers or stack them.
The Spaghetti pick-up game is a firm favourite. Using cooked spaghetti encourage your toddler to make a shape before he puts it in his mouth. You can help by joining in and showing him how he can make various shapes or a smiley face.
Expand Image

4) Lead by example

The best way to encourage your toddler to self-feed is to show him exactly how it’s done.

‘Finger food is the best way to help children develop the hand-mouth control,’ says child development expert and founder of The Good Toy Guide Amanda Gummer. ‘And heavier foods like ice lollies strengthen the muscles in the arm.’

Amanda also suggests showing your toddler how to use his cutlery. ‘Eat your food with cutlery first and let your toddler try with his/her spoon/fork whilst you eat yours, you can then help him afterwards, but you'll have given him/her the opportunity and the motivation to try.’
Expand Image

4) Lead by example 

The best way to encourage your toddler to self-feed is to show him exactly how it’s done.

‘Finger food is the best way to help children develop the hand-mouth control,’ says child development expert and founder of The Good Toy Guide Amanda Gummer. ‘And heavier foods like ice lollies strengthen the muscles in the arm.’

Amanda also suggests showing your toddler how to use his cutlery. ‘Eat your food with cutlery first and let your toddler try with his/her spoon/fork whilst you eat yours, you can then help him afterwards, but you'll have given him/her the opportunity and the motivation to try.’
Expand Image

5) Turn a blind eye to mess

If your little one is messy eater, try to close your eyes to the chunks of food decorating the floor/the walls/the ceiling. Mess is part and parcel of the toddler years. Resist telling him off too, unless of course he’s deliberately trying to avoid eating, in which case, calmly clear away and give him some of the food again, yourself. It may be that’s he’s not yet ready to feed himself.
There’s always anti-bac wipes.

Now read:

16 tips for successful baby-led weaning

10 superfoods to add to your baby's weaning journey

Did these tips help you? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter!

Make sure you're following Mother & Baby on Instagram for relatable memes, inspiring stories and parenting hacks!

Join the club! Introducing our brand, spankin’ new Facebook group called #mumtribe. Simply search ‘#mumtribe’ into the search bar and meet like-minded mums, win gorgeous goodies and have some fun!

Have approx 60 seconds to spare? Why not join thousands of mums-to-be and start your very own Amazon baby wish list! They're absolutely free to create and perfect to send to the friends, aunties and your mum to make sure you're getting the baby products you really need...Click here!

 
Related content: