Encouraging Young Kids to Use Utensils At Home

Encouraging Young Kids to Use Utensils At Home

Using utensils at mealtime is an essential skill that will promote independence and confidence while eating. This can result in children being more willing to try different foods and improve motor planning skills.

A key factor for feeding when it comes to trying new foods or using utensils is a consistent, safe, and stable eating station. Good back support and a place for feet to be placed flat are two good areas to take into consideration when creating a feeding station. Using a high chair or booster seat are beneficial options for appropriate seating for meal time or snack time. Also, limiting distractions during meal times will encourage children to participate in “hard” or less motivating tasks such as using a utensil.  Turning off the television, putting the iPads to the side and sitting down and modeling the use of utensils is the best way for children to start successfully using them.

Tips for using a spoon at home:

  • Start with sticky foods that are not going to slide off of the spoon (yogurt, apple sauce) to build confidence. 
  • Pre-load the utensil to help the child manipulate and use the utensil.
  • Have a consistent and stable eating station (feet flat on a surface, back support) 
  • Have the utensil present and near their eating station for EVERY meal 
  • Play with cups or spoons in the bathtub and scoop and pour water out into the bathtub 
  • Create sensory bins for scooping and pouring material out into the bucket and the hands

Tips for using a fork at home:

  • Start with small, easy to stab foods: pancakes, waffles, grilled cheese cut into small bites, steamed vegetables, cubes of cheese.
  • Have them hold the fork closer to the prongs (farther away, the more control is needed)
  • Have a consistent and stable eating station (feet flat on a surface, back support) 
  • Have the utensil present and near their eating station for EVERY meal 
  • Make games with play-doh or foam and feed baby dolls, stuffed animals or anything motivating.

Cool Tools:

  • Witty eating spoon
  • Dinneractive Utensil set for Kids – construction themed
  • Silicone suction plates

Overall, opportunities for trial and error when learning a new skill, such as using utensils, will promote confidence and independence. Does your child have trouble holding or using utensils? T.E.A.M 4 Kids would love to help! Please contact one of our offices for more information on how to set up an evaluation with a certified Occupational Therapist. 

 

Breanna Aker, BS, COTA/L