Once your rookie eater has graduated from milk to solid foods, they may be ready to take the job of eating into their own hands with a baby-friendly fork or spoon. Sure, it won’t be pretty (sweet-potato splatters on the ceiling, anyone?), but it will allow your kiddo’s developmental skills to soar, as they creep closer to eating independently with the rest of the family! 

With some patience (and, let’s be honest, lots of clean-up), you’ll help your mini muncher explore eating in a way that makes them feel a little more in charge at mealtime. But you don’t have to go it alone! We’re here to tell you what you need to know about your little one’s readiness for spoons and forks, what to look for when shopping for baby utensils, and what foods to offer as you introduce these new tools. 

When can babies use spoons and forks?

From 6 months: Let your baby explore with a spoon.

Around the 6-month mark you probably introduced solids for the first time. Maybe you spoon-fed your little one mashed banana, watching their eyes widen in disbelief that something could taste so yummy. As your baby gets more confident with feeding, they may also literally try to take matters into their own hands by grabbing the spoon. That’s because around 6 months, babies use their whole hands to hold items in their view, also known as the palmar grasp. Though yes, it will result in a mess, go ahead and give into your little grabber! This is the first stage of utensil use. If your tot’s handsy-ness is interfering with your ability to zoom little bites into their mouth, you could even offer them one spoon to hold and chew on while you use another to feed them.

From 10 months: Babies start to use spoons and forks independently.

If your baby isn’t trying to snag the spoon from your grasp during feeding time, that’s perfectly okay, too, because babies aren’t usually ready to use forks and spoons independently until 10 to 12 months. At this point, your baby can start to feed themselves with utensils. Just keep in mind that they aren’t yet eating experts, and they won’t use utensils every time they eat. At this age, your tiny gourmand is starting to pick up foods using their pincer grasp (meaning they employ their pointer finger and thumb to grab finger foods). You may notice around this age that they're more interested in using their utensils, though they will be using their fingers to eat most of the time.

From 18 months: Baby’s fork and spoon use improves as motor skills grow.

You can expect your kiddo to be a spoon-and-fork novice for quite some time, and they should start using utensils with less of a mess somewhere between 18 and 24 months. Around this time, your tot will use spoons and forks more consistently. 

How can I help my baby or toddler use utensils?

Offer utensils during infancy. 

Whether spoon-feeding pureed foods, feeding via baby-led weaning (BLW), or doing a combo, it helps introduce a spoon and fork to your baby around 6 months. Since your little is newly eating, you might consider offering “pretensils:” dippable utensils that bypass any need for scooping or poking. Pretensils trap purees with a single dip, making them easy to use for your tiny eater. Or depending on the thickness of the puree, a regular silicone baby spoon might work fine (simply dip the spoon into your puree, and give your little one the handle to hold).

Early exposure to feeding tools can get little ones used to the idea of using them. Of course, don’t expect your baby to use a fork or spoon “the right way” for a while! Spoons and forks for young babies are just for learning, growth, and practice. As your wee one gets comfortable with utensils, they may deploy them primarily for play. When it comes to actually getting food into the mouth, hands are still the best utensil at this age! Using hands to eat helps build oral-motor skills while offering them a tasty sensory experience. 

Pre-load baby purees on a spoon.

Babies typically learn to use spoons before forks.  At 6 months, babies are still improving and fine-tuning their hand-eye coordination. They won’t be able to successfully scoop up a spoonful of yogurt on their own or spear a piece of salmon with a fork. Gripping utensils with tiny hands, moving the arms, and bringing them to the mouth takes tons of coordination, and your baby will be working on skill development here.  Babies can grow frustrated when they can’t get food to their mouths (we’ve all been hangry before, right?). To lessen the potential food fury, pre-load your tot’s utensil and hand it to them; from there, they’ll know what to do! 

Model utensil use during meals for your baby.

Your baby is watching you to figure out how forks and spoons work. Prioritize eating together, so Baby learns self-feeding skills through your example. Bring the highchair or toddler seat to the family table, so your peanut has a front-row seat.

What should I look for in utensils for my baby or toddler?

The grownup silverware will need to wait until your baby is older. In the meantime, you’ll want to stock up on baby- and toddler-friendly forks and spoons.

Here’s what to look for in baby and toddler utensils:

  • Easy-to-grip
  • Easy-to-clean
  • Wide short handle (for babies 6+ months)
  • Lightweight
  • Silicone or another soft material
  • BPA-free
  • Durable
  • Curved forks (helpful for toddlers) 
  • Blunt end (once your baby graduates to stainless steel toddler utensils)  

What foods are best when introducing utensils?

Best Foods for Baby Spoons

Babies need time to get the hang of spoon usage, so you as the parent or caregiver will be doing most of the feeding until they’re more developmentally ready to spoon-feed on their own, around 10 to 12 months. 

When introducing spoons, offer purees or thicker foods starting from 6 months:

  • Cream of wheat
  • Oatmeal
  • Unsweetened applesauce
  • Plain whole-milk yogurt
  • Pudding
  • Fruit/veggie smoothie bowl
  • Bowl of cereal (Cheerios + formula or breastmilk) starting at 9 months

Best Foods for Baby Forks

It’s okay to introduce forks early on, but don’t expect your baby to use them with ease until around 18 months. When introducing forks, offer finger foods that are easily poke-able:

  • Cubed avocados
  • Diced squash
  • Chopped turkey meatballs
  • Diced pancakes
  • Diced cheddar cheese
  • Chopped tofu
  • Cut-up boiled egg
  • Diced seedless watermelon
  • Diced sweet potatoes 

More Tips on Feeding a Baby:

About Gabrielle McPherson

Gabrielle McPherson, MS, RDN, LDN is registered dietitian in Missouri who specializes in community and pediatric nutrition. Gaby is passionate about encouraging families to eat well in simple, practical ways that are realistic...and delicious! When not working, Gaby loves cooking, baking, and making messes and memories with her sous-chef/preschooler Charlotte.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.