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As children grow older you'll make the transition from feeding them every mouthful, to the point where they can eat their own food. Most babies will give you clear signs that they are wanting to try to learn to use cutlery. Give them a spoon and they will be keen to dig in themselves having watched you eating for some time. They should be able to use a spoon to feed themselves from around 9 months old and in time can move on to a fork and then a knife and fork.
Learning to use cutlery requires many different skills to be honed. They need the fine motor skills required to pick up a spoon or fork, and the skill and co-ordination to load it with food and raise it to their mouth, all without dropping the food load! Remember that they can't even see their mouth so arriving there is largely down to trial and error. Babies bones are still developing at this early stage, remaining soft and flexible, not hardening until around 18months. This compounds the problems in mastering control.
Be patient and encourage children as they demonstrate the will to learn to feed themselves. You will have to tolerate the mess that is bound to end up everywhere. If you have a hard floor where they eat, in the kitchen or in a room with bare floorboards, then clearing up is that much easier. If you have carpet then you may want to put down a highchair floor mat to give you an easy-clean surface all around. You will also find that a plastic bib with a pocket to catch spilled food is practical at this stage.
Choosing cutlery is partly down to your own preference. Most children start on cutlery with broad plastic handles which are easier to grip, but you may prefer to go straight to stainless steel cutlery with easy grip but slightly less bulky handles. All-plastic forks, with plastic tines, tend to be difficult to use to pick up food and we would recommend avoiding these - look for cutlery with stainless steel heads at the very least.
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