My Toddler Refuses to Use Utensils Before Busy Baby

Real talk... I am a pediatric OT and my son REFUSED to use his utensils when eating at the table for the longest time!

We introduced utensils early with him through baby-led weaning (BLW) methods. I would pre-load a spoon, place the spoon in his hand, and he would consume the food. 

But, once he got older, getting him to complete the sequence of scooping and bringing to mouth all by himself seemed like it would never happen. 

I tried everything - hand over hand, modeling, forward / backward chaining (just a fancy word for doing parts of the activities for him), and more! He really just refused which would result in using his little hands, which made a HUGE mess (and wasn’t very good manners 😉).

I stumbled upon the Busy Baby Stop-Drop Travel Bib+ Utensils this past fall and this product has CHANGED my son's independent utensil usage game!

Busy baby Stop Drop travel bib plus utensils helped my toddler start using utensils.

Busy Baby Bib and Utensil combo changed everything ⬇️

And, let me tell you why!

This Busy Baby bib is like a normal silicone bib that a baby wears UNTIL IT ISN'T! 

The utensils attach to the bib, which is a GAME CHANGER. The best part - the utensils are ALWAYS available for the child to use. Because our biggest problem in encouraging self-feeding skills with my son was that he could never keep the utensils on the table. And no utensils in sight = no utensils used! At least for my child.

I would place the Busy Baby Stop-Drop Travel Bib+ Utensils on my son at mealtime and show him through hand over hand how to use the utensils on the bib. I would allow him to choose, asking him "Do you want to scoop with the spoon? Or stab with the fork?". Allowing him to choose gave him a sense of ownership and confidence. 

After modeling with his desired utensil, I would praise him for a job well done! After several times of using the Busy Baby Stop-Drop Travel Bib+ Utensils at mealtime, he is using a utensil like a champ no matter what utensils he is using! I was so thankful. Now, he’s almost two and he is doing so well using his utensils like a pro!

So, let me break our method of teaching independent utensil usage a bit further.  

And explain, in-depth, how we got from ONLY hand feeding (like seriously just shoveling food in with his palms....) to beautiful minimal mess utensil usage with the Busy Baby Stop-Drop Travel Bib+ Utensils. 

Step 1: Ensure interest in the task

Interest is EVERYTHING. From toy interest to promote gross motor movement, to knowing when a child is ready for this new utensil usage task - interest is a big factor.


When ensuring your child is interested and able to use a utensil, ask yourself questions like:

Can they grasp the utensil well? 

When given the utensil, do they hold and attempt to bring it to mouth?

Do they show interest in using the utensil by reaching to grasp the utensil, and attempting to manipulate?

Do they attempt to scoop food, but are unsuccessful in bringing the loaded spoon to mouth?

All of these are questions we should ask ourselves to understand if our child is interested and ready for independent utensil usage. 

You can begin to introduce utensils with your child as early as starting solids, but the sequence and skill requirements for independent utensil usage are difficult. Your baby may tolerate using utensils with assistance, but they may not show interest in independent utensil usage until 10 months +. 

Step 2: Provide a utensil that is easy to grasp and use

The Busy Baby bib’s utensils are GREAT for a child that is ready for independent utensil usage, which is usually around the 10-12 month mark. 

This utensil set is much different than a beginner spoon because these utensils mimic an actual utensil the child will use as they grow. 

These utensils have a textured handle for easy grasping and are small in size, and appropriate for an older infant and toddler-aged child.

A knife is included for an easy introduction to cutting, which is a great activity for fine motor coordination and bilateral hand skills (using both hands together at the same time). I recommend introducing utensils in this order beginning at age 10-12 months: spoon, fork, knife. I recommend waiting to introduce a new utensil once the child has mastered the usage of the current one.

These utensils also have a textured end where the food is placed, so mouthing these items during those dreaded teething phases has never been better! 

These utensils are also dishwasher safe, and free from harmful chemicals, which is an added bonus! 

Hook these utensils to your baby’s Busy Baby bib and watch them learn independent utensil usage in no time!

Step 3: Practice with non-edible foods to make it fun and engaging

I love to introduce a contrived activity in prep for independent completion of an actual task.

Contrived, in lay terms, just means a task that is a little different than the actual task, but includes lots of the same skills required. 

For example, in prep for independent fork usage, you could have your child stab play doh with a fork to practice the movement and sequence. 

This practice with Play-Doh lays a solid foundation for the actual self-feeding sequence, isolates difficult skills required, like fine motor coordination, and builds confidence and excitement in the task.

I did this with James, my first born SEVERAL times when teaching him to use his utensils, and it worked like a champ! 

Practice with your toddler using non-edible food to make it fun and engaging.

Step 4: Choose foods that are easy to use with utensils

This is a BIG ONE! Because no one can pick up super tiny foods with a fork, or scoop soup well at first, right!?


When I choose foods for my son to self-feed independently, I think of size, texture/consistency, and shape. 

Size - choose large foods at first that are easy to stab or scoop. This will allow the child to practice, all while building confidence and minimizing frustration.

Texture/consistency - choose more solid textured foods! This will allow the child’s food to stay on the utensil, allowing them to successfully complete the task with minimal spills!

Shape - small, and round is probably not the easiest thing to use with a fork right!? I opt for larger, more rectangular, square, or large round shapes in those initial days of working on independent utensil usage with your child.

As the child becomes more efficient, you can explore and experiment with more of variety!

Step 5: Model and use hand over hand strategies to show the child the movement

This is a BIG one and fits in a similar category to the contrived activity with Play-Doh. 

Modeling, and using hand over hand assistance, are great ways to teach the child the proper sequence and motor skills required in completing independent self feeding with utensils. 

When modeling, verbalize what you are doing so the child knows where to focus their attention.

For example, “Ooooo, look at mommy SCOOPING. How fun is this!?” 

And then, use your hand over the child’s hand with the utensil intact, and verbalize that same (or similar) cue. 

This combination of tasks will allow the child to begin to understand the sequencing of the task, and the proper motor skills and precision required. 

Step 6: PRAISE the child for a beautiful job well done!

Lastly, PRAISE your child when they complete independent utensil usage! Because we all love positive reinforcement, right!?

With James, my first child, I will always notice when he is using his utensils and compliment him when I see a job well done. 

For example, if we are out at a restaurant and he is using his Busy Baby utensils, I may say “Wow James, you are doing a really great job with your spoon buddy!”

This gives him the confidence to keep going, and reinforces this good, and appropriate mealtime behavior!

Praise your child for a beautiful job well done after using utensil.

One thing I will do with my second born as she gets older is introduce independent utensil usage activities using the Busy Baby bib earlier! I will start modeling and using hand-over-hand skills as soon as she starts solids (around 6 months), but I will begin to really reinforce utensil usage through these strategies around 10-12 months of age! 

Wrap Up

I hope this helps you introduce utensils to your little one! Life is so fun with them, and they are learning so much!

Be sure to shop this Busy Baby bib here!

Thanks for reading!

Brooke, OTR/L

Brooke, OTR/L

Brooke, an occupational therapist and mom, runs  Infant Insights  in Georgia. She's experienced in treating infants with conditions like developmental delays and plagiocephaly. Motivated by her personal journey as a concerned parent, Brook aims to empower and educate parents on nurturing their infants' development.

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