A Dining Set for Solid-Food Eating Babies and Toddlers
Six months is a great age to introduce a high chair that can be pulled up to the table. Once your baby is sitting up well, and is beginning to eat, you can give them the opportunity to join the family at the dining table.
Tips for empowering babies to self-feed
- Use a chair without its own tray. When your baby is sitting in a high chair with a tray that surrounds them, they develop a feeling of separateness from the family meal. When they can sit securely in the chair, but have their belly right at the table where everyone else is, then they will feel a part of the experience. They will feel included.
- At first, feed them from a spoon while they sit next to you, and, on the table in front of them (perhaps on a secured placemat), you can give them small pieces of soft food that they will eventually learn to pick up and feed themselves.
- A child-size dining set offers an enjoyable experience for your little one and will teach them a lot about how to be independent. When your little one has their own utensils, cup, and bowl, they can learn to be an active participant in this activity.
- It may be too much to lay out all the dining ware at once, so you can start with just one utensil and the cup.
- Model how to spear a soft cube of food, such as a sliced sweet potato, with the fork and then bring it to their mouth. For a few months, they may need help getting the food onto their fork, but let them do as much of the process as possible.
- Show your baby how to drink from a little cup. Place a small amount of water in the cup, and then let them bring the cup to their mouth. They probably will not be able to do this successfully for several months, but you can guide the cup with your hands so that they have the experience of drinking from a glass. (Assume that they will spill most of the water as they experiment with how the cup works, but this video from Monti Kids founder Zahra Kassam demonstrates some helpful techniques.)
As your little one becomes more confident with these dining items, you can introduce the spoon and bowl. Show them how to place the spoon into the bowl to get the food and then let them put it in their mouths. As with all Montessori work, if they abuse the materials by throwing them on the floor or repeatedly banging, you can put it away and try again later.
The journey towards independence in eating will not happen overnight, but opportunities from a young age will help them with this process.