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 05/31/2018.

Caregivers/teachers should encourage older infants and toddlers to:

     -hold and drink from an appropriate child-sized cup,

     -use a child-sized spoon (short handle with a shallow bowl like a soup spoon), and

     -use a child-sized fork (short, blunt tines and broad handle, similar to a salad fork).

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


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 providing 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 of age (3,4). Children will continue to self-feed using their fingers even after mastering the use of a utensil.

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. McCrickerd K, Leong C, Forde CG. Preschool children's sensitivity to teacher-served portion size is linked to age related differences in leftovers. Appetite. 2017;114:320–328
  2. American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition. Pediatric Nutrition. Kleinman RE, Greer FR, eds. 7th ed. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics; 2014

  3. Williamson C, Beatty C. Weaning and childhood nutrition. InnovAiT. 2015;8(3):141–145

  4. Fewtrell M, Bronsky J, Campoy C, et al. Complementary feeding: a position paper by the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition (ESPGHAN) Committee on Nutrition. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2017;64(1):119–132


Content in the STANDARD was modified on 05/31/2018.