At What Age Can a Child Use a Knife and Fork?
Once they’ve started eating semi-solid foods and have developed certain motor skills, it’s important to help children learn how to use a knife and fork little by little.
The development of this motor skill will depend on the development of the child’s nervous system. This isn’t the same for all children since it depends on various factors.
With practice, little ones will become familiar with the use of silverware. Thus, their motor coordination will evolve more and more in an extraordinary way.
One of the advantages that children gain when starting to use a knife and fork is their easy progress when learning to write. The children’s parents or guardians must be sure that they’ve acquired sufficient motor control over the use of these utensils.
Until this happens, helping them is essential.
When children start to use a knife and fork
Children will learn certain manners, behaviors or habits from their parents and others adults in their lives. There are some that shouldn’t be allowed, such as poking food with your fingers and chewing with your mouth open. These types of behaviors should be avoided and corrected in case the children repeat them.
Acquiring habits or routines at early ages is beneficial. This favors good manners when sitting at the table and using a knife and fork. However, children shouldn’t be forced to use both utensils at the same time.
Between 12 and 18 months of age, children begin to feed on their own. That’s why, the habit of handling silverware, specifically the fork, must already be instilled at this age.
Its handling will be progressive and gradual, as was initially done with the spoon for soups and purees. After this first implement, the fork is incorporated and lastly, the knife when they attain more skill.
The use of silverware when eating food should be a daily habit. That way, children will learn effectively. The silverware should be of adequate weight, size, and even material.
When planning to use a knife and fork, it’s necessary to consider certain characteristics. The handle must be wide and of non-slip rubber to facilitate the grip, at least until the child is two years old.
Materials according to their use
Avoid materials such as rigid plastics since children, in this stage of curiosity and restlessness, could bite, split, and even swallow some pieces. The parts of the plastic pieces would be harmful to their health. Additionally, this type of silverware isn’t precise when it comes to puncturing and cutting food.
Metal flatware is the most advisable since they aren’t harmful to the child’s health. As for the type of knife, it’s convenient to start with a smooth one, which only serves to manipulate pieces of food alongside the fork.
Meanwhile, the adult should aid in the process by chopping the food and facilitating the handling of both utensils.
“The parents must be sure that their children have acquired sufficient motor control over the use of the silverware. Until this happens, helping them is essential.”
Recommended ages to use a knife and fork
It’s at the age between four and six years when children can start to use a knife to cut more solid foods, such as chicken, meat, vegetables, among others. For this reason, the type of material must adapt to the use and needs that arise at the given time.
At the age of six, children must use a knife and fork together. Sometimes, there are coordination difficulties present while handling them. That’s nothing to worry about, it’s normal.
This process becomes much easier as long as the parents, with much patience and supervision, accompany their kids in this new life challenge.
Learning opportunities for its implementation
With the use of these new utensils, parents should instill good habits, including:
- Hand postures for their use.
- Eating at the same time.
- Not licking the silverware.
- Using the right hand to handle the knife and the left hand to hold the fork. In the case of left-handed children, it will be the other way around.
- Remember that soft foods, like pasta, shouldn’t be cut with the knife, but directly with the fork.
Children learn by imitation and the first years of life are crucial for their learning. It’s advisable for parents to share their mealtime with the children and carry out the proper and constant practice of handling silverware. The children will be watching to repeat the same actions later.
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- María José Mas. (2018) La aventura de tu cerebro: El neurodesarrollo de la célula al adulto. Next Door Publishers.
- Development of rotational movements, hand shaping, and accuracy in advance and withdrawal for the reach-to-eat movement in human infants aged 6-12 months. Infant Behav Dev, 35(3): 543-60.
- Complementary Feeding: A Position Paper by the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition (ESPGHAN) Committee on Nutrition. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr, 64(1): 119-32.