General Question

jeanmay's avatar

When does a child start using cutlery?

Asked by jeanmay (3424points) August 16th, 2009

My son is seventeen months old, and although he can hold a spoon he prefers to eat with his fingers. A friend of mine has a 10 year old who can only use a fork, so she cuts up all his food for him! When is the right age for independent cutlery use? Do you remember learning how to use a knife and fork?

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27 Answers

Zen's avatar

Start with plastic fork and spoon, graduating to plastic knife. If you eat with him, and show him how to use the fork (then later knife and fork) eventually he’ll get it by your example.

Encourage him, and he’ll take pride in his success. Eventually, he’ll master it.


marinelife's avatar

That is still very young for cutlery. Here is some information from the LaLeche League. Excerpt:

“It is great that your son (age 3) eats a varied diet and enjoys his food. The ability to use cutlery is not dissimilar to the ability to use a pencil; we would not expect a three-year-old to be able to write his name! At the moment, your son probably finds it is just more efficient to use his fingers. Young children love to imitate other members of the family, so encourage his interest in using cutlery by eating together and displaying good table manners. Praise him if he starts to imitate your behavior.

At age three, my daughter, Laura, was given her own small knife, fork, and spoon set one Christmas with her name on, which she enjoyed using. When she was five, we bought some new matching “everyday” cutlery for the family to use. She was very taken with this and insisted on using the new set just like everyone else, despite its larger size. As with learning any new skill, practice makes perfect but requires time and gentle encouragement.”

sakura's avatar

I don’t think 17months is too young to start introducing cutlery especially if its child friendly stuff. My daughter was given a spoon to hold as soon as she started on solids, I encouraged her to dip it in the bowl I was using to feed her form and suck the spoon to begin with. As she got to 15/17months she started to have a spoon and a fork then as she got to about 3 or 4 she got the knife (child’s size) Tommee Tippee have a great range of child cutlery and most supermarkets useually have their own kind.
To me you don’t need to force the issue just have them there for your child to “play” with and experiment with first, lead by example and they will copy :)

Good Luck and remember finger food is just as important as a child needs to experience mess and squidgy food. Pasta is excellent for this with a bit of sauce :)

ragingloli's avatar

as soon as he can eat meat.

Jack79's avatar

Depends on the parents I think. That 10 year old you mention can’t use a knife, because the parents never trusted the child enough with one. I was quite apprehensive about letting my daughter use sharp objects, then my girlfriend (at the time) who also had a 3-y-old told me something that made sense: that the only way they’ll ever learn to not get cut, is by using them under supervision. Her 3yo could already use scissors, mine couldn’t. So I slowly let mine also try, first with scissors and paper, later with knife. I still helped her cut most of the meat so she wouldn’t starve to death, but left her one or two big chunks so that she’d get the practice. Yeah, she dropped most of it on the floor, but then again I know plenty of adults who can’t slice a steak either.
And it’s of course better to start them with potatoes and later maybe an egg, or bread, or a cucumber.

sandystrachan's avatar

When you offer food you should offer baby cutlery , baby will then be able to work out what to do and start feeding himself . My daughters always got cutlery when it was time for baby or proper food , just so they could work out what its for and try to self feed .

PandoraBoxx's avatar

Start with a child sized spoon, and something mushy that will stick to a spoon, like macaroni and cheese, and guide your child’s hand. Mealtimes will be a mess, but that’s part of learning. It’s easier to continue to feed them messy stuff because there’s less clean-up, but they never really learn if you do.

nebule's avatar

My son is now 2 months of being 3. He has just started to use a knife and fork, although he does struggle a little he is doing quite well. I have a niece who is 8 and she struggles. I think it’s like anything else with just needs your attention…but I think around about 2 and a half is probably about the right time…or…when they can use a pencil

Jack79's avatar

—yeah! Lynne is back! :)—

Why was I under the impression Theo was less than 2?

casheroo's avatar

My son is 25 months (two) and he uses a fork and spoon just fine. He has plastic ones, and metal ones.
This brand is my favorite to learn with We have tons of them!
He also uses metal forks and spoons like these

Your son is 17 months, he needs to be feeding himself. Of course it’ll be messy, but that is how children learn. I do cut my sons food up for him, and don’t think we’ll introduce a knife for at least another year or two.

nebule's avatar

lol @Jack79 oh you have brightened my day! I was going to do some gardening and cleaning..but got distracted and started might just do a bit more and then hope it rains so I can continue! lol

oh and…I don’t know..he is 3 in November x

ShanEnri's avatar

I’d say by 3 or 4 years they should have good use of fork and spoon. Always the ones they sell specifically for children. As far as knives go I’d say about 8–10 years should be ok to introduce them to it. It also depends on there hand coordination. If it develops quickly then let them use a knife at around 8 years with supervision of course!

gailcalled's avatar

I went to a barbeque yesterday, and we ate tabouli off a lettuce leaf with our fingers.

My kids started with a little silver spoon and nature took its course. By the time I shipped them off to college, they were more-or-less civilized and were allowed out alone.

JLeslie's avatar

Not sure when to start, but I would say by the age of 12 (more or less) children should know how to hold a fork and knife properly. It’s embarrasing that much of the US seems to not know that you control utensils with your forefinger when cutting, this applies to adults and children. If you can control a pencil, I would assume you can also control a fork and knife. I remember learning to hold a fork and knife properly when I was 15, because my boyfriend showed/corrected me. I wish my parents had earlier. Both of my parents hold their flatware correctly, so I’m not sure why they didn’t? My parents let me use a fork and knife from a very young age…since before I can remember. It was embarrassing learning from my boyfriend the proper etiquette on this once I had already started dating.

nebule's avatar

I’m quite shocked that people are saying like..nearly teenage years,.... I could use a knife and fork when I was 5… Am I weird?

sandystrachan's avatar

@lynneblundell You aint weird just everyone else is .
@JLeslie Is there a person who cuts up school meals in your area , damn kids should be using forks and knives WAY before age of 12 thats just stupidity on the parents part .

JLeslie's avatar

@sandystrachan I agree. I said I was using a fork and knife since before I can remember, so before age 4…I started kindergarten at 4. But, a lot of kids hold their fork and knife with a death grip like fist, instead of the proper way, that is what I was referring to. Do you think kids learn that very young? If they do I am glad to hear it.

YARNLADY's avatar

I think by cutlery Jennifer is referring to eating utensils, not sharp knives. I offered children’s forks and spoons to my Grandson around 12 – 14 months, but he didn’t start using them until around 2½. Even now, he only uses them sopradically, and when he does, the food mostly falls onto his bib.

Sarcasm's avatar

Let him eat with his fingers for the rest of his life.
It’s so much more efficient.

teh_kvlt_liberal's avatar

Even soup?
You’re mad I tell you, MAD!

jeanmay's avatar

Thanks for all the thoughts and advice. My son was happily experimenting with a yogurt yesterday and managed to dip his spoon in and get some of it in his mouth! He was delighted by our encouraging response.

I don’t remember learning to use cutlery, so I must have been young. The child I know who only uses a fork eats junk food mainly (according to his aunt), and hardly ever eats anything that requires a knife. Seems sad to me.

casheroo's avatar

@jennifermay Good luck! My son is great with a spoon and fork, but yogurt is always a mess! I have to hose him down afterwards haha

avvooooooo's avatar

The only way to gain fine motor control is to practice it. Start with a spoon and then move to a fork and then a knife as your child can control them. I was working in a 1–2 year old room at a day care and there was one 2 year old who amazed me because he was eating yogurt with Nilla wafters and scooping it up (also a decent way to learn how to use something other than fingers) and he only had one little spot of yogurt on his face. Other children at the same general level had a much harder time of it (and were covered). Development is individual and some kids are better than others, but those who are allowed to practice are allowed to learn. Give the kid a spoon and then get to the other stuff as you feel he’s ready. And you can use round crackers and such with peanut butter for learning the scooping motion if you want.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

I was about 2–3yrs old when I was given a smaller (salad fork) to use at the table. When I entered school, we were taught table manners through weekly luncheons of students and staff, most of us were between 7 and 10yrs old.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

My 3 year old can use a fork and a spoon and knows what a knife is and can use it only in my presence but he doesn’t really use it for food…so for now I cut his food for him…but I expect him to eat at least one of the 3 parts of each meal on his own

Ron_C's avatar

I remember training our kids to use utensils, they started with spoons, then forks, then butter knives. No steak knives until they were older, I hate blood at the dinner table.

I was in a restaurant in China and watched parents teaching their kid to use chop sticks.
What a mess, it was pretty funny for me, not so much for the parents. I hope they left a big tip because there was more food under the table than in the kid, plus a few flying chop sticks.

MzMack's avatar

I can’t really answer this but I’m baby sitting 3 kids right now. One is in grade school (have no idea what grade) the others are preschool. The oldest has no trouble with utensils. The younger ones most definitely. Stabbing their food seems to be the normal fashion for them. I’m not sure when I’ll end up feeding them again. When I do though, I will be watching and teaching them how to use their forks. Spoons do not seem to be a problem. I asked one of them and was told that their mom rarely sits with them at meal times. I took some of the earlier comments and asked the youngest to show me how he holds his fork. Yep..stabbing the food. One wants to use a fork with a really skinny handle, the other wants the fork with the fat handle..both were actually salad forks..that is also telling since it shows where their motor skills are. Thanks for all the tips. I really appreciate them.

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