Mealtimes are one of babies’ most sensory-rich experiences - new tastes, smells, and textures. Touching and feeling food - especially sticky, messy, wet foods - is a great way to fully engage baby’s senses in the process of eating. These early sensory experiences help your little one learn that these new sensations are not threatening, instead they’re associated with yummy food.
Babies and toddlers crave autonomy and independence and if not given enough, will do their best to claim it - often through tantrums, defiance and other challenges to our patience as parents. By giving your little one control over when he takes a bite, how much they put in their mouth and when they are done eating, you meet their innate “do it all by myself” desire. Ultimately, a parent’s “control” at mealtime is an illusion anyways. Even if you’re the one in control of the spoon, your baby or toddler is in control of what they allow in their mouth and swallow. Side-step mealtime battles by letting your baby lead the way.
Our bünky mealtime line is a great way to start your baby on independent eating. Our thick handled spoons are great for baby’s little hands to grasp and the fun animal shapes in engaging colors will keep baby’s attention on mealtime. Here are some additional reasons to introduce self-feeding to your baby as early as 6 months.
Helps Grasping & Coordination Skills
Chasing cereal or blueberries around in a bowl is a great opportunity for your baby to refine newly developing grasping skills. In fact, often food is the smallest manipulative safe for our babies to interact with, so mealtimes afford valuable practice coordinating those adorable chubby fingers.
Teaches Body Awareness
In the process of practicing feeding themselves, your baby will be learning where their mouth is, how much force it takes to bend their arm to bring their hand or spoon to their mouth, how to get that applesauce off their upper lip and how to use two hands together to hold the cup. These skills require your little one to coordinate the motor systems and sensory processing systems of the brain. Mealtimes offer multiple practice times each day to help create a foundation of lifelong awareness and coordination of the body.
Helps Oral Motor Development
When parents deliver food to baby’s mouth, we tend to deposit it right where it belongs, help baby take it from the spoon or our fingers and clean up after ourselves. But in feeding themselves your little one learns through trial and error what it feels like to open their mouth wide enough for the spoon, how to close their lips to clean food off a spoon, how to get that bite of cereal from their lips to their gums for chewing, and how to lick their lips clean or wipe that drip that they feel on their chin.
Letting your baby learn to feed themselves will be messy. But the developmental rewards far outweigh the messes. With a little prep and a bib, a drop cloth on the floor or mop nearby - you can minimize the mess and allow your child to fully experience mealtimes.