Eating with fingers, a spoon, a fork and a knife

They start off by eating everything with their little hands. But eventually, they will be able to manipulate utensils like a big kid! Here are some pointers on the proper timing to start introducing forks and spoons.

Meals and snacks are important activities. They punctuate the child’s day just like taking a bath, napping and cleaning their room. Like all routine activities, eating should be enjoyable, educational and stimulating.

Meals are perfect moments for sensory exploration and the development of their autonomy and sense of accomplishment. The child learns to feed themselves, use utensils and discover food on their own. Mealtime is also an occasion for them to manifest their food preferences, and for the adult to respect those choices.

How to teach a child to eat on their own?

Everything depends on the child’s developmental stage. You have to adapt to their pace. For example, between 0 and 18 months, it’s giving the baby the bottle when they're hungry. It’s also waiting for their indication before bringing the spoon or glass to their mouth! It’s also gradually allowing them to touch their food to develop their motor skills and gradually feed themselves by bringing food to their mouth on their own.

Put the spoon in the bowl, and help and encourage your child to use it. Messes are inevitable! That’s what learning to be autonomous is all about. When they're a bit older, they will move on to using a fork and plate, peeling a tangerine and cutting soft fruits with a plastic knife. Once again, every child is different. It’s important to use simple, positive and clear instructions from an early age, such as “food stays in the bowl”, “please put everything back in your bowl”, “the cup and the plate stay on the table when you’re done”. It’s also a patience exercise!


9 months Is interested in the spoon/
Clumsy attempts
Early learning of drinking with a cup /
No control over the flow
12 months

Give them a spoon /
Prefers fingers

Uses a drinking glass with a spout and two handles
18 months Feeds their teddy bear with a spoon /
All fun and games!
Learns to control the flow /
No spout
24 months Eats with a spoon without making too much a mess Drinks without a lid, and then through a straw
3 years Prefers the fork  
4 years Cuts with a fork / Uses a knife
for spreading /  Then cuts soft foods /
Will cut their meat at 6 years old

By Nathalie Regimbal, Dt.P. and the dietician team at chez Manger Futé


1  F. Ferland, Occupational therapist, Bien grandir, p 10, June 2009.

Nathalie Regimbal

Nathalie Regimbal is a dietician-nutritionist and mother of 3 kids. She oversees Manger Futé, a team of people passionate about diet that empowers those who want to feed children healthily. To demystify nutrition and diet, Nathalie gives advice on the show La Cantine on Channel V. In addition to her collaboration with, you can read her articles in several print and online magazines. Among others, she is a collaborator in nutrition for Yoopa and Célébrons magazines. To make meal time easier for families and initiate kids to cooking, Nathalie has worked hard to write inspiring books: the best-seller Du plaisir à bien manger… 80 recettes gagnantes pour les familles, and the Mandoline series of illustrated cook books for children, the latest one having just won the prestigious prize of the best French Healthy cooking book from the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2010. To help with meal preparation in daycare centres, the team of dieticians at Manger Futé offers classes and coaching. Manger Futé has also published the practical guides Élaborez rapidement un menu équilibré dans votre service de garde and Élaborez rapidement une politique alimentaire. Discover Nathalie Regimbal's books: Du plaisir à bien manger – 80 recettes gagnantes pour les familles Mandoline – J’ai ça dans le sang! Mandoline – Développe tes défenses naturelles!

This week
Ear infections, antibiotics, and prevention

Becoming a parent also means being acquainted with several small infections encountered during our own childhood. Ear infections are numerous and can leave you having lots of questions. We try to respond to the most frequent ones.

My child is often absentminded!

Do you find yourself often repeating phrases like "Hello? Is anyone there?" ? If so, it seems that your child is often absentminded. Here's how to help your distracted children stay concentrated.

A teenager’s bedroom

Your teenager's bedroom is a disaster. You even invented new words to describe this horrendous place where food and clothes seem to blend into a new kind of carpet but your child doesn't seem to mind. What can you do?

My child is smelly!

Your child is now 6 years old. The innocence of childhood still shines brightly in his or her eyes but… they're smelly! When your child gets hot, you scrunch your nose and smell a tinge of sweat. Are they too young for deodorant?