Mellow Mummy: Introducing Cutlery to a Toddler : Taking life as it comes...

Monday 6 September 2010

Introducing Cutlery to a Toddler

Somebody said something to me the other day that made my eyes open widely,
“If a child is baby-led weaned, how will they ever learn to use a knife and fork?”
Well, let me tell you!

Firstly, I should say that baby-led weaning has worked well for us; I highly recommend it but you also know that I’m not a devout BLW-er, I took the practical approach and spoon-fed when it suited us. Lara has seen me spoon feed her from 4 months old. She knows what a spoon is and what a spoon is for. At 7 months old, Lara first started eating yoghurts unaided. Yes it was messy, but it gave her a level of independence and slowly started exercising her manual dexterity.

Children are clever. They copy you. Even if I had never offered Lara cutlery until now, I’m pretty certain she would know what to do with it. For me and Mr. B it has always been important that Lara sit with us up at the dinner table (err… breakfast bar) and share the social occasions of mealtimes. These past few months she has been learning – watching us and taking it all in. While she has eaten her dinner with her hands she has watched us eat exactly the same food with a knife and fork.

About 4 weeks ago I decided that Lara’s dexterity had developed enough that it was worth trying her with cutlery. Not just a spoon with her yoghurt, but a fork, spoon and knife to use during every meal. At the time, all that we had to fit her little hands was a plastic spoon and fork from MAM. They had been great for us feeding her, but they just weren’t up to the job of self-feeding. The plastic wasn’t strong enough to cope with her frantic stabbing of food, and the handles weren’t long enough to give her a clear grip.

As a first step into the world of toddler cutlery, we tried the Boots own brand cutlery that we got at the Ritz the other day. This spoon and fork set is about as standard as it comes. Flat plastic handles, very little shape to the metal heads but good value at just £2.79. They are functional but Lara never seems that interested in using them and the bowl of the spoon is so shallow that her food tends to fall of it before it reaches her mouth.

Images courtesy of Vital Baby

I have also invested in a set of toddler cutlery by Vital Baby because they looked a bit more like REAL cutlery than anything else similar on the market (most toddler cutlery looks a bit toy-like). The handles have rubbery grips which are easy to hold even when covered in food and they are every so slightly shaped – presumably to aid tiny hands. I like them, I think they’re a good introductory cutlery set. The spoon is scooped but not too deep for Lara to get her lips over and not too shallow that the food falls off. The fork is effective and Lara got the hang of it extremely well. In contrast, the knife is nearly useless. I know it is for safety reasons, and I know it will be a long time until Lara is really capable of using a knife effectively but the Vital baby knife, like almost all other ‘first cutlery’ knives I have seen has a shapless blade and no-cutting ability whatsoever. If Lara tries to use it to cut a sausage – the sausage ends up on the floor.

Image courtesy of Jojo Maman Bebe

So, having established that toddler cutlery is a nice idea, but perhaps a bit too ‘safe’ and shapeless to be effective I wondered whether the best approach would be to just jump straight in and give Lara a real set of cutlery? I was sent a set of Junior Cutlery from Jojo Maman Bebe. It has a more sedate pattern and feels sturdier and immediately more grown up. The result is generally a success. Lara seems to be at her most effective when using the children’s cutlery than any of the others we have tried. The handles are round and don’t seem to present a problem to her other than when she is very sticky! The only problem we had was with the main spoon in the set (there are two), the big spoon is simply too big for Lara’s mouth at present!

I don’t feel like I’ve pushed Lara too hard by giving her a more grown-up cutlery set. I feel like it is what she needed – I’ve given her the tools to do the job properly! Lara is a long way from being self-sufficient with her knife, fork and spoon but she is on her way.
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