Toddler Self-Feeding: How to Get a Toddler to Eat

Toddlers can be picky eaters and getting them to feed themselves can be an additional challenge that can leave you wondering how to get a toddler to eat. 

Teaching a toddler self-feeding is a great way to help them develop their independence and self-esteem. 

But it’s important to know when to start and what methods work best. In this article, we’ll discuss how to teach toddlers self-feeding, when to start, and provide some tips to get a toddler to eat.

Read Also: Quick Kids Breakfast Ideas

Toddler Self Feeding: How to Get a Toddler to Eat

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How to teach toddler self-feeding

When teaching a toddler self-feeding, it’s important to take it slow and focus on safety first. Ideally, you’ll start with a spoon and then move on to a fork when they are ready. Also, you want to provide them with plenty of positive praise when they are successful.

For example, you want to make a big deal about it when they use their spoon instead of their hands, when they don’t pour their plate out, and when they give new foods a try.

It’s also important to make sure that their eating environment is safe. You want to ensure they can comfortably reach their food and securely strap their booster seat to the kitchen chair to avoid accidents.

Additionally, you’ll also want to make sure that you’re serving them small portions that are cut into child-size pieces.

Lastly, young children love to copy what “mom” or “dad” does. Therefore, you should make a habit of eating when they eat so you can model self-feeding to them.

The most important thing is to be patient and consistent. Toddlers learn best through repetition, so it’s important to practice self-feeding consistently.

Should toddlers feed themselves?

Self-feeding is an essential skill for toddlers to learn, and it’s important to start teaching them as soon as you can. Self-feeding can help toddlers develop their cognitive and motor skills, as well as their sense of independence. It can also help them learn to listen to instructions and practice patience.

Self-feeding can also help toddlers become more aware of their environment and the solid foods they are eating. They can learn to recognize flavors and textures, as well as develop their taste buds. It can also help them learn about nutritious foods and healthy eating habits.

When should toddlers start feeding themselves?

Most experts agree that 12 months old is a good time for toddlers to start feeding themselves.

They’re able to sit up unassisted and hold utensils. However, with that being said, every child is different and reaches milestones at different paces so 12 months isn’t going to be the magic age for all toddlers.

You could start off by encouraging self-feeding during snack times and then move on to introducing utensils during family meals.

Toddler self-feeding tips: How to get a toddler to eat

Getting a toddler to eat can be a challenge, but there are a few tips that can help make it easier.

Below are some of my best toddler self-feeding tips that will help you to get a toddler to eat (yes, even your picky toddler):

  • Give them smaller portions that are cut into small pieces so it’s easy for them to pick up with their utensils.
  • Provide them with a variety of healthy food choices such as fruits, vegetables, and proteins.
  • Keep meals short and focused. Limit distractions such as the tv.
  • If they get frustrated it’s okay to take a break and try again later.
  • Shower them with positive reinforcements and praise when they are successful.
  • Be a good example when eating to show them that mealtime is a positive experience.

Common challenges when teaching a toddler to self-feed

Teaching a toddler to self-feed can be challenging, but there are a few common challenges that you can expect.

When you experience these challenges don’t get frustrated. Simply take a break and try again later.

These are the common challenges you may face when teaching a toddler to self-feed:

  1. Throwing food: Toddlers throw food for a variety of reasons. They may be frustrated, tired, or going through a picky stage. You have to remain calm and patient while encouraging good behavior.
  2. Picky eating: Picky eating can be stressful for parents as it feels like you’re wasting a ton of food. In this case, the best way to encourage them to try different foods is to let them see you eating them. Overexaggerate how amazing it tastes and make them feel like it’s something they have to try and they may give in.
  3. Distraction: Toddlers get distracted easily so the next time you’re encouraging self-feeding make sure it’s a distraction-free zone. No tv in the background or pets begging for food, so they can zero in on what’s happening at the dinner table.
  4. Refusing to eat: At times your toddler may simply refuse to eat altogether even though you know they are hungry. Patience is going to be important during these times, but it doesn’t hurt to allow them to have some healthy snacks instead of the prepared meal to ensure that they are eating something. Also, make sure to offer water because it could be that they just need something to drink before the start of the meal.

Tips for making self-feeding easier for your toddler

There are a few tips that can help make self-feeding easier for your toddler and yourself.

  • Have a safe, distraction-free eating environment
  • Make sure they have appropriately sized utensils for their hands
  • Provide a variety of food groups
  • Start with a smaller amount of food
  • Keep meals short
  • Shower them with positive reinforcement and praise for every success 

Toddler self-feeding essentials

Now, that we’ve discussed how to get a toddler to eat and gone over toddler self-feeding basis, it’s time to move on to toddler self-feeding essentials. It’s a good idea to have a few of these items on hand to make your toddler’s self-feeding journey go smoother.

These recommended items will make mealtime easier AND help with the cleanup too.


Grabease 4 Piece Set

Grabease specializes in self-feeding essentials for toddlers. Their products are ergonomic and nontoxic while helping your toddler build their confidence and keep their food put.

In my opinion, every parent of a toddler should have their 4 Piece Self Feeding Set because it’s sturdy, sticks to most surfaces, and provides eating utensils that are the perfect size.

It’s pretty much perfect for those who are doing baby-lead weaning (BLW).

Table Tyke

Table Tyke

Table Tyke is another toddler self-feeding essential because it provides the added benefit of adding another safety precaution to the dinner table.

It features a table bumper feature, which keeps toddlers safe in the event that they go into temper tantrum mode or start nodding off during mealtime. Plus, it’s compact so you can definitely take it with you when eating out at restaurants.

The best part is it’s designed to keep spills contained and it’s super easy to clean!

BraveJusticeKidsCo Snack Cups


When it comes to snack cups, BraveJusticeKidsCo checks all of the boxes.

Their snack cups are aesthetically appealing, collapsible, functional, and easy to clean. They’re also durable and soft so they can withstand whatever your toddler throws at them.

Whether your toddler is snacking at home or on the go, they are something that you don’t want to be without.


Teaching a toddler self-feeding is an important skill for them to learn. It’s important to start when they are ready and to take it slow. It’s also important to provide a safe environment and the right essentials. 

Most importantly, it’s important to provide plenty of positive reinforcement and praise when they are successful. With patience, a positive attitude, and consistency, your toddler will learn to self-feed in no time.

Toddler Self-Feeding: How to Get a Toddler to Eat


  1. It’s a good idea to let your child practise from a much earlier age.

  2. Appreciate the tips! My sister finds it challenging to feed her son. Shared this post with her. Very helpful.

  3. Catalina says:

    I remember that feeding a toddler is not easy and it’s the most important part at that age. We need a lot of patience and a good tip can always help!

  4. Melanie E says:

    Mine were all picky eaters, it wasn’t fun. Distraction helps.

  5. I remember those days when I had to encourage my kids to eat, or listening to their favorite song, to my surprise they would eat.

  6. We are going through this right now. So frustrating at times, but so rewarding too.

  7. My sister is struggling with this right now. Her toddler is a very picky eater!

  8. Melissa Cushing says:

    Such great tips here and I always did so well with this one. I so miss when they were at this age and never rush it as it goes by so fast!

  9. I babysit my Godson often and I’m working with him on this. He really loves the soft chewable silicone spoons. He’s a picky eater though!

  10. Great post! We are dealing with this right now! It’s a little better but whoa. we do play games to help

  11. Amber Myers says:

    I remember these days. It can be tricky. I found singing helped my kids eat for some reason.

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