Feeding Development

General Tips for a Successful Mealtime Experience

  • Make mealtime positive through praise and role-modeling! Eat with your child as often as you can. Children learn best when watching others, and do well with an appropriate role model sitting next to them. Include young infants and toddlers into your family's mealtime, even if they are not eating! Build healthy habits by encouraging children to try foods (only if they are willing and able according to their age and abilities) and do not try to force anything. Praise your child often so they feel proud and happy to continue positive mealtime behaviors! 
  • Keep it routine! Children of all ages benefit from having snacks and meals at the same time (and same place!) each day. Designate an area for mealtime for your child to sit down and eat. Many children wander and walk around while eating, and this can lead to absent-minded eating, which does not help them concentrate on their food to know when they are full and to safely chew/swallow. If the mealtime place/time needs to change, tell your child beforehand, so they have a chance to prepare for the change. 
  • Positioning is key! Children should be able to sit comfortably with good head control, upright trunk/body, and their hips/knees at 90 degree right angles. A highchair or chair with foot support is also recommended, as this will allow the child to feel even more support through their body. This position will help the child feel secure and supported, in order to focus on using their hands and have good mouth (oral-motor) control to safely chew and swallow!

Picky-Eaters vs. Problem-Feeders

Are you having difficulty getting your child to eat? Not sure about your child's feeding habits? Click the button below to take a questionnaire to determine if your child is a "picky-eater" or a "problem-feeder." Consider consulting with the Occupational Therapist or Speech-Language Pathologist on your child's team to learn more strategies to help with feeding and mealtime. 

SOS feeding Picky Eaters vs. Problem Feeders Questionnaire

Feeding Resources

Feeding Matters - Serving Kids with Pediatric Feeding Disorder

Feeding Matters is the first organization in the world serving kids with pediatric feeding disorder (PFD). We strive to unite families, healthcare professionals, and the broader community to improve the system of care for children with pediatric feeding disorder.

Feel great about feeding your family

Online, video-based, learning for parents of infants and toddlers. Offering resources from professional feeding experts for feeding new eaters and babies, to teaching self feeding and prevent picky eating habits.

Feeding Littles' Amazon Page

Shop recommended products from Feeding Littles on Amazon.com.  Learn more about Feeding Littles favorite products.

Teach You Kids to Cook Without Stress

It really is possible with this self-paced online video course - even if you have no extra time. Over 30 basic cooking skills JUST for kids!

Feeding Stage for Babies Video  Watch the video to learn more about feeding stages for babies from Penfield Children's Center. More milestones are listed in a simpler format below for your convenience. 

Birth-3 months


  • Brings hands to mouth
  • Semi-reclined during feeding
  • Watches caregivers’ while feeding

Texture and Oral-Motor Skills:

  • Liquids
  • Suckling, sucking – tongue moves in and out
  • No bite or chew

3-6 months


  • Holds onto objects and puts in mouth
  • Puts hands on bottle
  • Increased head and neck control, sits with support 

Texture and Oral-Motor Skills:

  • Puts hands on bottle
  • Easily accepts new textures and tastes
  • Eats purees and then moves to mashed foods

6-9 months


  • Starts to hold baby safe finger foods and bring to mouth
  • Begins to try to feed from spoon
  • Attempts to hold bottle alone

Texture and Oral-Motor Skills:

  • Sucks on crackers
  • Munching begins (jaw moves up and down)
  • Some tongue movements side to side
  • Cup/straw drinking begins

9-12 months


  • Finger feeds with success using more fine grasps (e.g. picking up foods with index finger and thumb or "pincer grasp")
  • Controlled bite on easily chewed, soft foods
  • Drinks from closed cup
  • Tries to hold spoon 

Texture and Oral-Motor Skills:

  • Side to side tongue movements
  • Munches up and down with diagonal movement
  • Mashed foods with harder lumpy pieces

12-24 months


  • Dips spoon in food and brings to mouth, but spills
  • Able to scoop food and bring to mouth
  • Hold cup with both hands 

Texture and Oral-Motor Skills:

  • May begin to experience “food jag” or rejection of new foods
  • Begin rotary chewing (jaw moves in circular motion)

24-36 months


  • Eats most regular foods
  • Regular drinking pattern using open cup
  • Starts to use a small fork

Texture and Oral-Motor Skills:

  • Eats a wide variety of different textures and tastes


InfantandToddlerForum.org. (2014). Developmental Stages in Infant and Toddler Feeding. [PDF File]. 

McCarthy, J. (2006). Feeding Infants and Toddlers: Strategies for Safe, Stress-free Mealtimes. Mosaic Childhood Project, Inc.

Mealtime Strategies

Feeding Strategies for Infants and Toddlers

  • It is important to maintain a proper alignment when breast and bottle-feeding. There are a variety of different positions to try. Research what works best for you and your infant. 
  • Hold your infant close to your body, using as much skin-to-skin contact as possible and holding eye contact. A calm environment is best if possible. 
  • Once your child is able to hold their own bottle, they should be in a semi-reclined or upright position, with or without support (based on their developmental skill level). One way to determine this is by checking to see if the child's ear is more elevated than their mouth.  This is to ensure proper alignment for safe swallowing, as well as to avoid illnesses, such as ear infections. 
  • It is still important to include your infant in family mealtimes. Try some of these strategies to include your child during family mealtimes 
    • Safely place them near the table where the family is eating so they can feel as though they are a part of the activity.
    • Give them something to mouth, such as a baby-safe chew toy. This can help them recognize mealtime as a time to use their hands and mouth! 
    • Let them play with spoons, bowls, and cups while they sit and watch you eat. Associating these items with mealtime will make for an easier transition when they are ready to start solids. 
    • Consider turning off all electronics during mealtime now and again. This can help a child focus more on you and your family!

Feeding Babes: Starting Solid Foods from Kaiser Permanente

Starting Solids: 

  • Once your infant is approved for solids by your pediatrician, gradually begin to introduce foods in the order suggested by your pediatrician. This is typically around 4-6 months of age and may also depend on if your child is able to sit upright and alone on a stable surface. 
  • Allow your child to get the food on their hands and bring to their mouths themselves, so they can prepare for its smell and taste. 
  • Ensure proper alignment with head support, good head/trunk control, with their hips and knees at right angles. 
  • Encourage your child to mouth a variety of infant-safe objects to prepare their mouths for chewing. 
  • Provide your child with 2 or 3 spoons or toys at a time to scoop food and play/eat with to make mealtime exciting! You can use one and they can try to self-feed or play with the others. 
  • Some children prefer to have small portion sizes on their tray or table in front of them at one time. They can always have more! 
  • Expose your child to a variety of smells. If your child is already sensitive to smells, learn what they prefer/avoid, and help them cope with that smell by introducing it slowly. 

Positioning is KEY! 

Blog to learn more about How to choose the best high seat for your toddler! 


Henry, D. A., Kane-Wineland, M., & Swindeman, S. (2015). Tools for Infants: Sensory-Based Strategies for Parents, Caregivers, and Early Intervention Providers. Glendale, AZ: Henry OT.

Incorporate some of the following play activities to help your child with self-feeding skills: 

  • Dump and pour activities using measuring cups, spoons, bowls, cups, etc. 
  • Finger painting (see our "Sensory Strategies" page for safe ways to finger paint with a toddler).
  • Blocks - increase hand-eye coordination and grasp.
  • Velcro play food - build strength and pretend play skills by putting velcro on pretend food items! 
  • Have a picnic! Pretend to feed your child's stuffed animals using a spoon or cup.
  • Color using crayons, marker, chalk, etc. This is great to help use one hand at a time.

Expect Mess! Strategies for Mealtime (recommend supervision at all times)


  • Be aware of safe finger foods for infants and toddlers. Click on the link to this website to learn more about Finger Foods.
  • Beginner finger foods should easily melt in a child's mouth. Cut these foods in a long strips or a variety of larger shapes and sizes to help your child learn more about different ways to hold their food. Your child may hold on to a food for a long time at first, sucking more than chewing. Your child is still learning how to release objects from their hands. 
  • Provide child with 1-2 foods at a time. They can always have more! It is sometimes overwhelming for a child to see so much food on their plate or tray. If you'd like to work on your child using their index finger and thumb together by picking up a cheerio or yogurt melt, provide them with a few spread out at a time. Otherwise, they may try to scoop them all up at once! 
Spoon feeding 
  • Introduce the spoon as a play object during mealtimes as early as possible. Let your child explore this object before you try to put it in their mouths. 
  • You may need to help guide your child to their mouth by helping to hold the spoon. Try to help them first by scooping the food out of the bowl, and then letting them bring to their mouth by themselves. As they progress, you can gradually let them scoop their own food. 
  • You may need to hold onto the spoon at the same time as your child to help them self-feed in the beginning stages. Once the spoon is in their hand, place your own hand underneath theirs and guide them in the feeding process. Some children are hesitant of "hand over hand" feeding, meaning you place your hand over and around their own. By placing your hand under their hand with the spoon, they can feel more confident and independent!
  • If your child can scoop food and bring to their mouth but needs a little bit of help, try supporting at the elbow. 
Cup drinking
  • Parents often purchase sippy cups with spouts as a child's "first cup." Although these cups work for some children, drinking from open cups, straw cups, or cups with a flat lid (360 cups) are best. 
  • Read this article to learn more about what cup might work best for your child: Sippy Cups.
  • You may need to support more at first until your child understand how to drink from a cup. You can fill the cup up halfway instead of filling it to the top. 
  • If your child has difficulty drinking when the liquid pours too quickly, try using a water-down smoothie, yogurt, or other pureed food first. Slower flow rates are easier to manage than water or milk.

ADA & Accessibility

Our School Strives To Ensure Our Website Is Accessible To All Our Visitors 

Washtenaw ISD is committed to providing a website that is fully accessible and we are currently in the process of developing a new website to better meet the needs of our customers. Our new website will include improvements to ADA compliance and accessibility, and during this transition, we remain committed to maintaining our existing website's accessibility and usability. 

ADA Compliance

Non Discrimination

It is the policy and commitment of the Washtenaw Intermediate School District not to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, age, height, weight, familial status, marital status, genetic information, sexual orientation or any legally protected characteristic, in its educational programs, activities, admissions, or employment policies in accordance with Title IX of the 1972 Educational Amendments, executive order 11246 as amended, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and all other pertinent state and Federal regulations.

Non Discrimination Information

ADA and Title IX Coordinator ADA and Title IX Coordinator
Brian Marcel
Associate Superintendent
1819 S. Wagner Road 
Ann Arbor, MI  48103
(734) 994-8100 ext. 1402
Cassandra Harmon-Higgins
Executive Director, HR & Legal Services
1819 S. Wagner Road 
Ann Arbor, MI  48103
(734) 994-8100 ext. 1311