While finger foods won't be disappearing anytime soon, now that your little one is a toddler, she can start using "big kid" utensils instead of the plastic spoons you fed her with as a baby. According to Colorado Pediatric Therapy and Feeding Specialists, most toddlers won't master using utensils until 2 years of age, and even then, their fingers may be the primary method of eating until they're 3 years old. Teaching your toddler how to use utensils requires patience, realistic expectations and some handy cleaning supplies within arm's reach.
Provide your child with toddler-size utensils and let him practice grasping the handle. He may dip it in yogurt or attempt to spear a piece of bread without much success, but the important thing is that he's learning to wield and manipulate a fork or spoon. Weighted utensils made specifically for toddlers make it easier to control the handle, as opposed to something made of light plastic, which can easily fly across the table.
Demonstrate proper use of the utensil your toddler is learning to use with slow, exaggerated motions while providing an explanation. Your child learns a tremendous amount by mimicking you, and watching you slowly scoop yogurt with your spoon, turn it toward your mouth and raise it to your lips provides a blueprint of how he should proceed. The explanation, along with your demonstration, helps instruct proper mechanics while coaching your toddler's progress.
Give your toddler with the opportunity to practice using different utensils. Spoons and forks are the most efficient, but spreading soft dip or whipped cream cheese with a toddler-size knife also builds fine motor skills. Any knife your toddler uses should have a dull blade and a blunt, rounded tip.
Be sure to praise your toddler for all her efforts. After all, it may be easier for her to use her fingers, but if she's trying to use the utensils, then she deserves some cheering from the parent section.
Choose utensils with thick, rubber, textured handles for easy grasping.
Expect a lot of mess, especially when your toddler is first learning. Place a sheet of plastic under her high chair or booster seat to make cleanup easier.
Start out with thick, somewhat gelatinous foods like yogurt and chunky applesauce. These are much easier to successfully scoop with a spoon than rice or cereal with milk. When practicing with a fork, pasta shapes like penne or macaroni may be easier for your toddler to spear.