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Can my child start eating independently and tackle new milestones?

little girl eating with a fork

Key points:

  1. Encourage pouring liquids using a cup from a pitcher.
  2. Support using fingers and hand to handle a fork and pick up soft foods, directing them into the mouth.
  3. Promote wiping the mouth with a napkin when prompted and swallowing food before taking another bite.
  4. Teach how to open various food containers and drink from a small open cup using one hand.

Between the excitement of achieving new milestones and the fear of messy floors and tables in the nearby future, figuring out when your child is ready to start eating by themselves can seem complicated. In this article, we’ll talk about some of the independent feeding skills and table milestones that are usually met between 3 and 4 years of age.

According to doctor Tiffany Hays, director of Pediatric Nutrition at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, allowing your kid to be independent early on during mealtimes is crucial because it will not only foster a sense of autonomy, but also make it easier for them to respond to their natural hunger and fullness cues. Remember that some spills and accidents will inevitably happen, although with decreasing frequency, but you can safely start working toward the following skills with your 36 to 48-month-old:

  • Pour liquids from a pitcher using a cup.
  • Use the fingers and hand to hold a fork, apply the correct amount of pressure to pierce and pick up soft foods with it, and accurately direct it into the mouth.
  • Wipe mouth with a napkin when prompted or reminded to do so.
  • Take notice to swallow the food before taking another bite.
  • Pour and scoop with minimal spilling.
  • Open different kinds of food containers, like jars, food bags, juice bottles with a straw, etc.
  • Drink from a small open cup using only one hand.

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