Your Baby Can: Eat With Utensils

Elliot takes a fork to his first birthday cake

Elliot takes a fork to his first birthday cake

Before I begin, let me be point out that I said your baby can eat with utensils – not that he or she will do so consistently, or even effectively right now, or even in the next couple of years. Your results may vary but, more than likely, your baby can indeed eat with utensils. Details below!


Like many things that are challenging for small hands at first, our culture seems to wait on putting spoons and forks into the hands of small children until more or less random ages. Spoon feeding, of course, is a common way of delivering baby’s first foods, and often continues through the end of the first year and beyond. More and more families these days are opting for Baby Led Weaning instead, allowing their babies to feed themselves. In this case, first foods are usually self-fed, by hand.

While Baby-led Weaning (or some version of the same) was the best approach to first foods for us, I offered utensils from day one. This may seem silly and unncessary, but to me, it just made sense. The phrase, “food before one is just for fun,” is often repeated in some parenting circles to highlight the idea that babies under one get most everything they need to grow and thrive from their mama’s milk, if it’s available, or whatever alternative works best for their family if it isn’t. We give them food as a way of letting them practice, of introducing them to new flavors and textures, of allowing them to explore and to build their fine motor skills – and of course they do get some nutrients while they’re at it.

Sometimes they'll use them, sometimes they may push the bowl and spoon aside and experiment with this method. Anything goes!

Sometimes they’ll use them, sometimes they may push the bowl and spoon aside and experiment with this method. Anything goes!

All humans, no matter how small, are social beings, and there is far more to eating in our world than just flavors, textures, and nutrients. The social aspect of eating is incredibly important and, as with most activities, children are watching the behavior we model while we participate in the process of eating. They see us using utensils, and are no doubt curious about what we’re doing. In our culture, (most) food is always eaten with either a spoon or a fork. What better way to make this food-utensil connection feel natural than by helping our babies to experience it from the very start?

When I gave my babies their first meals, I always put a spoon, a fork, or both at their place until, as in Annabelle’s case now, they were old enough to do this part of the meal prep themselves. Now, we have a silverware drawer just for child-sized utensils at child height and Annabelle usually gets her own utensils plus one for Elliot, before dinner each night. Elliot loves having his own silverware, even though he doesn’t always use it, and I believe that these practice sessions afford him the opportunity to practice social behavior and fine motor skills in an enjoyable and contextual way. I never correct his use of a spoon or a fork, unless of course he’s doing something that causes dings in our wooden dining table, so there’s no pressure at all. It’s all about exploration, and as far as I can tell it’s quite beneficial.

My children have been very different on this one, with Annabelle, now three, mostly ignoring spoons and forks until later in toddlerhood. From them on, she used them about half the time until sometime around her last birthday. At this point, I’d say she uses a spoon or fork 95% of the time, but still reverts to using her hands when she’s faced with a particularly difficult to eat meal. Elliot, however, almost always tries to use his utensils throughout the entire meal, and has done so since he was probably eight months old. He may wield a utensil in one hand while scooping food with the other hand, but he’s still trying, enjoying, and building those fine motor skills, so it all works out.

If you haven’t tried offering your baby or toddler his or her own spoon or fork yet, why not give it a try? Just place it within reach during meals and let them explore as they’re ready. You may be surprised by how quickly they become skilled at feeding themselves this way!

Does your baby eat with utensils already? Any tips for introducing them? Favorite flatware sets?


Annabelle and Elliot's Silverware Drawer

Annabelle and Elliot’s silverware drawer

I am often asked about places to buy child-sized utensils that aren’t plastic. Below is a list of what we’ve found and use. Note that some links (the amazon ones, to be precise) are affiliate links:

World Market doesn’t sell utensils for children, at least not last time I checked, but their cocktail silverware is the perfect size for the smallest hands. Most of our first flatware is from here. I imagine other stores sell cocktail silverware as well, I just happened to find cute, complete sets here.

Ikea sells a three piece set of stainless steel flatware for around $5. This set is a good size for older toddlers or for preschoolers. It’s my three-year-old’s go to set right now.

Both of my kids were given fancy Reed and Barton sets by their great aunt as babies. There are far less expensive options that work just as well, but if you’re looking for a special gift, these are pretty sweet. While looking around, I just found this Oneida one, too. We haven’t used it, but it looks lovely, doesn’t it? Heck, a few teaspoons from the thrift store would be perfect for a baby’s very first meals, too.

For the classroom, Constructive Playthings has this great set, which we use for snacks at school. They’re a bit on the small side, but a great value for the number of pieces you get – and the three section tray is wonderful for keeping them in. I love that they’re dishwasher safe, too.

Oh, and I was pretty excited when I found these bamboo spoon/fork combos at a local store recently. I keep them in my diaper bag now, and they’re a perfect, no fuss option for restaurants, picnics, and such.


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15 thoughts on “Your Baby Can: Eat With Utensils

  1. Niki

    Fenix has been eating with a spoon from the beginning as well. He has been able to successfully eat with a spoon since he was around 12 months. We let him practice with a fork when he asks for one (by pointing to ours or Jaxon’s). He saw Justin, Jaxon, and I eating with chopsticks the other day and actually gave that a try too. I was very impressed by his effort!

  2. Laura

    Thanks a lot for the post! We introduce utensils just about two months or so after we have introduced food. It worked fine with my girl and we are just starting with the boy. Well, he is already very keen on the glass -not specially in drinking from it but I am sure he will get there sooner than later.
    I am amazed that any time I have in the back of my mind the wish to write a post on something (me writing a post…odd thing, ain’t it?), you actually write it. I am very grateful too because you express everything so well!!! Thanks thanks!

  3. candice

    I am like Niki. He always had something in his hands. Why not?

    He also is successful at eating with a spoon, the fork on the other hand is great for stabbing watermelon. lol.

    1. melissa Post author

      I totally agree – why not!? In my mind, it seems like using a fork would be an easier task, but mine mastered the spoon first, too. Also, mmm, watermelon!

  4. Amy G

    I’d never thought about World Market- what a great idea! I do wish we were close to an Ikea. I must admit that I observed a friend that is a mom feed her child baby food with a spoon recently. I realized that it was really one of the first times I’ve seen something like that- (I guess we don’t go to that many restaurants for families or anything…) It was strange to watch and made me think that I feel so fortunate to have known about different ideas!

    1. melissa Post author

      It’s funny how easy it is to become absorbed in our own little subcultures. The majority of American parents probably spoon feed, but I rarely see it, too. I’m glad I happened upon this other way of doing things, too. It seems to be more and more common all the time.

  5. Janine

    Cocktail silverware is brilliant! We used our smallest normal silverware as well as some awesome recycled plastic utensils from — Oh, I can’t think of the brand name. You know, the ones made from recycled milk jugs… We have a dishware set that is used for both play and real food.

    This post is making me antsy to give my baby food! We have a few more months but I’m getting the major itch to start BLW with him. I have a sense that he’s going to be more excited about food than Sebastian was.

    LOVE this type of posts and will be sharing this one. :)

    (And as always, I read ALL of your posts – Just usually too swamped to comment!)

    1. melissa Post author

      Green Toys, maybe? I always look at their play dishes and think how cute they’d be for tea parties and picnics outside. A sweet friend got Annabelle the tea set for her birthday, and we have loved it.

      I’m super excited to see all kinds of cute photos of Zeke trying his first foods. It really is so fun to watch them explore in those first months!

      Oh, and I have been terrible about commenting, too, so no worries. We’re on the same page there!

  6. Melissa Ryan

    My son can eat with utensils quite well at two. He doesn’t always eat with utensils though haha. I also did baby led weaning, but gave him a spoon from the beginning and a fork starting at about a year or so. I think this is part of the reason he is so proficient with them.

    Thanks for linking up with the Tuesday Baby link up last week. I hope you will join us again this week.
    Melissa Ryan recently posted..Tuesday Baby Link Up: Week 44My Profile

  7. Suzy

    Absolutely they can! We come from the Czech Republic and you will se practically all 10 month olds holding a spoon or a fork, and I believe they don’t worry so much about baby size. I found with my kids it does help. I’m surprised people don’t do this as standard.

    1. melissa Post author

      That’s awesome to know about the Czech Republic, Suzy! From the comments on this post, it sounds like many more do it than I realized – just from my personal experience it seemed pretty rare among American families until toddlerhood.


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