When your child starts to feed himself, he is tapping into his fine motor skills. Every time he smashes bananas all over his face or spoons his favorite veggies into his mouth, he's actually cementing muscle strength and coordination into his memory. The emergence of self-feeding facilitates improvements of fine motor skills needed for writing, cutting with scissors, etc. Fine motor ability is also the foundation for independent self-feeding. Below is a normal developing timeline outlining the fine motor development related to self-feeding.
• Fine motor/oral motor: Hands are starting to rest on the bottle during feeding.
• Food intake: Breast milk and/or formula. At 4 months, puree or baby cereal may be introduced if approved by your pediatrician.
• Fine motor/oral motor: Your child should be independently holding the bottle with both hands. With the introduction of purees, co-feeding develops. Co-feeding is the positive interaction between the caregiver and child during mealtimes.
• Food intake: Continue with breast milk and/or formula, as puree, cereals, and possibly lumpy solids are introduced into the diet.
• Fine motor/ oral motor: Pincher grasp (index finger and thumb) emerges allowing children to begin to finger feed. Posture is more upright allowing for independent sitting during mealtimes. Vertical chewing pattern (munching) emerges.
• Food intake: Provide more finger foods to encourage self-feeding such as pieces of cereal, teething crackers, or pieces of cooked pasta. Continue with breast milk and/or formula.
• Fine motor/ oral motor: Your child will begin to purposefully reach for a spoon and attempt to spoon-feed. Pincher grasp becomes more refined. With the help of a caregiver, your child will be able to drink out of a cup. Munching pattern matures into rotary chew.
• Food intake: Increase solid intake in diet including bite-sized fruit, cooked vegetables, and cheeses. Begin introducing thicker combination foods such as mac and cheese, casseroles, etc.
• Fine motor/ oral motor: Child can grasps spoon with both hands for self-feeding. Drinks from cup with both hands placed.
• Food intake: At 12 months, the switch from breast milk/formula to whole milk occurs. Continue with soft solids including vegetables, fruits, and meats.
• Fine motor/ oral motor: Independently self-feeds and chews a variety of textures. Grasps spoon with whole hand.
• Food intake: At this age, your child should be eating the family meals.
24- 36 months
• Fine motor/oral motor: Drinks from a cup with only one hand, and uses a fork and spoon.
If you feel your child is significantly behind in fine motor development, an Occupational therapist can help! If your child is having difficulty with chewing and/or food acceptance, a speech therapist can best meet your child’s needs. Contact Lumiere Children’s therapy for a consolation with one of our occupational or speech therapists.
Mattingly, Rhonda. “Typical Feeding Development.” 26 Sept. 2017, Louisville, University of Louisville .
McCarthy , Jessica L. “Feeding Infants and Toddlers.” Mosaic Childhood Project, Inc.