Eating Development: key milestones
If you thought feeding your baby had its challenges, then eating with a toddler is going to be even more amusing for you! The good news is your little one is now well on their way to enjoying foods that the family eats.
Around 12 to 18 months your toddler’s coordination is improving, helping to lift food to their mouth more easily and drink from a cup with some help. They can now move their tongue side to side allowing them to chew and swallow well. They may start to refuse some foods, as they begin to utilise their independence. Make sure you sit down with them while they eat as there is always the risk of choking.
Around 18 months your toddler is able to bite pieces off larger amounts of food, even if the foods are of different textures and thicknesses. They might be able to chew with their lips closed at times and will be able to hold and drink from a cup without spilling any liquid. The more practice they have at this the better they will be.
Around 24 – 36 months your toddler is able to move their jaw in different ways to manage larger bites, and can now eat food that the whole family is eating, all by themselves. Chewing will help develop their facial muscles that are important for speech. Table manners will start to develop as they begin to wipe their own mouth and hands, serve themselves and pour liquids into their cup, with some spill. Your toddler will now know the difference between food and non-food items and start to show clear likes and dislikes of some foods.
Remember, all children are different – be patient as they explore foods and experiment with different tastes and textures. Try to embrace the mess, keeping meal time a fun and stress free environment. This will give your toddler confidence to continue to learn through food and the reassurance that meal times are a positive experience.