Introducing Toddlers to Utensils and Cups
When should I introduce my toddler to a cup?
Parents often wonder when the time is right to introduce their toddler to a cup. Like every other developmental milestone, this, of course, will vary from child to child. Not every toddler will make this transition at the same time. However, there are general guidelines you should be aware of. Most pediatricians recommend tossing the bottle around your child’s first birthday. The Centers for Disease Control lists 18 months as the developmental marker for independently drinking from a cup. While most parents initially opt to transition to a sippy cup, some go ahead and introduce a regular drinking cup. The choice is yours to make, but keep the welfare of your carpet in mind when making this decision!
How can I help my toddler transition to a cup?
Need some tips to make the transition from bottle to cup a smooth one? Try these strategies:
- Make the transition gradual by replacing one daily bottle feeding with the cup. In another three to seven days, replace an additional feeding. Continue this way until your child is using the cup for every feeding.
- If your child initially has trouble holding the cup, hold it for her as you would a bottle. Her fine motor skills will eventually develop enough for her to hold it independently.
- Use the cup exclusively for milk, and use the bottle only for water.
When should I introduce my toddler to utensils?
Again, the right time to introduce your toddler to utensils will vary depending on your toddler. Some will catch on easily and start feeding themselves by 12-15 months, whereas others will take longer. The Centers for Disease Control lists 18 months as the developmental marker for eating with a spoon.
How can I help my toddler transition to utensils?
The transition from being fed to using utensils can be a tough one for your toddler. Here are a few tips:
- Let your toddler hold a spoon while you feed him with another.
- Give your toddler “utensil friendly” foods. For example, sticky oatmeal will be more likely to stay on the spoon as it takes the journey to your child’s mouth, whereas peas will likely roll off onto the floor.
- Be patient. Eating with utensils will be messy at first. Your toddler will probably get more food on the floor than in his mouth. Don't worry – this too shall pass!
A few reminders:
- Despite your wishful thinking, these developmental milestones will not happen overnight. It takes several months to master the use of cups and utensils, but most toddlers will have a good handle on these tasks by about 24 months of age.
- Your toddler's sense of self is emerging. Zero to Three, The National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families, reminds us that, “It is a toddler's job to be oppositional. This is the period in your child's development when she begins to understand she is separate from you and can exert some control over her world.” Therefore, remember that when your toddler insists on feeding herself rather than allowing you to do it quickly, she is simply doing her job and becoming more independent. This is a good thing, and don't worry— it will not always be so painfully slow and messy!