Self-Eating in Babies

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Supporting children’s independence is one of the most important goals in Montessori education. This education starts from birth and infancy is a very important process in which independence develops.

Self-feeding is much easier and cleaner than having an adult teach a 6-month-old baby to eat. So why does the Montessori philosophy emphasize doing it on their own for kids younger than two?

According to the ontessori theory, the child’s education for independence begins from the moment they are born and progresses as children learn to be functioning and empowered individuals. It often begins through practical life activities centered on caring for themselves.

Mealtime provides important opportunities for babies to develop fine motor skills, coordination and sensory skills necessary for self-management. Although this may seem like a small step, it is a huge achievement for the baby.

Switching to the Practice Cup
One of the first steps in eating and drinking independence training is to switch from a bottle or breast-feeding to a drinking cup. This is often a big step for babies as they are still in the process of developing the fine motor skills needed to hold and move objects.

As with most developmental stages, there is no “perfect” age to make the transition from bottle or breast to sippy cup. However, there are a few signs that your child may be in a sensitive period to develop this new skill.

When your child shows the behavior of holding their own bottle and reaching for objects around them, you can introduce them to the exercise cup.

Practice cups are a good transitional device for kids to learn to grasp objects, hold them firmly, and learn the coordination between their hands and mouths. It also allows children to develop confidence while drinking.

Using Open Cups
Once your child has mastered the practice cup, you can switch to the open cup. In fact, many parents choose to skip the intermediate cup step to use an open cup without directly bottle or breast feeding.

Skipping the practice glass is more suited to the Montessori approach as it encourages the child to learn through real-life experiences. When transitioning to an open cup, you can start by filling a small cup halfway. However, when the process is considered for the parent, the exercise cup step can provide convenience.

Using a clear glass allows children to experience pouring. They develop hand-eye coordination and become adept at bringing it to the mouth. At first it will pour a lot, but over time your child will learn to drink independently.

Switching to Self Nutrition
Introducing solid foods is an exciting step for babies as it is a new sensory experience. It also provides great opportunities to develop independence skills.

When your child is in the sensitive period to learn how to feed themselves, you will see a number of signs. These often include imitating you when you eat, trying to hold onto your utensils, or reaching out to eat from your plate.

You can start your child self-feeding classes with a small spoon, a small bowl, and a fruit or vegetable puree. It is also an alternative to start with steamed vegetables by letting them eat with their hands.

Children who feed themselves develop sensory skills as they hear, touch and smell their food. Through sensory exploration, children learn about the temperature difference between cooked and fresh food and understand that some dishes are better eaten with a spoon and fork, preferring to eat some by hand.

Feeding times are the perfect opportunity to build confidence in your child as they learn to do things for themselves.

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