It might surprise you to know that some speech language pathologists (SLPs) specialise in
helping babies and toddlers progress through a tricky part of development called “feeding.”
Whether parents choose to follow a baby-self feeding model or present the spoon to baby’s mouth, or prefer a blend of both feeding styles, safety is the #1 priority. Another important priority is supporting the development of crucial fine motor skills, so that we set baby up for success.
It’s so tempting to hand baby a “standard” spoon straight from our utensil drawer, but that’s asking a learning eater to eat with a shovel! It’s just not designed for beginner eaters or for little hand and mouths.
Fine motor skills aren’t just limited to hands and fingers, but include the tongue, lips and jaw too! Pick a spoon that is specifically designed for little mouths and to support fine motor development. Choose a spoon with four features, like the Grabease brand.
The size of the spoon matters in FOUR ways:
First, the “bowl” of the spoon, or the part that enters baby’s mouth needs to be just wide
enough to hold the food without too much spilling in order to reduce frustration. It also
must be that “just-right” size to be comfortable across the width of baby’s mouth from
corner to corner of the adorable smile!
Second, the “bowl” also needs to be flat and third, not too long. Grabease utensils have a
bonus feature. A specially designed lip-block prevents babies (or you) from putting the spoon too far back, causing gagging and/or depositing foods too close to the airway. The spoon can also be used as a teether, reaching the first half of baby’s tongue to help
desensitise the gag reflex without causing discomfort.
Fourth, the handle needs to be short and squat, designed for little fists to grasp, even when slippery. Babies need to get very messy when exploring new foods & developing self-feeding skills. A vital part of learning to become an adventurous eater means exploring of new foods with all of the senses, including the tactile sense. That’s how baby’s learn and a little mess is a good thing!
Above all else, what matters most is the joy you bring to your family table! Raising a
healthy, happy eater is a gradual journey that takes time and guidance. For more tips on
how to help babies, toddlers and school-age kids learn to love a variety of foods, visit me at www.melaniepotock.com. I look forward to chatting!
P.S. If you want to learn more about picky eating solutions, identifying Feeding problems and Expanding your child’s diet. We now stock Melanie’s book – Raising a Healthy Happy Eater: A Stage-by-Stage Guide to Setting Your Child on the Path to Adventurous Eating.
Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP, is an international speaker on the topic of feeding babies, toddlers and school age kids. She is the co-author of the award-winning Raising a Healthy Happy Eater: A Stage-by-Stage Guide to Setting Your Child on the Path to Adventurous Eating (2015)(available here) and Baby Self-Feeding: Solutions for Introducing Purees and Solids to Create Lifelong Healthy Eating Habits (2016). The tips in cookbook for parents & kids, Adventures in Veggieland: Help Your Kids Learn to Love Vegetables with 100 Easy Activities and Recipes (2018) are based on the latest research and Melanie’s 20 years of success as a pediatric feeding therapist.
Melanie’s children’s book You are Not an Otter takes preschoolers on a food adventure, exploring all the ways that various animals eat! Melanie’s advice has been shared in a variety of television and print media, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal CNN.com and Parents Magazine.