Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 4: Nutrition and Food Service

4.3 Requirements for Special Groups or Ages of Children

4.3.2 Nutrition for Toddlers and Preschoolers Encouraging Self-Feeding by Older Infants and Toddlers

Content in the STANDARD was modified on 5/31/2018 and 2/9/2023.

Caregivers/teachers should encourage older infants and toddlers to:1

  • Hold and drink from an appropriate child-sized cup.
  • Use a child-sized spoon (short handle with a shallow bowl like a soup spoon).
  • Use a child-sized fork (short, blunt tines and broad handle, similar to a salad fork).

All of these are developmentally appropriate for young children to feed themselves. Children can also use their fingers for self-feeding. Children in group care should have opportunities to serve and eat a variety of food for themselves. Foods should be appropriate for the toddler’s developmental ability and cut small enough to avoid choking.


As children enter the second year after birth, they are interested in doing things for themselves. Self-feeding appropriately separates the responsibilities of adults and children. The caregivers/teachers and parents/guardians are responsible for offering nutritious food, and the child is responsible for deciding how much of it to eat.1,2 To allow for the proper development of motor skills and eating habits, children need to be allowed to practice feeding themselves as early as 9 months old.1,3 Children will continue to self-feed using their fingers even after learning how to use a utensil.



American Academy of Pediatrics

Starting Solid Foods -

Center, Early Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS Serving Size for Toddlers and Preschoolers Numbers of Children Fed Simultaneously by One Adult Adult Supervision of Children Who Are Learning to Feed Themselves Foods that Are Choking Hazards
  1. U.S Department of Agriculture. WIC Works Resource System. WIC infant nutrition and feeding guide. Chapter 5: Complementary foods. Web site. Published April 2019. Accessed November 20, 2022

  2. American Academy of Pediatrics. Infant food and feeding. Web site. Published July 06, 2021. Accessed November 20, 2022

  3. U.S Department of Agriculture. Food and Nutrition Service. Feeding infants in the Child and Adult Care Food Program. Web site. Published July 2021. Accessed November 20, 2022


Content in the STANDARD was modified on 5/31/2018 and 2/9/2023.