Why Do Kids Bite on Utensils?
By Dawn Winkelmann, M.S, CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist & Feeding Specialist for ezpz
Learning how to use a spoon and fork independently are fun mealtime milestones for kids. But sometimes parents are confused about utensil capabilities by age, as well as whether they should be concerned about their child biting on utensils. Here are some utensil tips to make mealtime more successful for the entire family!
Why does my child bite the handle of the utensil?
Babies: If your child is between 6-12 months of age, this is a normal stage of oral development. During this critical mouthing time, baby will try turning the spoon around to put the handle into their mouth. It’s okay to let baby manipulate and gum the spoon from every angle. And if you use our Tiny Spoon, you don’t have to worry about your baby hurting their developing teeth or gums (like with hard plastic / metal spoons). The Tiny Spoon is made from 100% food grade (soft) silicone!
- Should I be concerned? Biting the handle of a spoon is completely normal, and a baby should be allowed to do this. This is an important stage in the independent spoon-feeding process and helps baby refine their visual motor skills (hand-to-mouth coordination).
Toddlers: A child will typically go through the teething phase from infancy up to three-years of age. If your child is between 1-3 years old and using our Mini Utensils (toddler sized fork + spoon set) they might occasionally bite the handle to relieve pain associated with teething. Since the handles of the Mini Utensils are made of silicone, the gentle pressure of this material can provide temporary relief to the mouth and encourage your little one to continue eating!
*For your child’s safety, always use adult supervision with any utensil (soft silicone or hard plastic / metal). You will want to observe any signs of damage to their mouth (bleeding gums or chipped teeth) as well as weakness of the utensil.
- Should I be concerned? Consistently biting the handle of a fork or spoon at mealtime is not typical and might be a cause for a feeding evaluation and/or therapy. But occasionally biting the handle for a brief reprieve from teething is common and typical.
Why does my child bite the head of their utensil?
Babies: Some babies will bite the head of their spoon in order to prevent the spoon from going further into their mouth. They do this to protect their airway, especially if they are being spoon-fed with a spoon bowl that is too large. If your baby is showing signs of excessive gagging and/or food refusal it may be due to a caregiver using a spoon with a spoon bowl that is too long. One sign of food refusal is biting on the spoon.
- Should I be concerned? Check to see if the head of the spoon you are using with your baby is too long. You can do this by placing the spoon close to their tongue and see if you can observe tongue tissue on BOTH sides of the spoon and in front of the spoon. If you can’t, then the spoon is too wide and/or too long. Try the ezpz Tiny Spoon, which was developmentally designed for the size of a baby’s tongue.
Regarding forks, there are no developmental milestones for a baby to use a fork. In addition to not being developmentally appropriate, there are also safety issues with offering a baby a fork (because of the sharp tines). Because of these developmental and safety concerns, our First Foods Set does not have a fork included.
Toddlers: Biting the tines of a fork can help a toddler know when the fork (and food) is inside their mouth. But if the tines are too long or the head of the fork is too big, this can cause gagging and food refusal. That’s why we designed short tines on the Mini Fork with sensory bumps (exactly like the Mini Spoon) to provide consistent sensory awareness to the mouth. This helps to decrease gagging and biting.
- Should I be concerned? If you only observe your toddler biting the spoon or fork when presented with a new food, this is normal. Biting the utensil is a technique I often see children use when they are slowly trying to taste a new food. This is a safe way for them to become familiar with the new smell, taste, texture or color of the food, and they should be allowed to do this. However, if your toddler constantly bites on the fork, your fork head could be too big or the tines could be too long. Try using the developmentally designed Mini Fork for toddlers 12+ months.
Utensil use takes repetition and positive reinforcement. Continue to offer the utensils at each meal while providing foods they can practice with (e.g., yogurt with a spoon). Be sure to tag us in your ezpz utensil adventures by using our hashtag #ezpzfun.
Dawn Winkelmann (M.S, CCC-SLP) is ezpz’s Pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist and Feeding Specialist. She has 26 years of experience teaching parents and medical professionals how to start babies on solids safely and encourage toddlers to overcome picky eating. In addition, “Ms. Dawn” is the designer of our award-winning Tiny Cup & Tiny Spoon (for infants) and the Mini Cup + Straw Training System & Mini Utensils (for toddlers).