Whether you choose to follow a baby-led weaning method, a spoon-fed method or a combination of the two, at some stage you'll want to introduce foods that don't work so well as purées or finger foods (spaghetti bolognese - we're looking at you! 🍝)
Naturally, there will be a point when you'll want to introduce cutlery to your baby.
The transition from fingers to forks can be err, somewhat messy! But it's an important part of your baby's development and milestone on their journey of learning how to eat. We've put together some tips for introducing cutlery to your little one.
Remember - all babies will eventually learn how to use cutlery, so don't stress. This is a marathon, not a sprint!
When should I introduce cutlery?
This may depend on the weaning method you choose to follow, but generally the sooner the better.
We’re big fans of choosing whichever weaning method is right for you, and combining a mix of finger foods and spoon-fed purées is something we encourage. If you're incorporating spoon-feeding into your weaning journey, then we recommend offering a spoon from day one.
If you're following a baby-led weaning method with finger foods, there's perhaps less of a need for cutlery during mealtimes. However, having a spoon available alongside food and encouraging your baby to hold this utensil will help them get used to holding a spoon and associating it with mealtimes.
By having cutlery available from the start, it will help your baby to understand that cutlery is a part of mealtimes.
Start with just a spoon
Introducing your baby to cutlery is a three-stage process, starting with a spoon, then a spoon and fork, and then a fork and knife. This will mean baby isn’t overwhelmed with three utensils at once, and they can focus developing their coordination skills using just a spoon at first.
Your baby may be ready to attempt self-feeding somewhere between 9 and 14 months, but as with most things they'll usually do things at their own pace!
As soon as they show signs of wanting to take the spoon off you (such as reaching to grab it), let them practice! Load the spoon first as they won’t have the skills to do this initially, and let them take it from there. This will help your baby learn how to move food to her mouth.
Get the right utensils
Plastic, easy-to-grip cutlery that's rounded and soft on your baby's gums are ideal and will encourage them to use cutlery. A soft, temperature-controlled spoon is also great for teething babies to chew!
For forks, those with metal teeth are best for picking up good with soft, easy-to-grip handles. Experiment with a few different types - you may find your little one has a preference.
Be a role model
The best way to kickstart your baby’s feeding skills is to see you using a knife, fork and spoon and feeding yourself with them. Babies learn so much from observation and they love to copy their parents! Mashed foods are great for practicing scooping with a spoon.
When you're moving onto fork or knife stage, let your baby watch you slice up your their food into bite-sized chunks and show him or her how to stab a small piece with a fork, before offering it to them to put into their mouth.
Fingers + forks are fine!
There's no rush to introduce a fork, but observe your baby as they move into lumpier foods and are mastering semi-independent feeding (even if it's a bit messy!).
Once your baby gets more confident with feeding themselves with a pre-loaded, you can start showing them how to scoop food onto the spoon themselves to promote self-feeding.
It's very unlikely that your baby will master using a spoon from the beginning. If they're still scooping up food with their hands as well as using the fork or spoon then that's fine - remember, it's a gradual process and all about learning and exploring. Trying a wide variety of foods is more important than table manners at this stage!
Introducing a knife
As your little one grows into a toddler and starts eating more 'adult' meals with a variety of textures, they're probably ready to learn how to use a knife. Using a knife is Advanced Cutlery Use - it's okay if they don't hold them in the correct hands right away. As with other utensils, it will take them a while to get to grips with using a knife.
Practice makes perfect
It’s important to remember that all babies and toddlers are different and move at their own unique paces. Cutlery use is a skill that needs to be developed over time, and practice makes perfect. Don’t compare you baby to others on Instagram!
For most babies and toddlers, cutlery use takes years to master. But the age of around 2 years old, you can expect your little one to be using a spoon (but somewhat messily!). Young children have usually mastered using a knife and fork by between 5 and 7 years old. So don't panic if your toddler doesn't have great table manners - it's totally normal and they'll get there eventually!
For more weaning tips and advice from parenting experts, including best first foods and foods to avoid, download our Free Weaning Guide.