Building Self-Feeding Skills with Play

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Building Self-Feeding Skills with Play


It’s that time of year again…turkey time! Are you ready for football, stuffing, pumpkin pie and family? We hope that you will have the opportunity to spend your holiday giving thanks with those you love!

While there are so many positive aspects of holidays, we Mommies are often finding ourselves being stressed about seeing relatives…especially those that may express their opinion about how our children are developing! Relax and remember that every child develops at his or her own pace!

Seeing as this coming holiday revolves around mealtime (we love routines!), this is your toddler’s opportunity to SHINE with their newest skills! Have you introduced using a spoon and fork, or drinking from an open cup? Need a place to start? We reached out to our Occupational Therapist friend, Hayley Phillips, M/OTRL, for some ideas!

You have about a week to practice! So, before you impress Grandma and Grandpa, or Great Aunt Esther, here are some ways to work on your child’s skills required for using a spoon or fork, and drinking from a cup, before you even introducing food or drink into the equation…

  • Texture bin: All you will need is an old Tupperware container or bowl, a spoon, 2 cups, and a couple bags of pinto beans, rice, or sand. Your child can then work on scooping skills, and graded control of the spoon for dumping into the cups. This is also great for working on the visual-motor skill of placing objects into a designated area!


  • Water bin: Working with your child on pouring liquid from one cup to the other will enable your child to learn strength and control for future cup drinking skills!


  • Fork use with play dough: Making pretend food out of play dough allows your child the opportunity to build those fork skills of poking the softer textured playdoh, before moving to harder textured food items.


Side Note! To ensure optimal carry-over of skills, it is recommended to use the same type of utensils that the child eats with as he/she does for these play activities (i.e. the same handles).

If your child has difficulty maintaining grasp on the spoon/fork, a built-up handle or textured handle on the utensil can help your child maintain a better grasp on the utensils. (A cost effective and creative way to build up the handles on utensils is get some foam tubing of a small diameter and place over the handles).

If your child tends to turn the utensils over when bringing them to his/her mouth, trying a utensil with an arched handle is recommended (The arch makes it very difficult for the child to turn the utensil over).

Thank you, Hayley, for sharing these awesome ideas! What fun ways to learn such important “big kid” skills! Have a wonderful holiday with your family and friends…and give yourself a pat on the back when your little guy or girl scoops their own mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving!