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Q&A:
Is it normal for a 17-month-old to still be eating with his hands?

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Question


Our son will be 17 months old soon and though he is taking his first steps, he is still unsteady and would prefer to hold our finger and take us around. Should we be allowing this or continually encouraging independent walking? He also does not like eating with utensils, and prefers using his hands. He has been eating like this since he was 9 months old and has not mastered scooping his food. Should we insist that he eat yogurt with a spoon, or just allow him to eat with his hands?

Answer


Your child's development sounds normal from what you've said. Give him the support he needs to move around his world, including the chance to move on his own on safe, level surfaces. Most kids like to explore their food with their hands, especially if they are very hungry or tired. Using utensils takes a lot more work at this age so he'll put in the effort inconsistently. Give him a spoon at every meal but don't insist, and eat with him at least some of the time or let him sit in his high chair while you have a meal. Kids naturally imitate, so watching you will be inspirational. Spoon use is very unreliable and messy at first, so don't expect too much right away. It sounds as if you have some general worries about your child's development, so I'd like to make a suggestion: Go to the health care section of the Well Baby part of this site and look at the 18-month visit. Go through the list of what to expect and what to worry about. Bring the list and any concerns to your son's health care provider at his 18-month visit. My guess is that you will get reassurance about how he is doing but in a very specific, individual, and focused way.  
 
 
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My son is 21 months old and will switch between using a fork and spoon and eating with his hands. I ..

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