Your child is growing up: you will gradually say goodbye to bottles or breastfeeding to make way for food diversification! Your child may start by eating with their fingers, which can be beneficial. Studies (Source: University of Nottingham, in the BMJ Open, 2012) have even shown that children who ate with their fingers more often were less prone to obesity problems. However, he will have to gradually use a spoon, fork and knife. Using cutlery is in fact one of many lessons towards your child’s autonomy and self-confidence.
Thus, around 12 months, when his food diversification will have led him to solid foods, he will be able to start getting by with a spoon… even if he may well put it everywhere at the beginning. The first few times, it is therefore not uncommon for the spoon to reach his mouth almost empty and for him to put it all over the table. “The use of cutlery requires training, and it is only around the age of 2 that his hand-eye coordination allows him to feed himself without too much damage”, indicates the pediatrician.
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Introduce the use of the knife with a round tip
Then comes the introduction of other cutlery, starting with the fork. A child is usually ready to use it around 3 years old. A toddler learns to poke food and crush soft food. Around the age of 4, he is also able to cut certain soft foods with his fork. The use of the knife, more dangerous, is done step by step. `
“We will favor a knife with a round end to start, because it presents no risk with its blade which is not sharp”, he advises. It can spread soft butter or jam for example. By going through this stage, he will be able to familiarize himself with the habit of having a knife at the table. He will use it for soft foods, like cooked vegetables. It is only around 6 or 7 years old that a child is then able to cut meat, under your supervision of course.
A few tips to help him use a knife
Before this age, you can still make him use a knife occasionally, with your help, to assist you in the kitchen for example. You know better than anyone where your child is, and if he is smart enough, why not initiate him earlier. Know that the child learns in particular by observing you, and he also needs to repeat the gestures with you to develop his skills. It is therefore important that you accompany him in his learning and that you value the successes.
For the cutlery, we advise you to use cutlery adapted to the size of the child’s small hands, to facilitate their use. There are many ergonomic children’s sets. If you want to help him get started, in complete safety, you can also offer him to cut modeling clay or salt dough with the round-tipped knife, so that he learns to handle the utensil without fear before moving on to more difficult foods.
Watch out for domestic accidents
Another tip once you get to the sharp knife: sharpen it well! You would think it would be dangerous to have a sharp blade. However, a dull blade presents a greater risk of accidents because more pressure must be exerted on it to cut.
Your vigilance at the table is more than necessary, a domestic accident can happen quickly! By introducing the knife, you can therefore remind him of certain basic rules: do not make big gestures with a knife, do not aim the knife at anyone… For the rest, be patient: even if cutting it takes time , let it be. Above all, keep in mind that each child follows their own rhythm, so don’t panic if they take a little longer to get to grips with their cutlery.