Child-led solid food introduction becomes a family affair when you include your little one at the dinner table. Developing the enjoyment of food comes as much from the social experience as it does from the food itself. Getting the whole family to share the experience teaches by example, building confidence as you also connect food with fun!
You’ll save yourself some time, too, if you offer your child many of the foods that the rest of the family are eating. Perhaps more importantly, allowing your little one to take charge of feeding in a family environment can speed up speech and motor skills development.
So how do you start this family mealtime, self-feeding daily adventure?
First of all, forget about expectations. This is a beginning that could progress in a number of directions! Let it be a learning experience. Realise at the outset that knowing how to self-feed is a gradual process, and at first, your child may not eat very much. Just let the learning come naturally.
Your little one will get the hang of it eventually, if perhaps, slowly. Meantime, here’s another fact to face: It will be messy! Yes, food will be thrown. To keep clean-up to a minimum, try placing just a few bites of food big enough to grasp on your high chair tray table.
Also keep in mind that self-feeding is not an all-or-nothing affair. See what works best for you. You may decide that you prefer to spoon feed some softer foods, like avocado or sweet potato, and allow gnawing on others, like pear slices.
If you do introduce a spoon for some foods, see how your child handles it. Show how it’s done. You’ll be impressed by how great the little ones are at imitating. This is a good time to introduce a spill-proof cup, so your child can learn to sip like the older family members at the table.
The greatest point to remember is to let your child take the lead. Allow progress at your child’s pace, as you experiment with approaches that work best for you. Remember, this is a learning process for everyone!