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Most children start feeding themselves between 12 to 15 months, when fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination allow them to handle a cup, spoon, and fork (although meals will still be pretty messy until after age 2). Go ahead and give your child a spoon to grasp during meals between 6 and 8 months (most infants this age can start holding things) and continue to feed him with another spoon that you hold. Once your child expresses an interest in copying you and feeding himself, let him have at it -- but we recommend buying one of those washable plastic mats to place under his high chair. Give your toddler thicker foods, like yogurt or chunky rice soup, which are easier to manage. Offering a cup of milk or water during bathtime is also a mess-free way to help your child learn to drink from a cup. --Elizabeth Rusch
Copyright 2005. Reprinted with permission from the August 2005 issue of Parents magazine. Updated 2009
The answers from our experts are for educational purposes only. Please always refer to your child's pediatrician and mental health expert for more in-depth advice.